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Book Review: Pattaya 24/7

by Lang Reid

Vinee Calvino is back! Christopher G. Moore’s Private Investigator goes to Pattaya in his latest book! The book is having its Pattaya (24/7) release next week, so this is a timely review. Published by Heaven Lake Press, Moore’s usual publishers (ISBN 974-92066-6-5), it is certainly hot off their proverbial presses, the ink hardly having had time to dry on my review copy. Not only that, the book is set in ‘real time’ complete with stolen M16’s, Southern insurgents, SARS, ‘farang’ bird flu and even our own medical man, Dr. Iain, gets a mention. Topical, current and situated here in Thailand.

The story revolves around an eccentric classical pianist, an up-country Thai gardener who is dead, his veterinarian widow, several concubines, a god-father, a flock of hand reared goats, a Thai police colonel, a swami, Jemaah Islamiah, TQ2 go-go bar, a CIA operative and more. In the middle of this multicultural minefield walks Calvino, relying on his own shrewd judgment and a fair swag of serendipity. And a snub nose .38 revolver.

Moore’s literary talents are obvious while reading this book. He has an ability to describe people and situations with wonderful clarity. All the pre-requisites of a storyteller. Even just describing hoarded newspaper cuttings as “stacks and stacks of clippings, all a dirty yellow color - like nicotine-stained yellow. That’s age, man, age.” May I add - that’s writing, man, that’s writing!

He also has an innate sense of irony that he brings out through Vinee Calvino. Imagine this exchange, in a seedy bar near you. “Vinee, How are you going to make a million doing legwork for insurance companies? Man, there’s no money in chasing down live people pretending to be dead. Looking around the bar Calvino wondered if there were a number of dead people pretending to be alive. And it crossed his mind that he could well be one of them.”

There is also some black humour. “The guru’s beliefs covered a range of themes - Buddhism, Hinduism, the Tao, Spiritualism, and early Hugh Hefner.” Or the ‘Calvino’s Laws’ interspersed through the book, such as, “Just because you are at the top of the food chain doesn’t mean you can’t get eaten.” Finally, and the one I liked best, “She went back to her Thai boyfriend. A lapidary phrase suitable for a farang tombstone.”

The story has a great pace and is able to keep the reader’s attention at all times. Enough ‘reality’ is introduced, both with people and places, to make the tale totally believable. Anyone who has lived in Thailand for more than five minutes will see the connections that are assumed, the assumptions that you don’t need to go to a college to understand, and the understandings that are produced through ethnic connections. The Asian circle. This book is deeper than the well one of the characters was fished out of.

The review copy was made available by Bookazine and has an RRP of 595 baht. What is the price of a good read? Vinee Calvino is priceless. Christopher G Moore has written the best of the Calvino series so far. Get this book.


Mott's CD Reviews:  Queen - Queen

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

4 Stars ****

Queen burst onto the Rock ‘n’ Roll scene in 1973 with the release of this self-titled debut album in 1973. As soon as they arrived it seemed like they had always been superstars. Limousines everywhere, huge entourage, Freddie’s fingernail polish, and the vague similarities to ‘The Beatles’. They had a dorky looking drummer in Roger Taylor to compare to Ringo; a quiet one in John Deacon to replace George Harrison; a flamboyant pretty boy out front in our Freddie to fill the Paul McCartney spot; and a slightly menacing one, Brian May, who even looked a bit like John Lennon.

But in fact Queen had paid their dues and had all been in a few bands before this lineup was stabilized in 1971. (Freddie used to be in a band called ‘Larry Lurex’. I wonder if that would have caught on as well as ‘Queen’?) It wasn’t till 1973 that they released their first album, which eventually crawled up the charts to reach #18 in the U.K.

Mysteriously this album was not released in the USA until 1975, by which time Queen were international superstars and had already released three other albums. So it is not really surprising that the songs from this album are not so well known on that side of the Atlantic. A real shame as the first three Queen albums remain this Dog’s favorites. The second album released in 1974 as Queen 2 (a little more imagination please, boys, very Chicagoish) and the wonderfully hard rockin’ ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ also released in 1974.

Also in 1974 Queen released ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. At almost six minutes it was considered way too long for a single. Defying all the predictions it went straight in at #1 and stayed there for nine weeks, all over Christmas and New Year. Queen had a number one before in ‘Killer Queen’ the previous year, but this was the big one. Its promotional video was groundbreaking in so many ways that there would be no ground left to break for others for years to come.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was the inspiration for M.T.V. and all the other music stations. This was followed early in 1975 by ‘A Night at the Opera’, Queen’s first platinum album.

I know it’s only an old Dog talking, but by now longtime producer Roy Thomas Baker (who was to become almost a fifth member of the band in the studio), had them so polished that it all became a bit to slick for an old rocker. However, millions of folk obviously disagree as each following album sold more than the last.

Queen also toured constantly. Their British Jubilee tour of the States in 1977 with Thin Lizzy (‘Queen Lizzy’ - geddit?) broke box office records everywhere it went. Then on July 13, 1985, Queen played at the Live Aid Concert, the largest ever broadcast of a Rock ‘n’ Roll show with all the most famous acts in the world on the bill (some specially reforming for the gig), and simply stole the show. Queen’s finest hour.

After this they could print their own ticket, and could do no wrong. Until of course, on November 23, poor old Freddie announced he was suffering from the dreaded AIDS virus and quietly passed away the following day. Fittingly the finale of Freddie’s life was the largest tribute concert in living history at Wembley Stadium the following April, the scene of many of Freddie’s previous triumphs.

Queen’s debut album is glorious. As soon as Brian May plays the opening licks of ‘The Who’ influenced (yes, everybody has influences) ‘Keep Yourself Alive’, you know you have something special in your ears. ‘Liar’ is the first ever Queen epic, and it stands as proud now as it did then. At the end of the album you even get a snatch of ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’, which was to be completed by the time of the next album and become Queen’s first hit single.

The new re-mastered version of this album has three bonus tracks tacked onto the end, two are alternate versions - in each case the original is superior, and one unreleased song that perhaps should have stayed on the cutting room floor.

Taylor and Deacon are a marvelous rhythm section and sing glorious harmony vocals that were to become the trademark of the ‘Queen’ sound.

Roger Taylor also made his writing debut here with ‘Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Unfortunately not the strongest song on the album. So? He was to make up for it later.

Brian May contributes four songs and establishes his sixpenny guitar sound. (Brian May used an old English sixpenny piece as a plectrum giving him a sound all of his own.)

But where Queen is concerned you can never get away from the man with the big teeth and enormous talent. The world needed Freddie Mercury and no matter what other genes of music came along, don’t forget punk was just round the corner and blew most of the old school bands away, Freddie and his boys rode the crest of the wave. Freddie contributed four songs. ‘Liar’ is probably still the best known of the songs, but I have always had a soft spot for ‘Great King Rat’. The first lyrics that ever came from the pen of Freddie for a Queen song were.

“Great King Rat died today,

Born on the twenty first of May,

Died Forty Four on his birthday,

Every second word he swore,

Yes, he was the son of a whore,

Always wanted by the law.”

Ah, Freddie, we will always miss you. One of the great talents. You came and conquered, and then was whisked away from us. No, the irony of the lyrics are not wasted on this dog. Freddie Mercury, a genuine star, we are not likely to see his likes again.

Musicians
Freddie Mercury - Vocals and Piano
Brian May - Guitars, Piano, and Vocals
John Deacon - Bass Guitar and Vocals
Roger Taylor - Drums and Vocals

Songs

Keep Yourself Alive
Doing All Right
Great King Rat
My Fairy King
Liar
The Night Comes Down
Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll
Son and Daughter
Jesus
Seven Seas Of Rhye
Bonus Tracks on the new Twenty Year Re-Mastered Edition
Mad The Swine (Previously Unreleased)
Keep Yourself Alive (Long Lost Re-take)
Liar (Remix)

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]