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Book Review: Murder at the Horny Toad Bar

by Lang Reid

Yet another book from Dean Barrett, hot on the heels of his Don Quixote in China and Skytrain to Murder. This particular publication (Village East Books, ISBN 0-9661899-8-1) is actually titled Murder at the Horny Toad Bar and Other Outrageous Tales of Thailand and is split into four broad sections - Fiction, Non-Fiction, Harry Boroditski Private Eye, and Memoirs of an Oversexed Farang, making it more of an anthology than a novel. Some of the short essays have been published previously in magazines in Thailand.

With Barrett’s penchant for beautiful Thai women, praise for whom he is not stinting, nor in his personal recounting of his own affairs d’amour, he has ended up with probably the most outstandingly sexy book cover of 2004. Model Panida is quite sensational and Robert Stedman’s photo of her isn’t bad either! Perhaps that even sets the tone of the book.

The initial offering, The Death of Ron Adams, is a wonderfully crafted and thoroughly believable tale. We have all met a Ron Adams in our lives, and author Barrett shows the expat mind-set with crystal clarity. The following tales were also very good psychological examinations of the expat thinking, and the attractions this country can have for any of us.

It was only after the first 100 pages that I began to cease enjoying the book. I admit to sometimes having problems with Dean Barrett’s offerings. Undoubtedly an excellent and humorous writer, he does appear to suffer from a little lack of self discipline. In this book there are repetitive phrases, coming hot on the heels of each other, especially in the Harry Boroditski, Private Eye items. These were obviously written as a series, probably monthly, and in that instance, repetition is fine. However, when it comes two pages after the last time, it becomes annoying. Always a danger when you gang two or more items together. A little critical subbing would have fixed that.

While on fixing, Barrett does seem to have a fixation on his book, "Thailand: Land of Beautiful Women", which gets far more mentions than I believe it deserves. He also needs to remind the reader every few pages that he has bedded a fair bevy of Thai beauties. This in itself is no real tour de force, but more of a tour de finance.

To be honest, I enjoyed the first part of this book very much, with both his fiction and non-fiction sections. However, his Harry Boroditski persona, who appears as an over the top caricature of Spillane’s Mike Hammer, I found tiresome rather than humorous. Barrett acknowledges the role model, writing, "I hoped to discover that macho Mike Hammer-type detectives were all the rage..."

The final section of short essays, Memoirs of an Oversexed Farang, were again fine examples of the curate’s egg - good in parts. But before I bring down the wrath of the writer on my head (again), his description of that dreadful Lord of the Rings movie Part III was clever, witty and totally correct. I agree entirely with his description, so he can’t be all bad. Or me either.

Mott's CD Reviews: The Bastards - Live and Dangerous at Shenanigans

by Mott the Dog 
Lively'd up by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

The Bastards have been a constant feature of the Bangkok rock scene for over ten years (with the occasional forays down to Pattaya to liven up the good folk of Shenanigans). Their live gigs have always projected raw excitement and energy.

Guitarist/vocalist Keith Goodburn and drummer Nigel Pike left the Hong Kong music scene in 1990 and moved to Bangkok. Soon after their arrival they put together a local band as a way of taking the edge off at the weekends. After a lot of experimentation (Nigel Pike is a huge Captain Beefheart fan, so as you can imagine a lot of his wilder ideas had to be curbed), practice sessions, and lineup changes, the band arrived where they are today, a road hardened hard rock band. The addition of the very talented Alf Hodges on vocals and lead guitar, and local bass maniac Khun Prik complete today’s quartet.

Their live appearances reflect the wide range of influences and tastes within the band, rock, punk, metal, R&B, and alternative (alternative meaning anything else they fancy playing). However, they are not just a cover band. As you can hear on this live recording, they are more than capable of writing their own original material, which blends in without a hitch with the well selected bunch of covers the band has taken on. The Bastard’s code of honor, which has been with the band since day one, is not to play the obvious covers. So it is with much relief that I can tell you there is no danger of hearing ‘Hotel ‘Flippin’ California’ at a Bastard’s concert.

The Bastard’s have now played to their strengths and recorded for posterity their live show at Shenanigans Pattaya, Friday May 21, 2004. Their CD, nicely called ‘Live and Dangerous’, is a huge testament to rock ‘n’ roll and generates a burning level of excitement.

The band kicks off in fine style with the two greatest teenage anthems from two decades. ‘My Generation’ from the Who in the sixties, followed by ‘Anarchy In The U.K’ from the Sex Pistols in the seventies. Keith’s singing is on top form and Alf’s blistering solos send the crowd into frenzy.

Next up is Khun Prik’s turn to step into the spotlight as he takes lead vocals on the band’s frantic version of Loso’s ‘Panthip’. By this time the band has got the crowd eating out of their hands. It was a good job Shenanigans laid on extra security, courtesy of Neil Sandilands, to keep the fans from rushing the stage.

Their confidence thus spurred on the band to storm into the first of their original songs for the night, a roaring version of ‘Mobile Phone’, which enthralled the crowd to go equally as wild. During the night the band played two more original songs that go down just as well, ‘Go Ask Alice’ and ‘The Jump’.

As there is only room for 77 minutes of music on one CD, the Bastards don’t let up the pace for one second; even the song introductions by Keith are jet propelled.

The set is brought to a shattering conclusion by the last three songs, a vicious version of the Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, followed by Nigel Pike’s party piece, where Khun Prik takes over on drums, Keith switches to bass, and Nigel snarls into ‘My Way’. (Believe it or not, originally a Paul Anka song before Frank Sinatra got his hands on it. Nigel’s adaptation though has slightly more to do with the Sid Vicious version, although for most of us it will be always ‘Nigel’s Way’.) While Nigel is throwing himself around the front of the stage, the rest of the band just put their heads back and rock. After this the band is dragged back on stage for an encore of AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’. The result of which left Shenanigans roof a good two feet higher than it was. This album should always be played at 11.

Sadly, this album will be Alf’s swansong to the Bastards as his career takes him elsewhere in Thailand, making it geographically impossible for him to carry on. The Bastards’ last gig together will be at the official launch of ‘Live And Dangerously’. So, if you would like to be there for a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history, get down to Shenanigans on Friday 2nd July when the Bastards will be performing songs from the album for the very last time. The band will be on stage at 10 p.m., followed by co-headliners at midnight and also releasing their live album that night, Pop’s Pattaya All Stars with ‘Dangerously Live’.

The artwork for the album is worth the CD price on its own, brilliantly put together by Ron Keeley and Jason Payne with the help of some photos by Wayne Ogonoski and the Mail’s own Brendan Richards. If you were there for the recording night, you may well find your name or even photo on the inside sleeve.

The price of the album is 300 baht or 500 baht for two if you decide to do the logical thing and buy both, Pop’s Pattaya All Stars CD ‘Dangerously Live’ and the Bastards’ ‘Live and Dangerous’.

The Band
Keith Goldburn - Guitar and Vocals
Alf Hodges - Guitar and Vocals
Khun Prik - Bass and Vocals
Nigel Pike - Drums and Vocals

Set list

My Generation
Anarchy In The U.K.
Mobile Phone
No Ripcord
Go Ask Alice
The Jump
My Sacrifice
You Shook Me All Night Long
Rear View Mirror
Whole Lotta’ Love
Smells Like Teen spirit
Won’t Get Fooled Again
My Way
Highway To Hell

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]