The Best Reads of 2008
were two books which stood out as ones which told it like it really is (or
was). One was Fiasco (ISBN 978-141-02850-7, Penguin Books, 2007) written by
Thomas E. Ricks, a senior political journalist with the Washington Post and
the Wall Street Journal. The sub-title of this book is “The American
military adventure in Iraq”.
It certainly was (is) a fiasco as described by author Ricks. It could have
been entitled “Gullibles Travels” and been just as apt. How the American
people fell for such duplicity and outright confabulation is mind boggling.
The Iraqi people may not have liked Saddam Hussein, but after the US
bungling, they don’t like America much either - and with good reason. No
wonder George Bush had shoes thrown at him!
The other was the latest update of Christopher Robbins original 1979 expose
of Air America, the CIA’s secret airline and published by Asia Books in
Bangkok (ISBN 9-7897-4830-3).
The CIA owned Air America was at one stage the largest airline in the world,
which may come as a shock. That the CIA itself didn’t even know how many
planes it had would also come as a surprise to many people - but not to
those who flew for Air America - the world’s most clandestine airline! The
airline’s motto was “Anything, Anywhere, Anytime - Professionally”, and the
“anything” ranged from opium, guns, ammunition, spies and even pet gibbons.
The best thrillers came from two very well known writers in Thailand. One
was Stephen Leather’s Dead Men (ISBN 978-0-340-92171-5, Hodder and
Stoughton, 2008) another of the Dan Shepherd novels (Hard Landing, Soft
Target, Cold Kill and Hot Blood), all of which feature the undercover
policeman ‘Spider’ Shepherd and his rather believable exploits. When I say
‘believable’ I mean it. Dan Shepherd is a literary character who bleeds.
Like you and me. Dan Shepherd also has moral values, despite his profession
(probably unlike you and me).
In this latest novel, the subtitle is “When justice fails, revenge is the
only option” and this is hammered through the book from page eight where the
wife of an Irish policeman threatens revenge for the cold-blooded killing of
her husband, to the final few pages when a Mercedes is hit by a remote
controlled missile and the owner incinerated.
The second was Paying Back Jack, the 10th in the Vincent Calvino series
(ISBN 978-974-312-920-9, Heaven Lake Press, 2009) and in this book, Calvino
finds himself inextricably bound up with an influential Thai who is running
for parliament, his mia noi and another interesting group of people called
‘private contractors’. Both of these were great reads.
The worst book of the year was The Secret. Compiler Rhonda Byrne writes,
“You will come to know how you can have, be, or do anything you want.” Since
the dreams of bedding Julie Christie in my youth, to the hopes of a fling
with Angelina Jolie in my dotage, have been a couple of items I have wanted
(or lusted after if truth be known) this book should have to have been the
book for me. I’m still waiting for the call. Total tripe.