Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: By Lang Reid

Stage IV

I had thought that every possible combination of plots concerning the relationship between foreign men and Thai bargirls had already been covered. A quick browse through your favorite bookstore will attest to this, so when Monsoon Books sent me Stage IV by Erich R. Sysak (ISBN 978-981-08-5435-5, Monsoon, 2011), I was loathe to open it. I have read too many of the genre. However, the back cover was so full of new slants to the old situation, that I opened it after all.

The plot revolves around ‘viatication’, a new one on me, whereby people sell their life insurance benefits to the highest bidder before they die, and the new owner collects when the person expires. Looks like a win-win situation all round when you at least get to spend some of your own insurance.

The book now brings in the main characters, revolving around Lawson Banks, a man with a Stage IV cancer, which we are told means that he will die soon. He sells his life insurance, pockets the money and comes to Hua Hin in Thailand where he eventually settles in with a bargirl called Benz. However, the lifestyle seems to have been good for him. After seven years he is still alive, despite his Stage IV cancer, which in theory gave him a life expectancy measured in months, and not years.

One should feel happy for someone like this, but there were those who were not so thrilled - the trio who bought the rights to the payout on death. They had provided a lump sum, and were now waiting to collect three million USD, but now after waiting eight years, their patience was wearing more than a little thin.

Author Sysak does a good job in describing the three ex-school mates in the viatication scheme, with Keller, the lawyer, the one with the least scruples, if any at all. “He was perfectly willing to commit crimes in order to get ahead, to get rich. If only he knew how.” That “how” came when he was offered a part in the three way gamble on other people’s futures.

When it came down to the realization that millions of dollars were awaiting them if Lawson Banks would only die, it is Keller who undertakes to finalize the insurance policy.

Having arrived in Thailand, Keller then goes looking for Lawson to administer the coup de grace, but then finds there are other assassins looking for Lawson. In the interim, Lawson is spending time avoiding being killed and then wondering just who it is that wants him dead, and double guessing himself at the same time.

A very different slant on the Thai-Farang equation, but one that does show some of the essential differences between the two ethnic groups. Towards the end of the book, Lawson muses, “He’d forgiven Benz for everything and anything because she was more than a lover and a caregiver; she was a great friend he would never fully understand.” And that almost describes most successful Thai-Farang associations.

It is available from Asia Books, Bookazine and Kinokuniya stores and the list price is $15.95.