Vol. X No.4 - February 9 - February 22, 2011



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Book Review
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Book Review: By Lang Reid

A Snake in Paradise

A new book from the talented Louis Anschel, German by birth and used as a translator from English to German; however, his linguistic skills allow him to also use English for his literary expression.
A Snake in Paradise (ISBN 978-616-7111-17-9, Bamboo Sinfonia, 2010) follows his popular book A Farang Strikes Back.

In this latest book, Anschel introduces many characters in the first third of the book, and the reader is left wondering just how they will all connect, and when.
The opening chapter drags the reader’s attention by suggesting that a double murder was happening as you read, but was it?

The following chapter introduces a simple farm girl from Buriram, living in a wooden shanty, with the ambition to live in a concrete house. She does not have a very pleasant introduction to adult life, being raped by her elder brother. A fate that too many young girls meet up-country.

The next characters, Peter and Jane from the UK are retirees looking to purchase a condominium being assisted by a beautiful real estate saleslady known as Apple. They are followed by Ingmar, a Scandinavian enjoying the boisterous nightlife of Pattaya.

But the list of characters does not end there - next is Heini, a German expat, married to a Thai and running a small loss-making hotel/guest house. Heini is having marital problems, differing from his spouse as to how the guest house should be turned around to make a profit, as his pension cannot finance the enterprise forever.

As the book moves on, the farm girl ends up working at a Pattaya bar, just as her mother does. The mind-set of the girl as she meets all the nuances of bar work, is well explained. When your mother is doing it, and you are surrounded by other girls all practicing the ‘trade’ makes it acceptable in the young girl’s mind.

A French Algerian joins the cast, and at this stage, half way through the book you start understanding just who is the real central character from the selections that author Anschel lays before you.

As well as Thai village life, this book takes you into the customs and culture of the Thais, and shows a great understanding of them. The different attitudes towards daily events can be quite different between foreigners and the indigenous peoples. The bar girl-foreigner relationship dynamics is explained very well.
As the plot unfolds you are given the identity of the central character, who has built a very interesting web of deceit. After this, the pace picks up until you are rushing headlong from one disaster to another, and the central character reveals just how evil a character can be.

With the majority of the book set in Pattaya, familiar places and streets abound. Including the Royal Garden Plaza and Central Festival and even our police station.

An interesting read as you try to put all the characters together, which happens in an intriguing way. At B. 395 this is a very cheap, but very enjoyable read, well crafted and a thriller in the popular genre. Available through all good book stores.
 

 

The Cultural Detective

If you think that this is another book in the Vincent Calvino series with its plot revolving around Christopher G. Moore’s Private Investigator Vincent Calvino, then think again. It is not.
If you think this is the next stand alone novel to follow the 10 that Moore has already written, then think again. It is not.

This is a completely new genre, a collection of essays in four broad parts commencing with Perspectives on Crime Fiction Writing, followed by Clues to Solving Cultural Mysteries, then Observations from the Front Lines and finally Outside the Southeast Asia Comfort Zone.

The subtitle to The Cultural Detective, (ISBN 978-616-90393-8-9, Heaven Lake Press, 2011), is “Reflections on the Writing Life in Thailand”. Author Moore manages to look at the reflections without becoming introspective, but has the ability to dissect concepts and customs with a very equal handedness. These are genuine explanations of Thai customs given by someone who does not let his own culture and customs impinge on the details.

An example of this is, “In Thailand the deference culture is largely built around age, rank, family and wealth. The Thai expression is kreng jai, and that term underpins the social, political and economic system and has done so for centuries.”

The essays do cover Moore’s methods in writing fiction. “You have a choice in the road you take. Authors make that choice every time they start a book. Writing blends death and sex into myth, folktale, legend and serving up a strong brew turns us into addicts.” He explains the pitfalls. “Writing a book takes long hours of focused attention. You can’t multi-task and write a novel. Because you have to keep the whole story, plots and sub-plots, characters, their connections and motivations inside your head as a unified whole. This is fragile territory. One that is easily distracted.”

However, these essays are much more than a potted ‘How To’ book (Dale Carnegie has a lot to answer for). Moore looks dispassionately at some of the reasons the youth of the world is resorting to anarchy. “….who have no job and turn to crime as the only available option. This new army of angry young recruits may not be fuelled by the hatred of a jihad. The fuel of despair and hopelessness are the precursors to hatred, and you don’t need a religion to motivate such young men. Wanting status and the material stuff that a material society proclaims is essential for your manhood is the new scripture.”

Christopher G. Moore is an excellent writer, and his style in this collection reminds me of Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) and Dave Barry (I’ll Mature When I’m Dead), though Moore’s subject matter remains more deeply thought provoking than the former, in my opinion.

Cultural Detective won’t be carried by Asia Books/Bookazine, so if you are in Thailand then you can order at a 10 percent discount for THB 350 retail price (includes free shipping in Thailand) from http://goo.gl/HZzrn. Outside Thailand, order directly from Moore’s website: http://goo.gl/tWwLn and there is a 30 percent discount for the first 15 orders. A literary bargain!



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