Archive October 2006
|The New Under Class: Like Beer, No Like School
The Spiegel Online has excerpted from “War for Wealth: The
Global Grab for Power and Prosperity” by Gabor Steingart. The book has been
a best seller in Germany. It has yet to be translated into English. Though
Spiegel has done an English translation of an essay for their online
The author claims that the modern proletariat have no interest
in education, forming into associations to advance their causes, and vote on
either the extreme right or left, switching between the extremes with no
difficulty. We live in a time where there is de-industrialization in Europe and
North American. So far no one has focused on the long-term political
consequences of this process. But it seems that TV watching and drinking on the
holding pattern for the new underclass waiting for some political genius to use
them to gain power. They have disappeared into their own world. But for how long
will they stay inside dreary flats nursing king sized grudges?
of today watch television for half the day. These days, television producers
even refer to what they call "Underclass TV." The new proletariat eats a lot of
fatty foods and he enjoys smoking and drinking -- a lot. About 8 percent of
Germans consume 40 percent of all the alcohol sold in the country.”
|Philippine Fever (A Sam Haine Mystery)
I am always on the lookout for new fiction set
in Southeast Asia. I came across this novel by author Bruce Cook who trained as
a physicist and first worked in aerospace on the Apollo Project. He also has
authored thirty screenplays and had half a dozen turned into films. How did he
come to set a novel in the Philippines. He has been interviewed on this point, “I teach film making in a college
where half of the students are attending on foreign visas. I always have some
Filipino students. I'd talk with them about events back home. Because I had
enjoyed working in the Philippines so much and because I found the Filipino
people so friendly and warm.”
In the mid-1990s Cook has spent time in the
Philippines working as a consultant for ABS/CBN. his research from that time was
used for this novel. The amazon reviewers praise the novel. The premise of the
book has an echo of Black Rain. American cop and Asian cop teaming up on the
Asian landscape to fight multiple foes.
Amazon describes the book, “Harv Tucker, good old boy from
Oklahoma, sells primo roosters in Manila, the world’s cockfighting capital. With
his profits he buys Chinese AK-47’s, then sells them to paramilitary groups.
When his body turns up behind one of Manila’s notorious sex clubs, the ensuing
homicide investigation becomes international. Sam Haine, decorated ATF agent,
teams up with a world-weary Filipino detective, Bogie Lorenzano. Though Sam is a
fish out of water in the Philippines, and Bogie doesn’t care if Sam goes belly
up, the two cops share a strong sense of justice. Many players vie for the
container-load of guns, and traffic sex-slaves, buy indentured workers, sell
industrial secrets, and arrange kidnappings for ransom. It’s all just business.
Then Sam discovers that US intelligence may be involved with competing rebel
groups and Bogie finds that his ex-lover is deeply involved in the crime
syndicates, and the action heats up.”
Someone has come up with a clever idea to allow you to search your first and
last name to see how many people in the United States share your name. The site
is called How Many of
Here are some Bangkok names that many people know and the number
of people in the States that share the name: US Ambassador Ralph Boyce (51);
William Warren (2,470); Bernard Trink (0); Stephen Leather (2); Jim Eckhart (1);
John Hail (55); John Burdett (106); Jim Newport (4).
And as for other
famous people: Martin Amis (2); Margaret Atwood (81); Samuel Beckett (2);
Charles Dickens (83); William Shakespeare (19); Charles Darwin (23) and Joseph
Heller (190) and Ernest Hemingway (5).
There are 4,857 people in the
United States with the name Christopher Moore. Now if only each of them would
buy two of my books.
(link: The Rap Sheet)
|Picador Asia to publish February Flowers
The San Francisco Chronicle has a good story about the success
behind the publication of Wu’s February Flowers. There are a number of
revealing parts in the interview with Wu’s English literary agent about the
problems of getting lost in translation and the thinness of the market in the
United States (as compared with Australia) for fiction translated from Chinese
into English. Wu got around this problem by writing her novel in English. To
satisfy the market in Asia, Australia and England, Macmillan Press has started a
new imprint Picador Asia. And February Flowers will be the first book published
by the new imprint.
journey is an interesting one. She was born in China, moved to California where
she studied at Stanford University and she wrote her novel in California, found
an agent in England, and a publisher in Asia.
“Literary agent Toby Eady
of London, who brought Wu's “February Flowers” to Macmillan, maintains
that the reason so few contemporary Chinese authors are read in the West, and
the reason modern China is so little understood by the West, is the dearth of
good translations of contemporary Chinese writers. Wu, 33, overrode the problem
by writing in English.
“Eady, the British agent who represented Wu,
claims that Americans are not interested in contemporary Chinese writers. "They
think Chinese is Amy Tan."
brought Jung Chang's “Wild Swans” and Xinran's “The Good Women of China” out in English, has been one
of the few agents to sell contemporary Chinese voices by insisting on hiring
translators who speak and write Chinese and who are native English speakers. He
is a publishing consultant to Picador Asia. Most translations of Chinese authors
fail because they are done by academics who render the Chinese into strict
English, and worse, "with a tin ear," he says.”
In an article title *Big Money, Big Crime* I have a look at the Big money and big
crime relationship in literature." It is an article I wrote some years ago, and
I believe what I had to say in 2000 still holds: "Writers long ago discovered
that exploring the complexity in this connection yields a powerful combination
of passion, adventure, intrigue, betrayal, and danger. Crime fiction becomes a
literary search for motives and intentions of the players in the big money drama
where crime operates as it has always done: another market force allocating
B2S Bookstore has launched a
promotion for Heart Talk. It is good to see the poster and display right
at the front of the new B2S at Central World Branch. Unless a reader can "see" a
book, the chances of buying it are greatly reduced.
|Literary Prize for Asian Writers
The New York Times reports, "The prize, an annual award of
$10,000 to be known as the Man Asian Literary Prize, was announced yesterday in
Hong Kong and is to be given next autumn for the first time by Man Investments."
The CBC reports, The judges include:
* Clarkson, who is a
judge for this year's Giller Prize.
* André Aciman, chair of
comparative literature at the City University of New York and a judge for the
U.S. National Book Award.
Nicholas Jose, who has written both fiction and non-fiction about China and is
chair of creative writing at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Asian prize differed from the two established competitions in that writers may
submit work in the original language or in translation, said Robb Corrigan,
Man's head of communications.
Australia and New Zealand are excluded from
the 24 countries in the prize zone.
The first Man Asian Literary Prize
will be awarded in Autumn 2007. The prize is sponsored by Man Investments, who
are also the sponsors of the Booker Prize.
|Fifth Draft: Friday night in Bangkok
Friday 13th October 2006, the fifth draft of The Risk of Infidelity Index
scrolled down to the last page. Finished. In my heart of hearts, after so many
novels, I know it isn’t finished. Not yet. Some writers who feverishly pours
over the text, looking for one more last thing, find themselves on an eternal
loop. This is the draft that will go off to copy edit next week. When it comes
back and I can see the equivalent of machine-gun target pulled from the back of
shooting range where all of the holes can be examined; hopefully most clustered
around the center.
There is a slight letdown with a final draft. I can’t
quite put my finger on it. Having lived with the story and characters for so
long you know that you are going to miss them. You know that you have to move
on; that the characters and story, if they move on, do so inside your head.
The experience in Florence brought a new element to Calvino’s family
history. One question that I have been searching for since the beginning is a
good personal motive for Calvino’s coming to Thailand and staying here. I had to
go to Florence and the Pitti Palace to find the reason. Because it was in that
place that Italy and Thailand share a canvas quite unlike any painting I’ve ever
A publisher in the States is talking to me about bringing out all
of the Vincent Calvino novels in the USA. He would start with The Risk of
Infidelity Index. As this progresses to completion, I will post the details.
It is time not only that Calvino’s reason for being in Thailand is explored; it
is time for Vinny to take his story back to New York.
|Bangkok Book Launch in a Monsoon Storm
On Tuesday evening 10th October at Q-Bar, Bjorn Turmann launched his second
novel The Karaoke World of Cortous Hair. Most of the brave souls who
showed up at the Q-Bar were drenched from the monsoon down pour that started at
3.00 p.m. and was still coming down at 9.00 p.m. The Q-Bar is around the corner
from Soi 11, Sukhumvit Road, and this soi would have my vote for the top ten
list of Bangkok’s most flood prone sois. I rode on the back of a motorcycle
starting out for 50 baht (the driver’s first quote—I didn’t negotiate) from Soi
We turned from Sukhumvit Road onto Soi 11. There is nothing at the
top of the soi to prepare you for what comes next. Halfway down Soi 11, the
driver pulled onto the pavement and watched as cars slowly drove through half a
meter of water. The tidal surge from the cars hit halfway up the side of the
motorcycle. I woman rode a bicycle through the soi. You couldn’t see her ankles
for the water level was over them. A cop emerged from the driveway of the
district revenue office, his pant legs rolled up over his knees, and caught one
of the waves before he reeled back. He was still grinning as he disappeared. The
driver turned around, and we tried Soi 13, which was also flooded. By this time
the driver was a veteran and the floodwaters were no more than 30 cm at the
The crowd may have been thin at the book launch but they
had a good party spirit. The Karaoke World of Cortous Hair is described
on the back cover as “One man’s adventure tale that is comic, tragic, outrageous
and heart-warming.” Published by Konstrukt Books, it retails for Baht 395. A
video to support the book opens with the author talking about his novel and
suddenly cuts to characters from the book on locations in Singapore, Thailand
and Laos discussing their role in the story. Have a look at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCeUBZQKkfg Members of the cast
also swam up stream last evening to join the author in launching his novel.
|Istanbul: The Pera Palas Hotel
On 20th September, I was at the bar of the Pera Palas Hotel. The
Turkish newspaper ran photos of the recent events happening on the 19th of
September when normal broadcasting was interrupted and tanks appeared on the
streets of Bangkok.
The Pera Palas Hotel is one of those 1,000 places to
visit before you die. Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Oriental Express (1934) in Room 401 of the
hotel. The Pera Palas Hotel legend has it that she hid a key in the room, and no
one has figured out the mystery of either her motive for hiding the key or what
door or box the key would open.
I was in Istanbul to meet with my
literary agent and publisher. The Turkish edition of Gambling on Magic is
selling well, and the publisher will be translating two additional books into
Turkish for 2007. I am looking forward to repeat visit to promote the new books
in September 2007.
|The Risk of Infidelity Index
Writing the 5th draft of any book is a challenge. Keeping
the entire structure in one’s mind is one of them. And maintaining the same
level of excitement after going through many drafts is another. The motive is
compelling: to make the story tight, concise, and the characters believable,
consistent and evolving. Nothing substitutes for the hard, critical work at the
final stages of a book. The professionalism means an exacting standard, and
constantly scanning for the prose for passages that seemed so essential at the
time of writing but simply don’t move the story forward.
Unless it serves
the story or reveals an essential aspect of the character, the passage must go.
If it doesn’t go, the reader won’t go on. Ultimately writing a novel for
publication means that you place yourself in the “reader’s” armchair. My readers
don’t care how long it took me to write a page or a chapter. Either the writing
holds their interest and makes them want to read on, or they give up, put the
book down, disappointed, and they will remember that disappointment the next
time my new book appears on the bookstore shelf. During the 5th draft, I am
continually asking whether I am delivering to my readers a novel that will make
them want to read it again; to tell a friend to buy it; or to buy a copy for a
I’ve learned a great deal about structure, plot, narrative drive,
and character in writing the 9 novels in the Vincent Calvino series. In The
Risk of Infidelity Index, I try to capture something about Thailand during
the last year. A lot has happened during this period. The story line builds upon
those events and hopefully reveals the depth of emotion felt by many who live in
Cover designer Jae Song has come up with a new cover for The
Risk of Infidelity Index, which incorporates a photo taken by
internationally award winning photographer Ralf Tooten.
The world’s largest and most important book fair runs from 4th to 9th October.
For authors, the Frankfurt Book Fair is a good opportunity for his or her agent
to meet prospective publishers. The sale of foreign rights is a big business at
Frankfurt. This year, foreign rights a number of my novels are likely sold to
publishers. Italian and Turkish publisher will be buying rights. Dutch, French,
Spanish, Swedish publishers are also meeting with literary agents for those
I should have news about sales by early November. I’ll keep
I returned from Florence today on an Air Emirates flight. The day started at
5.30 a.m. Florence time, pulling bags across the Arno River to the train
station. We boarded the Milano train at 6.06 and arrived around 10.00, then
hopped on a shuttle bus to the airport. The computer system operated by Air
Emirates had broken down and each passenger ticket had to be hand processed. If
you ever want to know how computers made our lives easier, try checking in at
Milano airport without one in service. From Milano we flew to Rome, then from
Rome to Dubai, and from Dubai to Bangkok. It is now 3.50 p.m. in Thailand as I
write this. More than 30 hours since leaving the apartment in Florence.
had good news about translation rights for more of my novels in Istanbul and
Florence. Also there will be another French edition coming out next year. So
much has happened in the last three weeks, it is difficult to know where to
start. Over the next couple of weeks I will finish the 5th draft of the new
Calvino novel. I had positive news from my literary agent that publishers in
Sweden and Holland are interested in translation rights to the new novel. That
is always a good incentive to get down to business with the final and last
It is good to be home.