Archive April 2007
|Breaking Out Thailand Novels
Sometimes I hear disgruntled writers saying publishers in American won’t publish
novels set in Thailand. That is rubbish. John Burdett’s Bangkok 8 and Bangkok
Tattoo were published by Random House and received a great amount of media
More recently, a novel
titled Fieldwork: A Novel by Mischa Berlinski has been published by
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. That is one of the top literary publisher in New
York. Stephen King has now lent his weight by endorsing the novel. Mischa Berlinski was
born in New York in 1973 and studied classics at the University of California at
Berkeley and at Columbia University.
Publisher’s Weekly wrote: “A
fictional version of the author serves as the narrator of Berlinski's uneven
first novel, a thriller set in Thailand. Mischa Berlinski, a reporter who's
moved to northern Thailand to be with his schoolteacher girlfriend, Rachel,
hears from his friend Josh about the suicide of Martiya van der Leun, an
American anthropologist, in a Thai jail, where she was serving 50 years for
murder. As Mischa begins to investigate Martiya's life and supposed crimes, he
becomes increasingly obsessed with the woman. The complications that arise have
the potential to be riveting, but the chatty narrative voice takes too many
irrelevant detours to build much suspense.”
As far as I know the book is
not available through bookstores in Thailand. While Publisher’s Weekly gave the
novel a “mixed” review I’d like to make my own judgment about the book. Now I
have to find a way to get a copy. You can read an excerpt by logging onto the
author’s website: http://www.berlinski.com/mischa
|Spanish Edition of Zero Hour in Phnom Penh
This month the Spanish Edition of Zero Hour in Phnom Penh will be released by Paidos as Hora
Cero en Phnom Penh. The publisher is releasing three novels in an
international fiction series which include mine and novels by Charles McCarry
and Peter Temple. Paidos have a video clip on their website about the authors:
In a previous post I
wrote about the desirability of a writer entering the world, experiencing life
in its full wonder, confusion, misery; strolling the back lanes, taking risks,
exploring the over looked places and people, and observing the fine detail of
what life offers. I am reading Charles McCarry's Old Boys. McCarry is ex-CIA and when it comes to describing
tradecraft, the reader has the chill of discovery what happens on the ground.
There is a scene with a bomb hidden in the cistern ready for the flush. The
description of this scene is so convincing as to suggest it was one of those
nuggets pulled out of the pocket of actual experience.
At Detectives Without Borders there is high praise for Australian
Peter Temple's The Broken Shore:
"Peter Temple can convey better than
any other crime writer I know the sense of loss created when neighborhoods and
rural areas gentrify."
I drop in to have a look at other author blogs from time to time. Mostly this is
a huge waste of time. Here’s my take on the near hysterical rantings on many
blogs. There is an obsession with marketing and promotion. Where someone ranks
on Google or MySpace is not what writers should be worried about. What is
getting lost in all the competition for attention is what readers want. They
want someone who spends time not studying marketing techniques but a book that
is a product of studying the human condition.
That means getting out
among people of all kinds; and not sticking to close friends and family.
Imagination must be fed by curiosity otherwise it dies. The life-blood of a good
to great novel is one inspired by heartfelt experiences, ones that the author is
able to articulate and weave into an overall story. The current preoccupation
blogging authors have with marketing gimmicks is turning a generation of writers
into junior sales reps who spend a great amount of time thinking of new ways to
sell additional books. Of course an author needs to be concerned about selling
enough books to keep his/her publisher wanting to publish the next one.
The clue to making this happen is to deliver a book that no one else
could have written, because you were the only witness on the scene the day you
got up from your computer, turned a corner, and found an aspect of life that
rang true and inspired a vision of life yet undisclosed, one that you could make
your own through words. If that isn’t your goal, save the forest, save the
trees, find a line of work where you never have to leave your computer and your
latest search of where you stand.
If you are an author, shut down your
computer. Get out of the house/apartment/office wherever you are, and walk over
to a place you’ve never been. Observe, listen, take in the full swell of life
that moves around you, embrace it, reflect about it, and above all find that
small telling detail in the way another person moves, talks, or sighs and
remember this moment as a reflection of a larger story yet to come.
The terrain of Bangkok nightlife often features in my novels and those of others
who set their fiction in the City of Angels. Chris Coles has taken a different
route to reach the same end. I find his extraordinary art provocative,
disturbing, and insightful into the human condition. If you haven’t heard of
Chris Coles or his painting, check out his website: http://www.chriscolesgallery.com I don’t know anyone else who
is capturing the genuine feeling of the street life, the faces of the night, and
the sheer colorful madness that outsiders experience the first time they walk
into Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy or Patpong.
Below is a recent painting of Soi