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Blog 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 attention.

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

Posted: 4/10/2007 1:22:42 AM 


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: http://www.paidos.com/alea.asp

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."

Posted: 4/8/2007 10:29:35 PM 



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.

Posted: 4/3/2007 11:44:20 PM 



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 Cowboy.

Posted: 4/3/2007 12:44:50 AM 



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