The Cambodian Book of the Dead – Out Now!

Private eye and former war reporter, Maier is sent to Cambodia to track down the missing heir to a Hamburg coffee empire.

His search leads him into the darkest corners of the country’s history, through the Killing Fields of the communist revolution, to the White Spider, a Nazi war criminal who reigns over an ancient Khmer temple deep in the jungle.

But the terrifying tale of mass murder that Maier uncovers is far from over. And soon Maier realises that, if he is to prevent more innocent lives from being destroyed, he will have to write the last horrific chapter himself.

The Cambodian Book of the Dead – it’s where Apocalypse Now meets The Beach

“The narrative is fast-paced and the frequent action scenes are convincingly written. The smells and sounds of Cambodia are vividly brought to life. Maier is a bold and brave hero.” Crime Fiction Lover

Tom Vater has certainly been busy pre-publication with Keith Walters recently hosting Tom as he spoke about the road to publication, the comparisons between Detective Maier and himself, and where his follow-up novel will take his investigator.

With a fantastic cover, it’s no surprise that Civilian Reader‘s head was turned, and as Stefan’s “interest was well-and-truly piqued” by the blurb (I do love “where Apocalypse Now meets The Beach”) I will be keeping an eye out to see what he makes of this excellent book!

If you’d like to read more of Tom’s writing, try something different and head to his blog for Chiang Mai News and get some insights into South and South East Asia before immersing yourself into his world in The Cambodian Book of the Dead

Book Info:

UK Print
Date: 15th July 2013
ISBN: 9781909223189
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99

US/CAN Print
Date: 25th June 2013
ISBN: 9781909223196
Format: Large (Trade) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$14.99 CAN$16.99

Date: 25th June 2013
ISBN: 9781909223202
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99



Book Review: Red Zone Night by James Newman

Bangkok pulp writer James Newman has hammered out another shot-from-the-hip fast-as-they-come thriller, featuring recovering alcoholic and PI Joe Dylan drifting through the Zone, a sly reference to William Burrough’s Interzone – a place where all races lead to the bottom, all smiles are false and everyone is out to kill everyone else for a few bucks. Like Burroughs, Newman both despises and admires the darkness he has witnessed and he manages to harvest a modicum of sloth and violence in his newest story.

Joe Dylan gets involved with a bar girl who turns up dead soon after. As he begins to investigate her suspicious suicide he slips into a criminal web of violent fetish sex, human sacrifice and black magic and turns from the hunter to the hunted, with blow dart shooting killers of uncertain gender on his trail. Even dwarfs and the Ramayana appear in cameos.

In fact, all the standard ghouls of the Bangkok night turn out, from psychotic ladyboys to flesh eating monitor lizards. The writing is  fluid and assured and Dylan’s journey through a world so rancid that the grime almost oozes through the screen – if one were to read the e-book edition of Red Night Zone – never falters. The circumstances of this particularly tragic reality are well explored, perhaps, occasionally, too deeply.

The heart of Newman’s literary mission – the crossing of Beat style writing and observation’s of Thailand turgid world of sex-pats – is not as obvious as it might sound. The seedy Thai-foreign underworld is easy to describe and difficult to bring to life. Exuberant gaudiness and total degradation, detachment and vast suffering, extreme highs and shattering lows are opposites intrinsic to the Bangkok night reality yet difficult to convey without either descending into tabloid journalism styles or out and out sleaze. Newman, by looking back to the Beats and the mass paperback culture of the 40s and 50s, is just far enough away from depravity to sail his ship. For the most part his observations on the monstrous are spot-on, though his notion that the foreign Johns are the greater victims in the sordid death-sex-life-dance that moves along the streets of downtown Bangkok may not be palatable nor agreeable to all readers. But that doesn’t stop James Newman finding his dark corner and rolling around in it. The course is charted, there’s wind in the sails and Joe Dylan is likely to revisit the Zone somewhere near you soon. He will just slip onto a barstool, turn his head and the chapter will start something like this: The Nazi bargirl lit a cigarette and asked for a drink.

Of course she did.

Originally published in The Chiang Mai City News

Ross Thomas – Briarpatch

Briarpatch by Ross Thomas is a great novel about corruption, bigotry and racism in small town America. The following few paragraphs set the tone of the book and illuminate the seedy side of America in a wonderfully subtle way.

In 1915, two years before America’s entry into the First World War, a prosperous dentist  who went by the name of Dr Mortimer Cherry bought seven sections of scrub land 6.7 miles north of the city limits and proceeded to lay out what eventually would become the state’s most exclusive suburb. He called it Cherry Hills.

There would be, Dr Cherry decided, no straight streets – only gently curving drives, twisting lanes and perhaps two or three sweeping boulevards. Furthermore, all street names would have a pronounced English lilt: Drury Lane, Sloane Way, Chelsea Drive, and so on. The minimum lot – for the merely affluent – would be 100 feet wide and 150 feet deep. The rich would build on parcels as large as ten, or even fifteen acres.

By 1917, the lots were plotted, the streets surveyed, and grading was about to start when the country entered the war. Dr Cherry wisely decided to postpone further development until after the war’s end.

In early February 1919, the Tribune ran a front-page story revealing that Dr Cherry had been born into what it called the Hebrew faith as Mordecai Cherowski in either Poland or the Ukraine. The Tribune never did pinpoint the exact location. But it managed to convince nearly everyone that Dr Cherry was no real dentist. True, the Tribune admitted, he had pulled a lot of teeth down in Texas, but that had been when he was a medical-orderly trusty in the Huntsville State Prison, serving two years for fraud. Released in 1909, Dr Cherry had changed his name and moved to the city where he set up practice. His credentials consisted of a diploma from Wichita Falls dental college that hung proudly in his reception room. His practice thrived and almost everybody agreed he was an awfully good dentist. The Tribune revealed that the diploma was a fake. On March 1, 1919, Dr Cherry drove home from his now nonexistent practice, locked the bathroom door, and shot himself in the head. He was forty-nice years old.

In the late summer of 1919, the development known as Cherry Hills was acquired for next to nothing by the oil millionaire Philip K ‘Ace’ Dawson, an ex-bootlegger and card sharp from Beaumont who had once done a six month stretch in Huntsville himself. Ace Dawson held a two-thirds interest of the development. The remaining third was owned by his silent partner, James B. Hartsthorne, the twenty nine year old editor and publisher of the Tribune.

The Father Ananda Mysteries go BARGAIN for a week

Thailand’s best loved monk cum detective, Father Ananda, a former homicide cop turned devout Buddhist is the brainchild of American writer Nick Wilgus.

The first title in the series, Mindfulness and Murder is now available as paperback and ebook.  When a homeless boy living at the youth shelter run by a Buddhist monastery turns up dead, the abbot recruits Father Ananda, a monk and former police officer, to find out why. He discovers that all is not well at this urban monastery in the heart of Bangkok. Together with his dogged assistant, an orphaned boy named Jak, Father Ananda uncovers a startling series of clues that eventually expose the motivation behind the crime and lead him to the murderers.

The ebook is just 2.99$ all week this week.

The second Father Ananda Mystery, Sister Suicide, is also available as paperback and ebook. The ebook is FREE on April 23rd and 24th.

A nun is torn apart by crocodiles in a Buddhist theme park. Is it a case of suicide or does a monastic community in the Thai provinces harbor a vicious killer? Father Ananda, Buddhist monk and reluctant detective is called from Bangkok to untangle an insidious web of vested interests, corruption and murder in the second episode of the Father Ananda Mystery series.

Crime Wave Press, Asia’s crime fiction publisher, will release the third Father Ananda Mystery, Killer Karma in May.

Praise for Father Ananda:

“A gripping read peppered with fascinating insights into the day to day life of a Buddhist monk. Nick Wilgus’s Mindfulness and Murder puts a new spin on an old genre.” — UNTAMED TRAVEL MAGAZINE

“Wilgus … has a good fix on temple boys, the precepts of Buddhism, the jaundiced eye with which the populace regards the constulabary, the vendors, the weather, the air pollution.” — BANGKOK POST on Garden of Hell

“Nick Wilgus’ first novel is great. May Buddha protect Father Ananda and send him many other exciting adventures.” Livres Hebdo

Book Review: A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson

A while back I reviewed Robert Wilson‘s Blood is Dirt on this blog. I didn’t really like the African set thriller, the Graham Greene construct was strained, but I decided to go back to Wilson and give him another try with A Small Death in Lisbon.

Great book. Ambitious in scope, this novel set in Portugal has two narratives, one set in the 1940s when the Nazis exported Wolfram for the war effort. We follow Klaus Felsen, a German industrialist through the war years. Felsen is a fascinating character, a gentle psycho who loses it when he murders a British competitor and rapes his Portuguese best friend’s young concubine. What goes around comes around and the entire sorry saga re-emerges into post fascist 90s Lisbon when decent cop Ze Coehlo investigates the murder of a wayward teenage girl. Eventually the two stories intersect but they both stand up well by themselves and the convoluted pay-off does not come till right at the end of the book. Wilson manages a difficult task well – that of having a pretty disgusting, volatile and selfish but hugely interesting character, Felsen, guide us through a large chunk of the book, no mean feat in a genre where readers scream for heroes whoever incomplete. Felsen embues the book with a great dose of Noir and realism.

But the most fascinating aspect of A Small Death in Lisbon is the portrayal of Portugal itself – the transition from fascism into uneasy democracy. In both incarnations, greedy men are at the top of the pile, well protected, ruthless and ready to murder at the slightest threat to their interests. It’s only troubled Coelho’s blind heroism that leads to the tumble of a few.

A wonderfully dark tale with language that is so good one can almost smell the Portuguese countryside, the olive trees, the cheese and the wine, with murder, betrayal and lost humanity dripping off every page into the bargain. History at its most gripping.
Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon is on a par with the Bernie Gunther novels by Philip Kerr, and though Wilson writes with less cynicism, he has the same eye for detail, historical and otherwise.

J. Kingston Pierce’s Last Kill – 12 Great Pulp Covers

Check out this excellent post by J. Kingston Pierce, listing his favorite pulp Litro, London’s little literary magazine.

Wonderful post, great art work.

Sex Cruise anyone?

Doesn’t seem all that much point commenting on this pulp classic (?) that fell off my shelf and in front of the camera this week. Wonder what other classic the presumably happy to have made it into print under an assumed name Arthur Bliss managed to churn out in his time.

I must admit, I haven’t read it. Sometimes a picture can tell a story better than 250 pages of mildewed text.


The Men Who Wrote The Place They Did Not Know – Carter Brown vs Karl May

British writer Alan Geoffrey Yates (aka Carter Brown) lived in Australia and sold more than a 120 million books. He managed to churn out several novels a month, writing under many pseudonyms and pumping out westerns and Sci-Fi pulp as well as crime fiction. Apparently only The Bible has been translated into more languages than his work. If only for this factoid, Carter Brown is already right up there with the greats.

Also remarkable is the fact that Yates published thirty novels set in the US before he ever went there. He shares the ability to evoke a place he’s never seen with German pulp western writer Karl May (1842-1912) who wrote scores of epic novels about the dying days of the Old West and the last fight of native Americans against the white man without ever having set foot in the US either.

May, an illustrious character who fraudulently claimed a doctorate and churned out pulp relentlessly, is said to have had some 200 million books in print (half in German) and is said to be the most read writer in German, though this may no longer the case today as his style and philosophies have dated.

Both Einstein and Hitler (as well as Schweitzer and Hesse) were admirers. Hitler chose to focus on the heroic aspects of the books and blanked the pacifist, Christian and vague homosexual elements as well as the generally positive descriptions of foreigners. Nonetheless, because of May’s huge popularity, some of his novels were rewritten with an anti-semitic slant by the Nazis…

Read this interesting 1987 New York Times piece about Karl May by Frederic Morton which makes much of the Nazi angle but is otherwise well researched and a riveting read. More recently, the New Yorker ran a less exhaustive but equally fascinating article titled Wild West Germany about May and the Germans relationship with cowboys and Indians.