Thailand Footprint: People, Things, Literature, Music and Henry Miller too. Forget Yourself Here


“There is always a bad guy in the ring.  This bad force is the noir you cannot escape.” Chad A. Evans

I’ve just concluded my interview today with Canadian author and Australian resident, Chad Evans. Chad recently published Vincent Calvino’s World, which I have read and reviewed. The review was published in the Sunday Weekly of the Khmer Times and at this blog. You can read the book review here

Chad Evans may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or be faster than a locomotive as he was in his competitive boxing days but he’s still Superman in my book for writing Vincent Calvino’s World. Chad Evans has the necessary literary tools, sense of humor and sensitivity to write an entertaining study of the 15 novels penned so far in the Vincent Calvino noir crime series written by Christopher G. Moore.

With hindsight it occurs to me I never did ask the Adelaide resident, “How does your garden grow?” For that matter we never got around to discussing pretty maids all in a row, either. The Eagles tune by Joe Walsh, I mean. But we did discuss at length his writing journey in general and Vincent Calvino’s World in particular, when we weren’t talking about test cricket or the health benefits of Bangers and Mash.


Artwork by Monique Swan of the author Chad Evans in his garden holding his published book, Vincent Calvino’s World


Here are the highlights of that interview. Welcome to the world of Chad Evans and Vincent Calvino.

Chad Evans Head Shot
KC: You’ve got a new book out, Vincent Calvino’s World, a book I very much enjoyed reading. What was the motivation to take on such a project – what compelled you, besides sure-fire fame, riches and glory?

CE: I always dreamed of coming upon a writer named Cummings who would appreciate my belated genius. I have never had any motivation other than envy, and primarily that is called watching Jungle Atlantis on BBC or whatever and seeing that not only has my son fulfilled my ego dreams, but he controls and occupies the entire credibility of SE Asian archaeology and anthropology.  I was looking for some means to kick the kid in the arse.  I mean how dare he, Dr. Damian Evans show the world he is a laid back genius and Khmer barang God to the world’s media when all his father ever did was pursue grand failure.

Basically I glanced at a Thai Lonely Planet guidebook after having a good time in that country for a few weeks and saw a mention of a crime novelist, C.G. Moore.  So I found two of his titles in Oz in the lending system: Spirit House and Risk of Infidelity Index and read them.  I have probably read 7 or 8 thousand crime novels.  But I was gobsmacked.  It was like I was reading my own writing.  Freaked me out quite frankly.  Like I was reading a successful creative version of myself.  So I tossed an email at this author, Christopher G. Moore, more or less saying this and not only did he reply he felt as though I had given him the ultimate praise from the heart.

KC: Who were some of your earliest influences in crime fiction and literature? Please be sure and include at least one Australian author.

CE: Gary Disher is my main crime guy in Oz.  I mean he writes procedurals and criminal POV novels . . . but furthermore what I respect about him most is he wrote the best book ever on how to write a novel.  So a teacher and not just a writer.  Carol O’Connell is a class act as far as I am concerned, her Mallory novels have that wonderful accessibility for men . . . despite a superwoman feminist aspect the heroine is an absolute sociopath.  James Lee Burke for his Faulkner hypnotic poetry of prose.  Crais’s Joe Pike is a great character.  But my main influences personally as a writer are mid-20th Century guys, possibly the same as Christopher’s actually . . . I liked Steiner and Koestler, polymaths, fully evolved left and right side brain guys.  Plus they had Euro angst.  But to be more honest really, I am most influenced in my formative years by a clutch of Canadian writers.  I was mentored by a Wiccan poet, Robin Skelton . . . so was Margaret Atwood, so I am in good company there.  Robin and Ginsberg were good West Coast mates so I am just a youngling at the haunted house parties Robin used to hold in his Queen Anne eclectic style house one night each week . . . a house filled with artists, booze and you name it.  Then Robertson Davies impacted on me large . . . like confronting (as he was my Master at Massey College, University of Toronto) the most famous novelist in the world for a few years there.  He taught me that a 63 year old could come off the practice course and go 10 under par in the U.S. Open.  Aside from that I would say playscripts were my biggest influence, read them all, from Aeschylus to Pinter, and really I hate to tell you this . . . dramatists are lightyears ahead of most novelists as artists who understand the human condition.  Fiction is about wasting time mostly.  Not so, plays.

KC: Tell our readers about your previous writing projects. Did they prepare you for writing Vincent Calvino’s World?

There was a sea-witch, Susan Musgrave I think, who my Grade 10 teacher and other boffins were acknowledging as the great writerly hope.  I was in the same class.  Anyway I won the short story competition with a pornographic cookery recipe story . . . light years before this became a TV idiom.  Over my beef and kidney pie I had baked for my enterprising and otherwise occupied Canadian family, I quietly mentioned my literary brownie point.  My father said the pie was ‘tasty’.  Then accused me of not writing the winning script.  I was supposed to be uncomplicated, like him.

I guess you might say I was extremely well-educated in the late 1960s and early 70s.  A Canadian West Coaster, locally we got the cream of American talent smart enough to escape the Vietnam Draft.  Very radical guys all of them.  This was my classroom, packing an anti-nuke banner past John Wayne’s converted minesweeper and him on the prow waiving his finger at the slope-shouldered kid Canuck: “Don’t tell us what to do with our bombs, son.”

I then went to Massey College, University of Toronto, and well I suppose this western cowboy, me, got the top grade of world thinkers: George Steiner, Frye, McLuhen, Ann Saddlemyer et al . . . an embarrassment of intellectual riches really at that time.  Funny thing is we all ate the same meal every night at this underground place on Bloor Street, one dish, Hungarian Goulash plus a loaf, nothing else, and here you had Gordon Lightfoot, Josef Skvorecky, Maggie Atwood, McCluhen, Ondaatje, endless genius communicators and uni students all stuffing themselves with this goulash.  I still dream about that joint.  The communist meal was better than you think.  Food so simple you had to talk about other mattters.

Anyway back to soporific Vancouver Island after that, oh about 1975, half the population of the island seem to be relatives of mine, and I wrote a novel then was drafted into the new heritage conservation bureaucratic movement as a thinker.  The first thinking involved discovering in my attic the complete architectural drawings for the beautiful Parliament Buildings and Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia.

So as a civil servant on contract I began to research and write about the ‘entertainment’ history of the Far West and that grew into my book Frontier Theatre which hit the U.S. shelves in 1984.  I was like a rogue academic . . . too dangerous to actually employ within universities (5 have made attempts) so I suppose a kind of lost intellectual soul until Christopher G. Moore pried the lid off me.

KC: What do you hope the reader’s takeaway will be from reading Vincent Calvino’s World? Why should it be read?

CE: A pizza delivery app will spell the end of all that is good about Cambodia dear K. Slick capitalism works a treat in sucking any life out of a real place.  But surely the underlying message is no message at all: namely that the most interesting place on earth is Southeast Asia because of the time travel aspect.  Sadly, the Chinese overlords are now building, like dams, an almost 1960s concept of hydro enlightenment along the Mekong.  It is the saddest story on the planet.  Real people are being displaced by electrons and owners.  I care for the wild creatures in the Cambodian forests.

I am old school, like a Moog synthesizer and I suppose I was influenced by George Steiner and Arthur Koestler more than other writers.  You know a polymath type bridging everything, pooling all the connections, meaning I wanted my book Vincent Calvino’s World to be the one-stop cultural museum for SE Asia.  It is not as easy as it looks . . . creating a monograph that will stand through time as a necessary reference. It probably helped that I have Khmer family who I love dearly so the emotional bond was preformed before I executed a major intellectual examination of the region culture using Christopher G.Moore’s fiction as my prism.  I thought this Moore guy deserved, for so many reasons, to be treated like the great writer he is: so I sort of became Ben Jonson to his Shakespeare. And like a Thai dish, the take away has the full spectrum of color and taste and any serious reader should enjoy the meal if they sustain an open mind.  Thailand and Cambodia are wonderful magical places that change you forever.

KC: Early on in VCW you describe Calvino as a closet humanist. For readers who may be unaware of Vincent Calvino describe who he is and elaborate on some of his humanist qualities and explain why it’s a good idea he remain in the closet or should he now come out? 

CE: First up, thanks for the breezy little question, Kevin.  You must have tortured yourself all night long figuring how to ask me this simple question.

Look whether you are a detective or a dangerous writer you pretty much have the same situation.  If you reach say, the age of 45 as such, you will have learned the drill, the margins of discovery, creativity and truth.  You know you live in a veil of lies and must be a submariner: run silent run deep like Calvino does.

I am not sure if America or Canada for that matter produces Vincent Calvinos anymore. Existential  beings who are honest and straight up and do not subscribe to all the media porridge.  Calvino via his accidental approaches to truth finds the truth in the end and discovers that the world does not want his discovery.  Our world is a world of lies not truth. Otherwise how else could us mammals destroy most of the plant and her capitalist vermin talk about bigger suburbs and more population?  If that is not dementedly sick what is?

Sometimes it is all about space.  I used to box a bit and you learned, like a stage ballerina I suppose, your map, your perimeter, the length of your left jab down to the millimeter. You could feel that rope near your ass. Maintaining proper distance is all, and Calvino through his creator sustains a kind of calculated distance which is disrupted by his uninvited noir involvements.  So maybe the big story is how did this guy survive in such a dangerous neighborhood for oh thirty years.

I am biased.  C.G. Moore and I come from very similar backgrounds (something I did not know incidentally when I took on the impossible job of writing a biography of a fictional character created by a living author living in a foreign country).  By similar I mean we come from a time when people still loved and stood up and finished the damn job, without all this media wank of complaint about being abused or whatever we have now.  Just get the job done and shut up.

But to answer your question, Kevin, well Vinny is maybe the kind of boomer hard-core guy my generation all wanted to be: tough yet sophisticated,  a boxer who speaks heart talk. If you want life you have to reach out . . . people in trouble reach out to Calvino . . . and he does not flinch.  Even moreso, he is utterly independent and really if you look behind the plots . . . he picks his own cases by inventing them.


KC: In the Bangkok Post (Sunday) page 11, there is a piece by Stephen L. Carter where he quotes Blakey Vermeule, an English professor at Stanford University, author of Why Do We Care About Literary Characters: “Fiction rather uniquely primes our moral intuitions, our sense of right and wrong, of good and bad, of fair and not fair. When we suspect that justice is being thwarted, we want to lodge a protest–and the protest is a deeply moral one, against the unfairness of outcomes.” Does Calvino prime a reader’s moral intuition? 

CE: You gotta be kidding me with this question.  I need either valium or Afghan gold this morning to even posit an answer.  I told you ask me a dumb normal question this time, one I could speak into my tablet.   My PC answer is bound to fail.  Even so the only way I can answer quickly is by using voice to text technology, that is ask Helga, my new secretary to put her steady hands on this keyboard, then I can speedily dictate while pacing my Oz living room.
[Helga is now typing ‘in front of me’  . . .]
To some extent Calvino is a serial mistake artist.  His main flaw, the one some of us really love (easier to do with a fictional than a real person), is he does not learn to stop repeating his prime moral mistake.  He does not just leave the body alone.  His morality is the repetitive weakness us Westerners  love to share, Sisyphus stuff really.  But no, Calvino has nothing to do with simple fiction equations of right and wrong, good and bad, black or white . . . probably his Canadian brother-in-law has something to do with his grayscale viewing of life.  His noir is a noir of futile responsibility as he is incapable of just zoning out into a kind of Zen cloud of dissociation from earthly troubles.  He cannot.  Smokin’ Joe is always coming at him.  Most individuals with Eastern wisdom and probably most women as well just shake their head and think: why does this guy not just step off and avoid the troubles.  It goes to his demons and dreams and his cultural sense of someone or thing coming at him.  There is always a bad guy in the ring.  This bad force is the noir you cannot escape.
KC: When will you next be in Thailand and or SEA?
CE: I have had a plan to move over sort of seasonally permanently next July 2016.  I was going to come before Xmas but since I know I am going to take a big leap next year a short visit sort of does not make sense.  Of course, though, Kevin if you supply me with plane fares and accommodation I will visit Bangkk for 26 days prior to July 2016, and then you can interrogate me to death as is your fashion.
KC: Thanks, Chad. I’ve enjoyed this look into your two worlds. And sorry I never heard of Don Bradman. I’ll Google him.
Don Bradman statue at Adelaide Oval
CE: Sorry Kevin.  Sir Don and I seance every night with a few other South Australians. Like Don Dustan, Max Harris et al, great ghosts I met in living form, and I will tell you this my boy from Santa Cruz, some pretty great ideas and writers and composers and directors have popped out of provincial Adelaide.  Surprize surprize.

The Big Weird

I came across this book review which I left at Amazon before I began my blog in April 2013. The Big Weird remains one of my favorite novels by Mr. Moore. Later this week I’ll have an interview with Australian author Chad Evans, the author of Vincent Calvino’s World. In the meantime, I hope readers enjoy the review and The Big Weird as much as I did:

If New Orleans is The Big Easy, Bangkok is the clear winner for the title of, The Big Weird. Miss Congeniality she is not.

Author, Christopher G. Moore reminds us in the fifth installment of the Vincent Calvino crime series why his books are so popular with readers. My all-time favorite is #13 (2013 Missing In Rangoon (Vincent Calvino Crime Novel) ). The novels feature ½ Italian, ½ Jewish disbarred New York lawyer turned Bangkok private investigator Vincent Calvino. Vinnie is the only farang (white foreigner) in Bangkok legally carrying a .38 police special under his sport coat, due to his long-time friendship with Thai Police Colonel Prat. For Moore, the tools of his trade are a mirror, which he holds up to Thai society and expats living in Thailand, a magnifying glass aimed at the flaws of the human condition, and a microscope probing the psyche of his characters.

Setting and characters include the city of Bangkok and the air quality as both. In this case Calvino is hired by aging ex-Hollywood A-list screenwriter, Quintin Stuart to investigate the death of an American blonde found dead with a single bullet-hole in her head at the home of her ex-boyfriend. Set in the early days of the internet, the book captures sexual realities and virtual realities and the blurring lines in-between. Also found: a wise-cracking opportunist, Alan Osborne who is transforming a Go Go bar into a Mermaidium, featuring swimming bar-girls with names like Baby Fish and Ice; a motorcycle driving photographer specializing in morgue portraits; a fat, greedy computer geek named Slugo; a radical feminist and her group WULF (Women’s United Liberation Front) whose main goal is to eliminate Asian porn from the internet. And a hedonistic expat culture addicted to ever increasing levels of excitement.

I would not want Moore to eliminate either the radical feminists or the male chauvinist pigs from his world – in fact the world seems most entertaining when they are side by side in THE BIG WEIRD. This is a smart, “who done it” that becomes an entertaining, why done it. An example of the Calvino narrative:

“Working with Quintin Stuart was a wearying experience with the rules changing each time he met his client, one reversal followed by another, until he realized that he had been brought in less to discover the dark forces of evil than to discover the squalid compounds that could be shaped into books and movies.”

But what can you expect from a client who has, The Sickness. The Sickness is a thread that runs throughout the book detailing the pitfalls of living in a metropolis called The City of Angels, when anyone who has ever been there knows the more apt description is, The Big Weird.

An entertaining, gritty crime novel with a likeable yet imperfect private investigator as the protagonist. In the Phillip Marlowe, Mike Hammer tradition, only with a more interesting city in the background. A fun, quick read at 330 pages.

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Henry Miller Big Sur

Henry Miller at the Hotel Princess in Paris, France 1969

“Surely every one realizes, at some point along the way, that he is capable of living a far better life than the one he has chosen. What stays him, usually, is the fear of the sacrifices involved. (Even to relinquish his chains seems like a sacrifice.) yet everyone knows that nothing is accomplished without sacrifice.”
Henry Miller, Big Sur and Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

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kevin8 (2)

Click Strip to Enlarge. Illustration by Colin Cotterill

It’s the political season in the USA. A very long season. Longer than Major League Baseball. Definitely more than 162 games will be played before we determine the two winners, one of whom will go on to be Commander in Chief of the Free World or Chief Assassinator  by Drone, depending on your country of birth and/or feelings about Vladimir Putin, baseball and apple pie.

It also means it is the political season on Facebook and other forms of social media, once again, so choose your friends and conversations carefully. Have a bit of humor about the candidates on all sides, and lets hope for a better future no matter how stacked the odds are against that happening.

Turning to news about the Thailand elections: there is no news worth reporting here or any elections scheduled for that matter.

In more positive news, in the past 30 days I had the opportunity to interview Timothy Hallinan in the October issue of Bangkok 101 Magazine.


And talk about his newly released book, The Hot Countries. Buy it. Tim is good.


I’ll be reviewing The Hot Countries in November.

I also reviewed three other books worth your consideration to read – I recommend them all. Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne.


The Bangkok Asset by John Burdett

Bangkok Asset SCMP

And Vincent Calvino’s World by Chad Evans.


This coming Saturday and Sunday Checkinn99 will be putting the Blues Brothers Band together in a new and different way. If you’ve still not been to Checkinn99 it might be a good time to check it out. Music of the Heart Band will perform a special set of Blues Brothers songs along with their regular numbers.



And you can even get popcorn and a copy of my book, Bangkok Beat on sale at Checkinn99. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Happy reading and get out and see some live music wherever you live if you have the chance. John Maynard Keynes continues to be right. The empirical evidence is all too clear these days.

Keep it friendly out there. Happy trails.


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Vincent Calvino's World

With the knowledge gained it becomes difficult to imagine the political upheavals, the social and technological change and the noir corruption enveloping the characters of the street in modern Southeast Asia without Vincent Calvino. He is our street guide through the noir side of the Bangkok night, our cultural interpreter of fast-changing Thai and expat society on all levels, our go-between leading us through fictional situations which are synchronous with real time recent history. And he is a devil for the detail of Thai behavior, language, belief systems and the inner workings of the powerful.” Vincent Calvino’s World by Chad Evans.

Certain books come around where the idea had crossed my mind previously. Vincent Calvino’s World by Chad Evans is one such book. I can remember thinking, fleetingly, as a fan of the series there should be a book that chronicles the now 15 strong Vincent Calvino novels written by the Canadian author, Christopher G. Moore. The thought was fleeting because I had to consider who would be crazy enough to take on such a daunting, challenging task and give it the merit and due diligence it deserved? Not me, I was sure of that. Chad A. Evans is, evidently, crazy enough and talented enough to get the job done well. And thank the gods or the animals (up to you) for that.

This book, which encapsulates the essence and nuance of a fictional character, a gifted and principled author, the time and place of a region, and a culture is now on the shelves or a digital world near you. Like the Vincent Calvino crime novels, Moore’s stand-alone fiction, and his four books of essays they are all available at this moment in time and for future generations.

William Faulkner in a 1956 Paris Review interview said,

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”

Both the author Chad Evans and the creator of the fictional private detective Vincent Calvino have taken life and characters and arrested motion taking place over three decades in multiple and different ways. For the fan of the Vincent Calvino series, and they exist around the globe, the purchase of this book is an easy call to make. For anyone interested in the culture and politics of Thailand and the region it should be a prerequisite read for the newly offered 6 month long-term Thai visa. Either way it is a book to be enjoyed, to be appreciated and to be savored. Over the course of this 278 page book Evans deciphers how Moore has been able to both entertain and educate the reader on topics of law, culture, romance, transactional sex, violence, corruption, technology and history. If you have read one Vincent Calvino novel or all fifteen, you will enjoy this excellent case study. And if for some inexplicable reason you have never read a Moore novel, read Vincent Calvino’s World first, it will make you want to do so. In that same Paris Review interview Faulkner goes on to say,

“Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.”

If Faulkner is right the immortality of Christopher G. Moore is assured. No study of Moore’s books would be complete without referring to a piece of Chad Evans own legacy, “Vincent Calvino’s World”. What a treat it is to read. What a tribute it carves for Moore, today, and for eternity. Moore maintains that only a sliver of history is recorded, a splinter if you will. The rest is forgotten all too soon. The world is a better place for the sliver of moments Moore has documented and Evans has reviewed. Both writers leave the reader knowing what a splendid splinter it is. Vincent Calvino’s World is equally entertaining and educational, a perfect pitch noir guide to Southeast Asia. Well done, Chad A. Evans. Congratulations, Christopher G. Moore.

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I am pleased to have the opportunity to interview Andrew Hicks today at Thailand Footprint. Andrew is one of the first authors I recall on the shelves of Asia Books when I came to Thailand over a decade ago, in particular his best selling books, Thai Girl and My Thai Girl and I, have had a long and prosperous shelf life and can still be found at Asia Books and elsewhere today. Andrew was one of the early success stories in self-publishing, long before the Kindle and Create Space were around. We’ll be talking about his various adventures in and out of the publishing world.
Cover image MTG&I Single lowres
Here is an excerpt from a brochure regarding his latest book about Bangkok author, ‘Jack Reynolds’, called A True Friend to China, which involved extensive research over a five year period:

China in the late 1940s was another world, an ancient society still in the grips of feudalism, desperately poor and in need of modernization. Jack Jones [‘Jack Reynolds’] is among the few foreigners to have written contemporary accounts of day-to-day life there. Together with his fellow members of the Friends Ambulance Unit ‘China Convoy’, his long struggle to bring medical supplies and services to the poorest regions of China is vividly evoked in this book. Written by him as articles for the China Convoy’s newsletter and lost and unread for more than half a century, they have recently been discovered in Quaker archives in London and Philadelphia. An edited selection now tells the remarkable story of how Jack and his team battled against all the odds in life-threatening situations to help relieve the overwhelming suffering of the Chinese people. A True Friend to China; Andrew Hicks ISBN: 978-988-82730-1-0 Language: English Paperback: 414 pages Pub Date: February 2015

Jack Reynolds-Earnshaw final cover friends 0116

KC Welcome, Andrew. Before we get to your new book, Jack Jones – A True Friend to China: The Lost Writings of a Heroic Nobody, tell us about your publishing history, the other books you have authored and what you see as the pros and cons of self publishing. You were a lawyer in another life, so make the case for each side, not just one, if you can – traditional publishing vs self-publishing. There seems to be no shortage of opinions on the subject.
AH: I don’t suppose you’ll want to hear about my worst-selling book, The Nigerian Law of Hire Purchase, nor about Company  Law by Hicks and Goo!  (Google them if you don’t believe they exist!)  But yes, I’d written loads of legal stuff and then at last Thai Girl, a novel which has a much better story line than the law books.
In 2004 I self-published Thai Girl in Bangkok.  Then in 2006 Monsoon Books of Singapore republished it for world markets and with many reprints and many tens of thousands sold, it’s done pretty well, so I’m not complaining.
I try to be versatile as a writer so my next effort was My Thai Girl and I, my story of meeting that Thai lady I couldn’t escape from and of settling down with her and her family in a village in Isaan.  It’s positive and it’s funny and I get lots of messages from men who tell me it encapsulates for them so many of their own experiences; it’s a mirror for the experienced and a useful primer for the uninitiated perhaps.  This again was self-published and together with Thai Girl it is still on the shelves at Asia Books in Thailand and selling steadily after so many years.  Both books are also available with Monsoon Books as ebooks, so that’s a new and important dimension.
When I was looking to have Thai Girl published in 2003, Asia Books had recently been publishing a series of novels but had just called a halt to its publishing arm as the market was slow.  Self-publishing then became the only game in Bangkok and it has since done very well for me and my two books.  Apart from anything else, there is no publisher to take a cut of the profits; publisher’s royalties are usually just 10% which is a poor return unless sales are huge.  For me however, distributing through Asia Books has given me a fifty fifty split so this has been much more profitable.
But you must never forget that having a book printed does not amount to ‘publishing’ it.  In Bangkok book production can be cheap and efficient but then you have to take delivery of the print run and store them somewhere.  Then you have to distribute and sell them and that’s the difficult bit.
Having said that, the up-front cost of a print run and storage can now be avoided by print-on-demand publishing and ebooks, both of which can achieve a world-wide market with online sales; though again this requires some expertise and a flair for self-promotion.  Fifty shades of failure are the norm and it’s extremely rare that a book really takes off in a big way.  There are millions of orphan books out there and many disappointed aspiring authors.
So… the choice between having a commercial publisher and self-publishing your book?  Well, in reality there ain’t no choice.  We’d all follow John Burdett and enjoy all the selling power of a big publisher if we could, but even top novelist, Stephen Leather couldn’t get his long-time publisher to take Private Dancer, his great Bangkok novel.   It was my pleasure to take Leather to meet my own designer and printer and to show him the way through the maze of self-publishing and to get his book on the shelves that way.
KC: Who was Jack Jones? I’m somewhat familiar with him, but many of our readers probably are not.
AH: Jack Jones came out of China in 1951 and settled in Bangkok working for Unicef.  As ‘Jack Reynolds’ he then in 1956 published his seminal novel, A Woman of Bangkok, the story of a naïve Englishman who falls for a Bangkok dance hostess or bar girl as we’d say today.  The book is credited with being the origin of the Bangkok novel and many say it has not yet been bettered.  Published in New York and London, and banned in Australia, it became a world-wide best seller.  Rarely out of print since then, it is currently available from Monsoon Books, which is exceptional longevity for any book.


The writing is of high quality which was what drew me into researching this mysterious author ‘Jack Reynolds’ and from which my new book A True Friend to China has emerged.  Recently published in Shanghai, you can learn more about it on
KC: Why choose this subject and this man for what must have been, to use your phrase, a 1/2 ton of work to publish?
AH: Honestly, I didn’t choose to write about Jack Jones/Reynolds and his adventures in China… it just happened and I got sucked in almost reluctantly.  Several book reviews had compared my novel to his and I was curious who this accomplished writer might be who had produced a bestselling Bangkok story and then totally disappeared.  The Bangkok Post published my letter asking if anyone remembered Jack and several of his friends contacted me.  Steve Van Beek met me and told me that Jack had run the transport unit for the Friends Ambulance Unit which did medical relief work in China in the nineteen forties.  I was intrigued because an elderly friend of mine had been with the FAU and when I traced his son I discovered that he and Jack had met in China and become life-long friends.  The son produced for me a treasure trove of stuff about Jack including his 1937 book of poems… self-published of course.
The die was cast, I was hooked, each new discovery about Jack driving me on like a drug.  I met members of his family in Bangkok and discovered a little more.  I searched the archives of the Bangkok Post and found numerous articles by Jack.  I sensed that as an obsessive writer he must have produced something while in China so I went to the FAU’s Quaker archives in London and found a treasure trove of stuff by Jack.  And more was to be found in Quaker archives in Philadelphia.
In China throughout the forties the FAU had a large staff scattered across China and they held them together by mailing out a weekly newsletter to which Jack was a regular contributor.  He told stories of running worn out and overloaded trucks carrying medical supplies over impossible roads in all weathers.  He described how he drove his truck off the side of a mountain into a ravine, all his passengers surviving almost unscathed, how he was fired at by bandits, knocked to the ground and beaten with the flat of a sword, how he came near to death with an attack of typhus, a disease that killed two of his colleagues, and how he was constantly falling hopelessly in love with the Chinese women around him.  Jack never tires of writing about women.
In my view, these newly discovered articles are some of his best writings and my new book is an edited compilation of these.  I can happily say that it’s a wonderful book as most of it is by Jack and not me and of the 500 magical photos of China I took only three.
Jack sketches Christ carrying the cross. [Large image.]
A picture of Jack with beard sketching an image of Christ
KC: Andrew, I have learned you’ve just had a discovery of art works by Jack Reynolds that have reached you from Seattle after a sixty five year slumber. Here are two examples. What is the back story to this discovery?
AH: Jack had a repressed admiration for the wife of one of his FAU drivers who he called Mrs CMS.  She was a multi-talented performer in the Chinese equivalent of music hall and circus acts and Jack penned a long article about how he and his friends went one day almost seventy years ago to see her perform.  She was magnificent, acting, dancing and riding a monocycle.  This article reproduced in my book runs to about fourteen pages for which I had no photo illustrations, so all I could do was present a sea of unrelieved text.  Then a few months after publication I received an email from a man in Seattle whose father had worked with Jack in China.  In the bottom drawer his late father had left an envelope and in it was a collection of eight fine drawings that Jack had done to illustrate this very article.  He sent me scans of them, for me a Holy Grail moment, confirming Jack as a talented artist as well as a wordsmith.  I only wish I’d had the pictures a few months earlier.
The reason this old FAU friend had Jack’s article and pictures in the USA was that back in the fifties after leaving China he was trying hard to sell Jack’s written work to publishers for him.  In particular he was offering publishers the manuscript of A Woman of Bangkok.  After 18 rejections, at last it was accepted for publication by Ballantine Books of New York and became a world wide best seller.  But for his efforts we would never have heard of ‘Jack Reynolds’ nor read his great Bangkok novel.  This story and the discovery of the pictures is real literary archaeology which I have found very exciting to unearth.
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Art By Jack Jones
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Art by Jack Jones
​KC:​ What is next for Andrew Hicks?
AH: Maybe the Booker or the Nobel Prize for Literature!
And failing that I hope that the folks passing through Thailand will continue to enjoy my Thai Girl books.  The internet is a great communicator and over the years I’ve had literally hundreds of messages giving me feedback on the books, always positive of course!  This has been hugely rewarding but it’s also taught me that objective judgments of books don’t mean much.  What really matters is what each individual reader makes of the book.  What they understand and enjoy about it varies enormously and often bears no relationship whatsoever to what I thought I was writing about.  The reader’s view of what the book says is of course equally valid.
KC: Thanks, Andrew. I enjoyed this interview and learning about Jack and you very much.
AH: Thank-you, Kevin.
red book Thai Girl
Thai Girl is available at Amazon outlets and Asia Books
For more information about Andrew Hicks and how you can purchase “Jack Jones – A True Friend to China go to Andrew’s web site by clicking the photo below or email Andrew at
Photo of Jack Jones
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“The only thing I know about books, is that they should be like a woman’s dress: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to be interesting.” So says protagonist, Joe Dylan in James A. Newman’s RED NIGHT ZONE – BANGKOK CITY.

This was my second Joe Dylan book of the four I’ve read, and while I do not always like the world Joe Dylan sees, I always enjoy the way Joe Dylan sees the world. Particularly the world of the murky red night zone of Bangkok, Thailand. Former London insurance investigator Dylan joins the big leagues in this caper by agreeing to look for the murderer of a Bangkok bar girl that Joe coincidentally used to know. Heartless Joe even had a soft spot for the mutilated lady.

It’s a tale of black magic, human weaknesses, inhuman realities and a fair amount of frog scratching going on in the background. James A. Newman continues to impress with his Tommy-gun writing style and noir story telling, even if he hasn’t entirely given up on the lizard fixation found in his first Joe D pulp thriller, Bangkok Express. Lizards need love too, I reckon.

In this Dylan adventure he sticks to Bangkok, perhaps too much? I am of the mindset that Bangkok and an aging Jack Nicholson now play their best roles as supporting actors, in the background, secure in their talent by giving up the best lines to other players. There were times when I would have have liked a bit more of Carina, the ex-lover of the murdered Monika or Janey, who has flown to Bangkok to check up on her Dad before he loses the plot and the family money in the Land of Smiles like so many before him. That may be because I have grown to know those characters called Bangkok and The Zone over the past dozen years or so, while the other people were new to me. Other readers may find those familiar characters fascinating, which they are and Newman does nail them both.

Newman also gets his antagonists down cold. Very cold. There is a twisted mute muay Thai boxer, a hexed brother and his perverted sister. There were some really brilliant elements to this story coupled with two weak plot points, having to do with a gun and a briefcase, but suspension of disbelief and illusions are part of the deal when you sign up for a ride with Newman. And it is a very entertaining ride. If you’ve never read a Joe Dylan novel by James A. Newman by all means give it a go. The Red Zone has become a forgotten jewel after Newman penned The White Flamingo, the best in the pulp-fiction series to date.

This review first appeared in Amazon in March of 2013 – a month before I started Thailand Footprint

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Henry Miller in Blue Bath Robe

“We clutter the earth with our inventions, never dreaming that possibly they are unnecessary — or disadvantageous. We devise astounding means of communication, but do we communicate with one another? We move our bodies to and fro at incredible speeds, but do we really leave the spot we started from? Mentally, morally, spiritually, we are fettered. What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion. We may succeed in altering the face of the earth until it is unrecognizable even to the Creator, but if we are unaffected wherein lies the meaning?”
― Henry Miller

Bonus Quote:

“The imperfections of a man, his frailties, his faults, are just as important as his virtues. They’re wedded.” Henry Miller

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The world According to Gop 7

Click Strip to Enlarge

Gop and company get bored in the idyllic south of Thailand and head to the Big Weird for an adventure or three. Any regular follower of the Vincent Calvino Crime Series by Christopher G. Moore will recognize The Big Weird as the title of the 5th in the now 15 strong series. As I wrote in my book review of the novel, if New Orleans is the Big Easy then Bangkok is the clear choice for being the Big Weird. One of my favorites in the series it features a character based loosely on academy award winning screenwriter and Hollywood producer Stirling Silliphant. Well worth a read if you missed it:

The Big Weird

In more recent news regarding the award winning series a new book by Chad A. Evans is out. Artist Chris Coles discussed it today and this is what he had to say:

Chad A Evans’ book “Vincent Calvino’s World: A Noir Guide to Southeast Asia” has just been released on Amazon and is an compelling overview of Christopher G. Moore‘s 15 noir crime novels which feature the Vinnie Calvino character tracking down crime and criminals in the rapidly changing evironment of Southeast Asia over the past 20 years or so….Professor Tom Hoy from Thammasat University does the Introduction….while Moore’s Calvino series is written in the Crime/Private Eye genre, the books also are imbued with rich layers of Southeast Asia ambiance, philosophy and way of looking at the world….and reflect Moore’s deep knowledge of Southeast Asia detail and nuance…..for anyone interested in the Bangkok Noir cultural/arts/music/literature scene, this is a must-read book………Chris Coles artist and author of Navigating the Bangkok Noir

Vincent Calvino's World

Click either of the book covers to take you to the book information at Amazon


And finally a reminder that Bangkok Soi Dog #1 Tshirts are on sale for the month of September for only $9.99 plus shipping world wide. They are also available at Queen Bee Pub located on Sukhumvit Soi 26 in Bangkok Thailand for baht 300 this month.

Here is a close up look at Frame #2 and a vision of the Big Weird by the brilliant illustrator and cartoonist, Colin Cotterill in the seventh, The World According to Gop. I hope to convince Colin to continue to do them for a long time. He’s never actually given me permission to use his name. But I’ve always been a better to get forgiveness than permission kind of guy, anyway. Thanks for stopping by and listening to a few commercials as this site is banner free. Enjoy the art and the books.




Henry Miller – Untitled Watercolor

People gravitate towards happy souls, but in doing so they tend to make the person unhappy. They need happiness. Happy people don’t need it, they are it. It isn’t produced because of this or that, it just is, and they are blessed though they may know it not. In this country of ours everybody wants to be happy and the result is, as you well know, that we are about as miserable a body of people as the earth as ever spawned. And I loath my countrymen for dwelling on the subject; they make me most unhappy.”

Henry Miller in a letter to Alfred Perles found in the 19th printing of Henry Miller on Writing. First published in 1964

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Bangkok Asset SCMP

“Concentrate on the most unpleasant death you can think of, then how it will be at the end, when you realize there never was a heaven or a morality and every single little thing you did to make your life and the world better was a total waste of time.”

“Why are you so hung up on desolation?”

“It’s where the treasure is hidden.”

The above passage is near the end of Chapter 4 of John Burdett’s 38 Chapters and latest Sonchai Jitpleecheep novel, The Bangkok Asset – the sixth in the best-selling series and in my opinion his best. It’s taken over 10 years but I now have a new favorite, eclipsing the inaugural novel, Bangkok 8.

There is a lot to be enjoyed for the reader or R of this novel as Sonchai has made a subtle but important change in how he converses with readers whom he previously addressed as, DFR or Dear Farang Reader in novels past.

Technology has changed a great deal since Burdett penned Bangkok 8 in the early years of the 21st century. The times are changing and so is the genre Burdett chooses. Or has it changed as some have claimed? To steal three words from The Bangkok Asset used more than once, “I’m not sure.”

Certainly the recently launched novel is Burdett’s most geopolitical and “sci-fi” oriented to date but Bangkok continues to be a vital character. Fans of the series will recognize Soi Cowboy and the bar owned by Sonchai’s mother, the Old Man’s Club. Burdett also does a masterful job of peeling back the layers of Klong Toey Slum, or KTC (Klong Toey City) in the local vernacular. The relationship between Sonchai and his wife, Chanya continues to be a favorite for me as Burdett balances the characters’ boredom of a long marriage with friendly dick jiggles, while getting in messages of husbands being tamed and freedoms lost, often with his trademark Buddhist slant. New character, Inspector Krom, a techie expert assigned to the case provides some tense moments, sexual and otherwise, as the well dressed lesbian with Butch tendencies – she has more than a passing interest for Chanya.

The plot unfolds quickly with a neatly decapitated school-girl found murdered only blocks from Sonchai’s District 8 police headquarters, along with a revealing but unclear blood written message directed at my favorite Buddhist cop: “Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, I know who [smudge] father is.” Sonchai is a luek krung or half caste as he refers to himself. His mother is Thai and his father is American. We learn more about both in this futuristic mystery

Advanced technology and learning take center stage in this novel when Sonchai soon after witnesses a double-murder on a boat in the Chao Phraya River during a raging storm. My attention now three times grabbed. Smart writing, dark humor, morality plays, and psychological insights are what readers of the Sonchai series have come to expect and Burdett delivers big time, ambiguously and unambiguously as we are introduced to the future, Burdett’s future. It never stops being entertaining no matter how bleak the outlook and the future is bleak, according to Burdett – we will not be wearing shades. This R still found plenty to enjoy during the read – those LOL moments when the accuracy of the writing makes me laugh at the grim present and darker future which awaits. The cross as the pinnacle symbol of corporate identity and “media rats” being two examples. Burdett writes brilliant and believable scenes with plenty of dialogue. He can work in a conversation about social identities and asparagus crepes and make both interesting. Be prepared for religion as mythology along with healthy doses of skepticism or more likely, outright disbelief.

The middle portion of the book takes place in a Cambodian jungle where old ex-military and a psychiatrist by the name of Christmas Bride live and re-live the ghosts and experiments of Christmas’ past. Dr Bride is one of many Christ references to be found in The Bangkok Asset along with the devil himself. If I have a complaint with the book (I’m not sure.) it’s that Burdett is a Brit and a lot smarter than I. This made me run to the dictionary at times, and even Wikipedia, to keep up with the words and historical characters, although I was pleased to recognize one Italian painter. Smart Brits can be eccentric, I have read, and Burdett fits that mold. Understanding the eccentricities is enjoyable but attention is required. On the plus side Burdett provides interesting characters, even the short-lived ones, and their numbers were never overwhelming or burdensome for this reader.

There is much hidden treasure to be found in The Bangkok Asset by John Burdett and plenty of booty in plain sight too. This novel is well worth the price – $12.99 for Kindle or under $15.00 for the hardback. Buy the ticket and enjoy the ride.

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I have received seven book reviews of Bangkok Beat so far. All positive, thankfully. This one by Christopher G. Moore is the first one I have passed along. I felt it was entertaining enough to re-blog. I hope you enjoy it a fraction as much as I did. Christopher’s blog is also worth exploring for those who take the time to click the link below:

Christopher G. Moore’s Blog – Bangkok Beat by Kevin Cummings.

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Henry Miller watercolor

“Begin this moment, wherever you find yourself, and take no thought of the morrow. Look not to Russia, China, India, not to Washington, not to the adjoining county, city or state, but to your immediate surroundings. Forget Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and all the others. Do your part to the best of your ability, regardless of the consequences. Above all, do not wait for the next man to follow suit.”
― Henry Miller, The Air Conditioned Nightmare


Curiosity may well have killed a lot of cats. But I suspect those cats lived their lives in Sammy Davis Jr. years. Wandering around back alleys and tunnels the sort of which used to exist behind Checkinn99. Those cats didn’t die sitting on or on top of a couch – more likely they were on an awning that gave way in Soi Cowboy. Last Sunday there was a celebration at Checkinn99 and the catalyst was the publication of my very first book, BANGKOK BEAT. Albert Einstein has a few good quotes about curiosity. One is: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Curiosity is what built Bangkok Beat. From the first time I met Chris Coles on Soi Cowboy over a decade ago to my first two lunches with Christopher G. Moore. The curiosity continued when I met Collin Piprell in Ari neighborhood to discuss writing, among other things, and later had a meet-up at Cactus bar where I met Dean Barrett and James A. Newman for the first time. Memorable meetings for me. For them commonplace.

Newman would later host Night of Noir I in April of 2013 where I would learn of the noir poetry of John Gartland among the many readers that night. James Newman would, a few days later, invite me to a meet-up at Bus Stop on Sukhumvit Soi 4 where I would meet John Gartland and his new friend and photographer Eric Nelson. Through Eric I would later meet a four time Muay Ying champion by the name of Melissa Ray. Through Melissa I would meet other champions.

Newman being Newman he decided to hold a second Night of Noir less than 9 months later. That night I met the novelists Cara Black and John Burdett among others. A photographer was there that night and he took some amazing photographs – his name is Alasdair McLeod.

I read Tone Deaf in Bangkok a book of non-fiction written by a middle aged American woman and author named Janet Brown, about her adventures in Thailand as a traveler and expat during those times. There are female expats – Janet reminds us of this with truthful writing. I got to know her via email and we would later have dinner together. She brought her friend along, Jim Algie, author of a book of non-fiction called Bizarre Thailand and a book of short stories called the The Phantom Lover and other Thrilling Tales of Thailand. When I stopped off to meet Janet Brown with my wife in Seattle in the summer of 2014 at Elliot Bay Book Company she introduced me to another Seattle resident, Kevin Conroy, who happened to be a regular traveler to Bangkok and it turns out Checkinn99 for over 35 years. There is a picture of Kevin in Checkinn99 from the 1980s in Bangkok Beat which he allowed me to use.

At Checkinn99 I met for the first time Chris Catto-Smith, Jerry Hopkins, Kevin Wood, Ted Lewand, Keith Nolan, William Wait, Clifton Hardy, Chris Wegoda, Peter Montalbano, Steve Cannon, Mark Fenn, John Daysh, Bernard Servello, MOTH, Mama Noi and Uncle Wat. I introduced Timothy Hallinan to the place because he asked me to and I was delighted to do so. I introduced the author Matt Carrell to Checkinn99 because I wanted to. Tim and Matt are both curious people. I like that about them. Before long I realized I had enough material to write a book. So I asked Colin Cotterill, the well known novelist and talented cartoonist living in the south of Thailand if he could draw a book cover for me. And he did. Right away. Damn him. Now I had a great book cover, plenty of material but no book. Life is in the details. I needed a hook for my book. An anchor really. The Checkinn99 history was my anchor – ably assisted by Thom Locke with his great short story – The Beauty of Isaan. Thom and I shared some early and fun times at Checkinn99, just as we did last Sunday when he and his family flew in from Northern Thailand especially for this event. The same James Newman noted above did the introduction for Bangkok Beat while John Gartland compiled an excellent chapter of noir poems. I cannot imagine the book without the contribution of any of these three writers.

I am going to let the pictures tell the rest of the story of a remarkable run of events that really took off when I created this blog four days before Night of Noir 1 and wrote my first blog post: I Am Not A Writer And Why The World Needs Them. That was less than 2 1/2 years ago. Last Sunday, my friend and actor John Marengo, whom I also met for the first time at Checkinn99, read that post, which is included in Bangkok Beat, to a good crowd who came to what was much more than a book launch – it was a celebration of the people, history and stories of Checkinn99, Bangkok and important people and events in my life. Better now than later. I know what’s waiting for me in the long run.

Bangkok Beat became available for purchase as an eBook on Amazon today – the paperback came out June 8th, 2015. But what I learned from writing this book is that it has very little to do with selling books. What it has to do with is more aptly described in Jim Algie’s story, Tsunami –  found in his Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand. You’ll learn to appreciate the value of friends and a campfire in Jim’s book and be reaffirmed that in the end it really does come down to good friends, family loyalties and the simple dignity of doing honest work and receiving honest pay. When I think of Chris Catto-Smith, Mook, Kiko, Cherry, Donna, Grace, April, Jesse and all the staff at Checkinn99 I’d say they are batting 1,000.

It’s not about tweets or Twitter followers. I’m certain of that.

Okay, enough with the sentimentality. The following is Bangkok Beat – the Live Version – July 26th, 2015. If you weren’t there, enjoy. If you were there, enjoy it again.

Anatomy of a Celebration



Welcome to the time tunnel


Have the Sunday Jazz going on when you start – no down time when Clifton Hardy and Dr. William Wait are in the house. Both Clifton and William are featured in Bangkok Beat with William getting his own chapter.

Kevin Cummings looks on as Alan Parkhouse of the Bangkok Post shakes hands with Bangkok author Dean Barrett

Be very pleased when the author who wrote your back cover blurb, Dean Barrett shows up early along with Alan Parkhouse of the Bangkok Post. Dean Barrett has his own Chapter in Bangkok Beat: Man of Mystery? Yes and No. Thanks to all the media members who came early and stayed late.


Sign some books now …

Kevin Cummings Bangkok Beat Book Launch

and again …


Turn the show over to some old show biz veterans – John Gartland and Kevin Wood


Let Kevin Wood and John from Queen Bee do their thing


Make sure the guests get along – author, journalist and editor Jim Algie speaking with retired Muay Thai Champion Melissa Ray. Both guests are featured in two chapters each of Bangkok Beat


Make sure your friend and photographer Alasdair Mcleod is never far away. Alasdair’s photographs are featured in Bangkok Beat and he has one of his poem’s published in there – City Pulse.


Have another friend and photographer, Eric Nelson in the house in case Alasdair’s battery dies. Eric gets a Chapter in Bangkok Beat called – Keeping Photography Alive in Bangkok and his photographs are also featured.


Convince the affable Keith Nolan to hang around in-between his two paying gigs that day. Keith shown with Guest of Honor Mama Noi


Have John Fengler fly down from Chiang Mai on a Saturday, wear his timeless cotton shirt to Checkinn99 and create some Bob Hope buzz on social media


Try not to be boring while talking to Jim Algie and Chris Wegoda. Chris is featured in The Rocky Horror Show Chapter as he starred as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the Checkinn99 adaptation. Jim is the author of Bizarre Thailand and The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand and is one of five major contributors to Americans in Thailand.


Have MOTH come out and do three quick songs. Chris Catto-Smith, Melissa Ray & Kevin Cummings


Including one rap number from Fast & Furious – Featuring the fast and fabulous Grace

Kevin Cummings and Chris Catto-Smith at launch of Bangkok Beat

Chris Catto-Smith on the microphone. Kevin Cummings enjoying the show.


Try not too talk to much. Can’t win them all.


Bring up Muay Ying Melissa Ray and present her with her All Time Hits Award for most traffic on this web site for a single-day and all time. Melissa Ray to steal a line from Muhammad Ali, is simply, “The Greatest of All Time.” On Thailand Footprint and I’m sure her Mom would agree.


Next up was Jim Algie being presented with his Reincarnation Lifetime Achievement Award – well earned


Music of the Heart Band were then presented with copies of Bangkok Beat – No one in the audience looked at the book


Bring back the Big Dog for the evening John Gartland as the readings began


James A. Newman reading his introduction to Bangkok Beat.


Terrific job by John Marengo reading I AM NOT A WRITER and Why the World Needs Them written by Kevin Cummings


John Gartland reading The Beauty of Isaan as the author Thom H. Locke and others look on followed by The Eye AKA The Mamba Hotel loosely based on Checkinn99 and its characters. A Chapter of John’s verse is contained in Bangkok Beat

Crowd Scene

Have a packed and appreciative audience which included the author of a stellar novel, Hunters in the Dark, sitting at the bar


Bring Back Kevin Wood and MOTH


K Wood killing it – long time now. L to R: Jesse, Cherry, Donna, Grace, Kevin Wood, Kiko


Check in on special guest Victoria Kirkwood and her date to see how they are doing


John Fengler and John the owner of Queen Bee during a break in the action


Collin Piprell an author, an editor, a mentor and a friend with another friend, Eric Nelson


Allow for a moment at the end of a long journey


My wife and family who had been upstairs having dinner with Melissa Ray finally arrive. It was a good night. One I have no plans to repeat for 2-3 years anyway. If you got this far you deserve some music from Music of the Heart Band. Go back and have a listen if you haven’t yet or do it again. Why not? If you buy Bangkok Beat today or whenever that would be great. If you don’t that will be okay too. But if you find yourself in Bangkok city and have never been to Checkinn99, do stop in. You never know when greatness will be in the house. Thanks to all the great people who came out on July 26, 2015. Another memorable date in Checkinn99 history, which began in 1957.

bangkok beat


Special Thanks to the numerous Bangkok Soi Dog #1 Tshirts in Checkinn99 that night – art by Chris Coles


I’ll get attribution right one of these days.

Selected highlights from Bangkok Beat book launch as put together by Alasdair McLeod. Very useful guy, Alasdair is …

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“What is a bad man?”

This is the calm retort the Cambodian policeman and central investigator, Davuth, provides his daughter in Lawrence Osborne’s moody and spirit laden novel, Hunters in the Dark, (Hogarth 2015) before following a set of clues that will see one American underachiever and one English school-teacher cross paths in a tale of double identities and floating indemnity. Investigators in Cambodia pursue for their own personal gain first and foremost without the benefit of much schooling. Davuth survived the history of Cambodia precisely because he comes from peasant stock, yet he wields considerable power over the educated “barangs” that frequent his country for “business or pleasure”.

When I first learned that Osborne’s latest novel would feature an English school-teacher set in Cambodia I thought, how unimaginative is that? I also thought this will be a far cry from his embezzling, on the lamb, English attorney who reinvents himself as the high-stakes playing baccarat gambler in Macao, Lord Byron in The Ballad of a Small Player, a novel I enjoyed very much, written by Osborne and published in 2014 (Hogarth).

But just as the American businessman, Simon living by the river in Battambang had come around to the idea of ghosts since living in Cambodia, I’ve come around to the idea that Lawrence Osborne can write about any character whom he wishes to, because he does it with skill and a nuanced imagination. Robert Grieve is the central character – 28 years old, a career English literature teacher from England. His life, like his present day country, is rather bland and ordinary compared to the East. When he has a bit of drowsy luck at the Diamond Club, after a border crossing from Thailand, his fortunes change forever. I see similarities between the Lord Byron and Robert Grieve characters in Osborne’s last two novels: they both assume new identities; interpersonal skills are not their strong suit; neither has any love lost for their former country; they both seem to get thrills they never came close to achieving before; they both wear tailored cloths and enjoy the details of a fine meal. Grieve is not your “cheap haircut, cargo pant wearing English teacher in flip flops.” On the contrary, Osborne gets his digs in at this expat “subculture” on more than one occasion.

Osborne’s characters and settings are equally superb, be they major or minor. The Scottish innkeeper with a penchant for munitions themed interior design I particularly liked, along with the yellow taped grounds and deer that occasionally get turned to a bloody mist. The Dutch artist painting while naked at 3:00 am with two young female models seemed vaguely familiar and believable. Other principal characters are Grieve’s driver, Ouksa, the Khmer doctor Sar, and his beautiful young daughter and love interest for Robert – the Paris educated Sophal. She is contrasted nicely with Simon’s Khmer girlfriend, Sothea who brings a semblance of balance and karmic energy to the story. Osborne gives the reader many details of the characters later rather than sooner, which enriches the story at an enjoyable pace.

But it is Cambodia and Osborne’s art of observation that ultimately seals the deal. Don’t skip a sentence of this atmospheric novel by Lawrence Osborne – you will be cheating yourself. The ending is particularly good although not flawless due to a clumsy transfer of a known vehicle. Osborne shows us the best and worst of the human experience. As the narrator observes while Robert eats at an outdoor terrace on Street 136 in Phnom Penh, “What an easy life it was. Just moments randomly pieced together.”

In other words, the exact opposite of what Lawrence Osborne has accomplished in writing Hunters in the Dark.

This book review also appeared in The Khmer Times as part of The Weekly Phnom Penh



The allegations are true – Matt Carrell does have a good book in him. I cannot speak for Christopher Hitchens but I’ll go on record as stating it is a good thing that Matt Carrell chose to share this book with the world. This is my first read of a Carrell novel and that book is named Vortex. He may well have many others out there- I will find out soon enough as I plan to read more of this UK born author. Carrell reminds me a bit of early Stephen Leather with his confident non-nonchalant writing style. Carrell provides cultural expertise whether that applies to the corporate culture of Hong Kong high finance or Thai culture, politics and customs at all levels of society. The story starts off with an oddly likable character, Andy Duncan employed in an investment firm pulling an immoral financial play which quickly gets him his just due – a promotion. Carrell knows how to wheel and deal in the world of high finance and spins a good yarn while his characters are busy spinning straw into gold – sometimes for their clients, usually for themselves. At its core this story is about income redistribution – not that there is anything wrong with that – unless the Thai mafia, gangsters, hookers, actresses and periodic murders are involved, which they are. Carrell is creative with his murders; he’s not afraid to mix a sniff kiss with his blood – lots of blood. Good on him. If I have a quibble with his writing style it’s that his dialogue reports well but doesn’t always reveal. Carrell writes in a friendly, engaging manner – his office scenes are particularly good – but just as friends don’t always reveal themselves to their friends, I felt the same way about Carrell’s characters, at times. The office politics and after work scenes were spot on – the foibles are there but they could have run deeper. Carrell saves some of his best writing for the end, which has some great cinematic qualities as well as character revealing qualities, particularly the unflattering kind that avaricious men aspire toward. The Bangkok bar scene is more of a pleasant backdrop – this is a book that just as easily could have been set equally between Hong Kong and London but Thaiophiles should be plenty happy with the inclusions and expertise Carrell blends into this financial thriller.Lots of zeros, sex, politics, and murders to keep your attention along with your present day YouTube moment and drugs to boot. Carrel ties things up nicely at the end in a believable and lethal finale. A book about the high life with plenty of low life’s. I will definitely comb over Matt Carrell’s back list to go along with Vortex The End Game, which is next up on my reading list by this author.

Vortex End Game

As an aside I am pleased to announce that the Matt Carrell interview conducted at Thailand Footprint will be included in the eBook edition of Bangkok Beat, which will launch on August 8th, 2015 and be in subsequent paperback editions available from In hindsight I realize it should have been included from the get go. One reason I believe I made this error of omission is that of all the interviews I had conducted the only interview of any author of fiction whose work I had not read was Jack Fielding and, let’s face it, the mop handle story of Nobby Tirpitz made Jack a fitting choice for the book. Now that I have read one of Matt’s novel’s and re-read his excellent interview, which you can read here – the inclusion of Matt’s interview in Bangkok Beat was an easy call to make.

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Tadanori Yokoo Silkscreen poster for an exhibition of art by Henry Miller, 1968

Paris Review

“I refuse to live this way forever. There must be a way out. I start tomorrow on the Paris book. First person, uncensored, formless – fuck everything!” Henry Miller in a letter written in Paris, France around 1930

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“I want to write about sex and about death.” That was the opening sentence written by Christopher G. Moore on August 20th, 2010 on his great blog for an essay titled: Sir Frank Kermode and Shigeo Tokudo: Scholor and Porn Star. I remember the essay, so I thought I’d borrow the opening line today. I had a pretty good week this week. More good stuff happened than bad. I’ll take that. I want to write about frogs, dogs, books and comedians. It’s just that it doesn’t make for quite as good an opening line. Are you still with me?


Last night I celebrated America’s Independence Day at Checkinn99 with my wife. Our server’s name was Gop. I took that as a good omen given that this blog has a prominent cartoon character by the same name.

gop5d (5)

Our server was much better behaved than this one.


Starting today we will be selling Bangkok Soi Dog #1 Tshirts at this web sight and a limited supply at Checkinn99 as well.


People have been sending in their pictures wearing the Bangkok Soi Dog #1 Tshirts and reading my recently published book, Bangkok Beat. Thanks for that. Here are some of the latest:


John Fengler of Chiang Mai showing that the former Emergency Medical Technician has not lost his ability to multi-task

Trevor BideBB

Trevor Bide, fellow blogger and all around good guy


Muay Thai Champ Melissa Ray sent in a picture from one of two chapters she is featured in


Peter Lenderink pulls double duty in his Bangkok Soi Dog T while holding a copy of Bangkok Beat


Special thanks to Chris-Catto Smith for allowing Bangkok Beat to be sold at Checkinn99 beginning last night. Demand was brisk when Chris was in the house. Thanks a bunch. I’ll be there this afternoon during the jazz. Drop on by if you’d like a copy or just want to listen to good jazz music.


I made a list of my TOP TEN FAVORITE COMEDIANS this week and it made me remember the importance of laughter and the importance of those who made us laugh in the past. Here is one I had not thought of in awhile but I am glad I did:

#4 – Dick Gregory

Dick Gregory

Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory is an American comedian, civil rights activist, social critic, conspiracy theorist, writer and entrepreneur. Wikipedia
Born: October 12, 1932 (age 82), St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Spouse: Lillian Gregory (m. 1959)
Children: Yohance Gregory, Ayanna Gregory, Stephanie Gregory, more
Books: Nigger: An Autobiography by Dick Gregory –

Great to read that Dick Gregory is alive and well in St Louis, Missouri. Dick never got the credit he deserved as a comedian because he was much more than that. But he was damn funny and a ground-breaking comic, author and civil rights activist and a fine track and field man back in his University days …

And … I am finally able to give proper attribution to one of my favorite morbid jokes of all time. Every syllable is important. Pay attention:

“When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did – in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car.’
Bob Monkhouse (1928-2003)


That’s my blog post for Sunday, July 5th, 2015. I want to write about sex and about death. Maybe next week. Until then, you’ll have to do with frogs, dogs, books, and comedians.


To go to the Bangkok Beat Big Cartel Store to purchase a Bangkok Soi Dog #1 Tshirt or a copy of the paperback of Bangkok Beat for Thailand delivery click the cartoon image of the big guy or the coconut shell

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Kevin Cummings:

My interview with Jame DiBiasio at Asia Hacks. Thanks, Jame. I always look slimmer next to a Palm Tree. My reflections on Bangkok Noir, Henry Miller and I answer that age old questions, are there too many bargirl novels….

Originally posted on JAME DiBIASIO:

bangkok-beat-finalKevin Cummings, Bangkok’s online cultural impresario, suggested we interview each other for our blogs. Kevin’s blog, Thailand Footprints, covers the local writerly scene, among other things, and he has a new book out, Bangkok Beats, a series of curios about life in the Big Mango.

Welcome, Kevin. When you suggested we swap interviews, I thought this would be fun. You have a lot of interesting Q&As on your website with a variety of people in Bangkok and beyond, with a heavy focus on literature and the arts. I haven’t done that sort of thing before so it’s great to bring a new dimension here. While you are not a novelist, you do have a book out about the Bangkok arts scene. But I think more importantly you and your website are like the glue for Thai-based writers. You provide an online community for them, as well as for…

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Hong Kong based author Jame DiBiasio

Thailand Footprint is pleased to interview Jame DiBiasio today. Jame was a featured reader at Night of Noir III held in Bangkok at Checkinn99 this year. He’s based in Hong Kong where his day job is as a financial journalist. Jame writes both fiction and non-fiction and his Val Benson series is published with Crime Wave Press. To make it a bit more fun, Jame will be interviewing me at his blog, Asia Hacks. You can read that interview here. 

Here is some promotional information from Amazon about Cowgirl X:  From California to Bangkok and the Cambodian jungles, Val and Naomi tangle with a playboy tycoon, a porn movie director and a lost Navajo cowboy on the trail of Eriko. But Val has another reason to return to Asia. In her luggage, she carries the hilt of an ancient Cambodian sword that’s said to have magical powers. Soon the girls are pursued by a couple of trigger-happy assassins, an occultist turned politician and the leader of a sinister nationalist cult. All roads lead to Angkor Wat and an explosive finale.

KC: Welcome, Jame. I am pleased to have the opportunity to do this interview with you for many reasons. You are an author of fiction – you’ll have the second in your Val Benson series coming out soon after your initial novel Gaijin Cowgirl, published by Crime Wave Press debuted in late 2013 –  and you are also an author of non-fiction, also with Asian themes. Please tell our readers about your protagonist Val Benson – what adventures will she be getting into on the pages of the sequel, “Cowgirl X”?


JD: Hi Kevin, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog. Just to let your readers know, I’ll be returning the favor at

Val Benson, the Gaijin Cowgirl, is a former bar hostess in Tokyo. Her good-time girl lifestyle ended when her number-one tipper, an old man with sinister hobbies, revealed a map to stolen wartime treasure. With yakuza, biker gangs and rogue CIA on her high heels, Val had to get her hands on the loot in the borderlands of Southeast Asia.

As things didn’t turn out exactly as she would have liked – even I lost track of the body count – “Cowgirl X” finds her in Los Angeles two years later plotting ways to bring justice to the perpetrators. She gets sidetracked to chase down a Japanese porn starlet who’s gone missing in LA, which takes her back to Southeast Asia and ultimately to Angkor Wat.

KC: Let’s switch to the non-fiction for a bit. You’ve also written “The Story of Angkor”. Here is a nice quote I pulled off your blog at “The Story of Angkor is an interesting and somewhat old-fashioned little book, old-fashioned in the pleasant sense that DiBiasio writes well and relies on crafted prose.” – The Asian Review of Books, August 7, 2014. Tell us about your process of writing The Story of Angkor, what does crafted prose mean to you, exactly, and who has been the market for the book to date? 

JD: That review was by Peter Gordon, an erudite and generous person who is a fixture in Hong Kong’s small but growing literary scene. His interests and experience are actually a lot more varied than that. Anyway, the Angkor book emerged at a time when Gaijin Cowgirl was in the publishing wilderness and I was struggling to get another novel going. I’m a history buff and had read quite a lot on Angkor from a few visits, and in 2008 I went with some Hongkie friends with the intention of playing tour guide. It was an act of sheer ignorance. I jotted some notes and began to realize just how little I understood about the place.

By the time I had done some more research and taken notes, I had enough to justify going the whole way and making a book out of it. More ignorance.

I was in for a slog but finally banged something out. Many houses took a pass but Silkworm Books in Chiang Mai saw a glimmer of something in the manuscript. They handed it to David Chandler, the great historian of Cambodia, who returned it to me swathed in his red ink. Very humbling. More work to be done. But Professor Chandler had given me a chance to salvage my reputation. Another year or so of work passed until the book finally saw the light of day.

Crafted prose – I don’t know, other than I kept it short and relied on text rather than pretty photographs to do the job. I just wanted to tell what I thought was an exciting story, or interlinked stories, in a concise way. I cram in an awful lot of information into a little over 30,000 words. The book is deliberately short. I felt people visiting Angkor were not being that well served by the academic tomes trying to explain it. When I’m a tourist I want to know what role the particular set of rocks I’m climbing around played. So I based the narrative of Angkor’s rise, glory and fall around the major monuments.

People who visit Angkor are the obvious target for the book but it should also appeal to anyone with an interest in Southeast Asian or pre-modern history.

Angkor cover

KC: You’re based in Hong Kong as a financial journalist. You travel when you can. Tell me about your experience at the Irrawaddy Literary Festival in Burma and throw in a Tom Vater or Hans Kemp anecdote if you can. That must have been an interesting experience. 

JD: I attended the second Irrawaddy gig, in February 2014. Tom and Hans, the guys behind Crime Wave Press, banged on enough doors to get us in. I wrote a few blog posts from the event, which was marred by domestic political intrigues. The event’s primary financial sponsor was the Htoo Group, backed by a family connected to the military junta and on the US State Department’s blacklist – yet the US State Department and the British high commission were both official supporters of the event. Strikes, veiled threats and fickle ministerial pronouncements made for a real “welcome to Myanmar” moment for the organizers and the participants.

The most uncomfortable moment was when I did a reading of “Gaijin Cowgirl”, with Tom serving as an introducer and interviewer. The small audience had settled down when in came four monks and an interpreter. The monks, given their revered social status, were led to sit in the front row, right in front of us. I proceeded to read from my first chapter, which introduces Val at work in the hostess club, flirting with salarymen, musing on the dark edges of drugs and sexual politics underpinning these places. To four Buddhist monks. I read slowly enough for the interpreter, and I have to assume he was reasonably faithful to what I declaimed. Harrowing and hilarious – what other literary festival puts its authors in such a ludicrous situation? On the other hand, maybe the monks enjoyed it. Literature’s ability to broaden horizons and all that. Well, literature certainly had a field day on that occasion.

One other anecdote: I had gone off to write a blog post. Later, Tom and Hans told me they had been trying to contact me to no avail. Aung San Suu Kyi had been receiving authors in a private room, and Hans got a photo of them presenting her with a copy of his photography book, “Burmese Light”. I could have gotten a pic of Suu Kyi holding up a copy of “Gaijin Cowgirl”! So I had missed out…although I’m not sure it would have been appropriate foisting the novel on her. The cover is kinda racy, and I had already burned the ears of the Sangha.

KC: I’m curious about the differences between writing fiction and writing non-fiction. How are they the same, how are they different and where are the lines blurry? And use your most recent book and novel to illustrate when you can.

JD: They are totally different. Non-fiction calls for creativity but it’s research-based and closer to journalism. The hard parts about non-fiction are ensuring accuracy and being able to explain things in an interesting way. Fiction requires imagination. The hard parts about fiction involve sustained suspension of disbelief, making credible characters, telling made-up stuff that’s worth a reader’s time, constantly putting myself in the heads of fictional human beings…plus thinking about craft. It’s a non-stop emotional, psychological and intellectual engagement. And I’m just writing pulp! Good quality pulp, I hope, with subtexts and deeper purposes, but still…

KC: Lets have some fun with the subject of traditionally published books vs self-published books and paperback books vs eBooks. Opine with a sense of humor whenever possible.

All of it is terrific so long as your readers buy my books. Libraries suck.

KC: That did make me laugh. Lets talk about settings and characters in your two Val Benson novels. How important is it to you to have multiple settings in your novels and where and how do you develop your characters? Tell me about a favorite character other than Val.

JD: “Cowgirl X” is actually a double helix of narratives. Val is one strand, and the other is Naomi Sato, a somewhat lost Japanese native who has been trying to work as a journalist in LA. Here’s where my own background indirectly comes in: I’m a trade journalist, covering a specific industry, as opposed to someone who works for a mainstream, mass market publication. So is Naomi, only her industry is pornography – the only place she could get a job was a rag covering the business of porn. I actually had to Google around to make sure such things exist, and they do – there are a few publications in that vein in California. They mostly cover mundane things around finances, distribution deals, and so on; they’re as ordinary as the titles I work on covering banking and fund management.

As a Japanese national, most of the stories Naomi ends up getting involve the frequent visits by Japanese adult-video producers and performers to LA. (Okay, so it’s not exactly like financial journalism.) One of these young ladies goes missing and an interested party from back home, the head of a religious cult, recruits Naomi to track down the girl. By this time Naomi is already wrapped up in Val’s own pursuits and their stories mesh.

The multiple setting I use in the Val Benson novels are part of the fun. In “Gaijin Cowgirl”, she ran from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Bangkok to the Thai-Burma border. There were also flashback scenes to World War 2 Rangoon and Vietnam-era Thailand. In Cowgirl X, Val goes from LA to Bangkok to the dodgy Cambodia border and finally to the Angkor temples at Siem Reap. There are also flashbacks to Guadalcanal and to Phnom Penh on the eve of its fall to the Khmer Rouge.

All of which is to say, because it’s a lot of fun. The third hallmark of a Val novel is some kind of treasure. In “Gaijin Cowgirl” a map led to a stolen treasure. In “Cowgirl X” there is an ancient sword.

KC. What’s next for Jame DiBiasio?

“Cowgirl X” is out June 30 in e-book format with print to follow a little later. I’ve finished the first draft of another non-fiction book in a similar vein to the Angkor book called “The Story of Bagan”, about that other great pre-modern temple city of Southeast Asia. I’m tinkering with the text and will contact publishers soon. I have another thriller that’s with a US publisher and should see daylight in the spring of 2016. And of course Val Benson will be back, although I haven’t really begun putting that one together. For now, though, I’m enjoying a little break from writing – which after all has to take place exclusively on weekends and holidays, as I have a full-time day job – and spending free time this summer with my wife.

Kevin, thanks for suggesting the exchange of interviews. Different questions, different vibes, all good. Stay cool in Bangkok.

KC: Thank-you, Jame. Best of luck with Cowgirl X. 

To read the blog of Jame DiBiasio go to

Jame’s books may be found at or the Crime Wave Press Web Site


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For the first time ever I read Bangkok Beat as the paperback book it now is. I read it from cover to cover in two sittings. That surprised me. I thought it would be the type of book you can skip around in – it is, but I didn’t and it reads well, cover to cover. I could be biased.

BANGKOK BEAT ebook cover 8june2015 border2500 (1)

Here is a list of what I liked about Bangkok Beat:

1. The cover. I cannot say it too many times. It’s brilliant. The idea was mine but the talent is all Cotterill. A shout out to whoever did the cover art for Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne. I sent it along to Colin with the instruction: “I want it to be like this, only different, with the Checkinn99 sign in the center.” Chris Catto-Smith and his wife Mook can be seen in the tunnel entrance. I like that too.


2. The introduction by James A. Newman. Originally posted by Jim on his Facebook wall, I told him that’s too good not to share. So I asked him if I could use it for Bangkok Beat and he agreed. Thanks.

3. The opening story, Take Me There, about me meeting Timothy Hallinan for the first time at Hemingway’s Bangkok and later introducing him to Checkinn99, James Newman and my unsuccessful attempt to introduce him to Chris Catto-Smith on Blues brothers Night

4. The two stories about writing: I Am Not A Writer and What is a Writer? They’ve been posted on my blog before but I enjoyed reading them again and I hope readers of the book will too.

5. The Checkinn99 History. Fun to read. As one reader has already told me, “You could have done an entire book on the Checkinn99 Story.” Somebody could and should, but it wont be me.

6. The Beauty of Isaan a short true story by T Hunt Locke. Good writing. Good story. Thanks, Thom. The Crystal Head vodka is on me next time you’re in the Big Weird.

7. The Verse of John Gartland. It’s a chapter of damn fine poetry by a damn fine poet. I cannot imagine Bangkok Beat without it.

8. The interviews: Cara Black, Jerry Hopkins, James A. Newman, Melissa Ray, Eric Nelson, Christopher Minko, Jim Algie, Malcolm-Gault Williams, Thomas Hunt Locke, Simon Palmer, Matt Carrell, (Ebook edition and 2nd edition of paperback) Tom Vater, John Burdett, Colin Cotterill and Jack Fielding. All in one place. What’s not to like?

9. The personalities; Mook the smiling waitress, the artist Chris Coles, Blake Cheetah, trumpet player Steve Cannon, saxophone player William Wait, the eulogy for my old friend Dick, Muay Ying Melissa Ray and Muay Thai Hot Chili Ntg, Colin Piprell, Dean Barrett, Khmer band KROM, Chaska Potter of Jason Mraz and Raining Jane fame, my taxi driver Mr Khemsak, Chedly Sahebettaba (AKA Doc Penguin) the cartoons of Gop the Frog in the Coconut Shell, fictional Private Investigator Joe Dylan, and the spirits of Stirling Silliphant and Henry Miller, to name just some.

10. The photographs – 54 of them – all in black and white. many by professional photographers Eric Nelson, Alasdair McLeod and Jonathan von Smit. Thank-you, guys. They make the book.

11. The art of Chris Coles. Talented as he is every one of his paintings and portaits in the book looks good in black and white, including my use of Spirit House for the Stirling Silliphant post, a personal favorite.

12. The ending. Voltaire does get it right most every time. I must read more of him.

So that’s my very biased book review of Bangkok Beat. I believe it is an entertaining book. I hope readers do too. A friend recently told me my book reviews tend to be on the positive side. He’s right. No reason to change now. Does it have errors? Yes, it does. We’ll fix them. Overall, I’m proud of Bangkok Beat. Now, to let that pride go.

Bangkok Beat is available as a paperback at many Amazon stores and as a pre-order eBook world-wide delivered on August 8th, 2015, just six weeks from now. I hope people consider it, especially you, Carl, up in Washington State. Anyone buying the paperback is eligible to receive the eBook for free under Amazon’s Match program. I won’t be bugging you too much. That’s worth something, right? Bangkok Beat may soon be available at Checknn99 located between Sukhumvit 5 and 7 in Bangkok, Thailand very soon.


Published by Frog in the Mirror Press

“Yea … that’s the ticket.” Jon Lovits


Kevin Cummings:

My first interview in Poland, sort of … with the talented Paul Brazill … author of Gumshoe, A Case of Noir and many others …

Originally posted on PAUL D. BRAZILL:

bangkok beatPDB: What’s going on now?

KC: I’ve just released my first book, Bangkok Beatwith Frog in the Mirror Press. A collection of short stories, interviews that include questions I stole from you, literature reviews, Thailand expat profiles and the history of an old brothel and current Bangkok Cabaret nightclub. An odd duck of a book, but I like how it waddles. Non-fiction.

PDB: How did you research this book?

KC: I hung out at the old brothel a lot, talked with many old Asia hands who remembered the club from days gone by and generally made a nuisance of myself to a lot of interesting people who all hid any annoyances they had very well.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

KC: My first. An exercise in non-attachment. A December 26th, 2012 Guest Column printed in my hometown newspaper, The Auburn Journal…

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Gop BB
Bangkok Beat passes the digit test with one tough critic
I am pleased to announce the launch of the paperback edition of Bangkok Beat via Create Space store and The book is now available at Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Europe . The eBook will launch on August 8th and is now available for pre-order in Australia and world-wide. Call me old fashioned, paper first.
In addition an order has been made from Create Space which will enable Bangkok Beat to be sold directly from this web site and also directly at Checkinn99 located forever between Sukhumvit Soi 5 and Soi 7 in Bangkok, Thailand. Don’t look for the sign. It’s gone.
BANGKOK BEAT ebook cover 8june2015 border2500 (1)Bangkok Beat front cover design by Colin Cotterill

Bangkok Beat – Paperback – June 8, 2015

Authored by Mr Kevin Cummings 

Authored with John Gartland, Thomas Hunt Locke
Photographs by Eric Nelson, Alasdair McLeod, Jonathan van Smit
Introduction by James A. Newman
Cover artwork by Colin Cotterill

Bangkok Beat is a compilation of short stories, interviews, literature reviews and author profiles, plus the previously unpublished history and pictures of the iconic Bangkok cabaret nightclub, Checkinn99 located on Sukhumvit Road. In reading Bangkok Beat you will get up close with many well-known and not so well-known expats and characters staying in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Between the covers of Bangkok Beat you will get to know: champion male and female Muay Thai boxers, a surfing historian, a legendary mamasan, Chris Coles – noted expressionist artist of the Bangkok night, and a gold chain snatching ladyboy. You’ll also encounter the inside of Baccara Bar on Soi Cowboy, an Australian front man for a Khmer band, a smiling waitress named Mook, a spirit house for a Hollywood screenwriter and producer, and the biographer for Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. Plus world class musicians including Jason Mraz. In addition you’ll find interviews and profiles of many well known novelists living in and writing about Thailand and Southeast Asia. (Contains 54 black and white photographs.) This book of non-fiction is ably assisted with an introduction by Bangkok pulp fiction author, James A. Newman, a short story by T Hunt Locke titled The Beauty of Issan and a chapter of noir verse written by the poet noir, John Gartland. Many of the 54 black and white photographs found in Bangkok Beat were taken by professional photographers Eric Nelson, Alasdair McLeod and Jonathan van Smit. There is something for everyone to be found on the pages of Bangkok Beat.

Publication Date:
Jun 08 2015
Aug 08 2015 eBook (Amazon)
0692396454 / 9780692396452
Related Categories:
Literary Criticism / Short Stories

Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Frog in the Mirror Press (June 8, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692396452
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds


* As legally required by law, Gop is a paid celebrity endorser. Your results upon purchasing and reading Bangkok Beat may vary, star wise, high or low.


A Frog in the Mirror Press publication

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Bangkok Beat is now available at Create Space Stores and all stores in paperback. The eBook may now be pre-ordered at Amazon for a September 8th, 2015 launch. Anyone buying the paperback on Amazon is eligible to download the Kindle version for free. 


Henry Miller with long time friend and found of the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, California - Emil White

Henry Miller with long time friend and founder of the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, California – Emil White

…when you are convinced that all the exits are blocked, either you take to believing in miracles or you stand still like the hummingbird. The miracle is that the honey is always there, right under your nose, only you were too busy searching elsewhere to realize it. The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous.

Henry Miller

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Lawyer Howard Malfeasance approving Soi Dog #1 by Chris Coles

Chris Coles sent over his lawyer last night to sign all the paperwork approving the world-wide distribution and possible franchise opportunities for Bangkok Soi Dog #1 Tshirts, which will be available soon from this very web-site.


BANGKOK SOI DOG #1 to be available with or without lettering of BANGKOK SOI DOG #1

This stunning fashion statement can be yours for less than the price of a Caribbean vacation. Details coming in June.


After all, who wouldn’t want to be the proud owner of this Tshirt, while making a unique fashion statement that clearly says …. well, I am not sure exactly what that statement says but I am sure there is one in there somewhere. It is art, after all.

I’ve done my homework on Fashion 101. It seems the best way to get someone to buy a new Tshirt is to make them feel guilty over wearing something old. Guilt sells, I am told.

So what better way to celebrate the new fall fashion than by showing a lot of people wearing a fashion trend that is, let’s face it, post peak. Of course we will be putting the few remaining Gop Frog in the Coconut shell Tshirts on a drastic sale. But wait, there’s more! Anyone buying a copy of my upcoming book, Bangkok Beat, will get a discount on this beautiful Tshirt which is sure to make you the envy of everyone in your neighborhood, or not.

So without further ado, Gop Tshirts – a retrospective:


Kindest thanks to the creator of Gop Tshirt design. I’d like to show you a picture of Colin Cotterill in his Gop Tshirt. I sent him one. He got it. He thanked me. He also told me he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one or words to that effect. Something about Fashion Police in the south of Thailand.

Others were more willing to take the risk. Here is just a sampling of the people now possessing an outdated trend:

Melissa Ray Gop

Melissa Ray – Four Time Muay Ying Champion in Thailand

Victor Gop

Victor “Hot Chili” Ntg Champion Muay Thai from Australia

Gop Night of Noir 1

Author James A. Newman at Night of Noir 1 sporting his Gop T

GopJoe D

…and James son Joe Dylan looking cool

Mithran Somasundrum

Mithran Somasundrum, Ph.D in the lab with the frog

 Jim Algie

The Phantom Lover author Jim Algie looking creative in his Gop T

William Wait Gop

William Wait looking cool as he always does …


James Austin-Farrell showing selfies are allowed in a Gop T …


Peter Lenderink fighting wind mills in the Netherlands in his Gop T


Bangkok Photographer Eric Nelson thinking about winter in the City of Broad Shoulders …


My A-town buddy Chris Wallgen. His dad taught me how to shake like a dog and Chris how to dare and eat a horse …


Family friend Sii looking beautiful in her Gop T


Golden State Road Warriors basketball player Lee hanging like a bat in his Gop T


Who can forget Christopher Minko in his specially created Black Gop T using imported black silk thread (SOLD OUT)


Christopher’s daughter Anya is four times a lady in this Gop photo shoot


Maybe my favorite Gop T picture – some of the Cambodian Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team

Alasdair Tunnel

Alasdair McLeod wearing his Gop T at the scene of a murder – The Checkinn99 tunnel


Crooner and special Checkinn99 patron Bernard Servello looking good …


The author everybody knows – Christopher G. Moore with Jafar “the Artist” Idris at Checkinn99


Fellow blogger Trevor Bide brings Gop to Old Trafford to watch a Man U soccer match – I understand that sport is popular over there …


Author Matt Carrell hard at work or plotting his next murder mystery …


Author John Daysh not realizing I’m the one that’s supposed to be hawking goods here. Looking good in New Zealand leather with his Gop T and his book, Cut Out The Middleman


Author Jarad Henry reading one of his favorite books in The Lucky Country


The blogger, the merchant marine Kevin Conroy and the author Janet Brown at Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle, WA


Thom Locke and family feeling comfortable in his Gop T


Chris Catto-Smith being his thoughtful self by wearing his Gop T to Night of Noir III at Checkinn99


Former surfer dude, current up country dude, Malcolm Gault-WIlliams getting ready to plow the back 40

Dave Phillips

Author Dave Phillips wearing his Gop T in the heartland of America. Thanks, Dave!


Last but never least Chedly Sahebettaba enjoying a bowl of curry in Gop T

So there you have it. A Gop T retrospective. If you made it this far – thank-you. But remember out with the Frog in with the Dog. Unless you want a Gop T on sale, in that case email me.


Special Thanks to Chris Coles and his lawyer for allowing the licencing rights of Bangkok Soi Dog #1


BANGKOK SOI DOG #1 available in sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL

XXXL may be special ordered if you can live that long

I’ll leave you with a quote from a former editor of The Paris Review (He had no idea he was working for spies. I believe him.)

“I have never been convinced there’s anything inherently wrong in having fun.”

George Plimpton

Stay tuned here for more information about Bangkok Soi Dog #1 Tshirts

Coming to finer Department Stores in 2016 but available here at Thailand Footprint in 2015

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My interview with Bangkok 8 author John Burdett featured in the Spectrum Magazine supplement of today’s Sunday Bangkok Post. The interview also features two portraits by Bangkok noir artist Chris Coles …

By Kevin Cummings
Bangkok Post
31 May 2015

John Burdett is a British crime novelist. He is the best-selling author of Bangkok 8 and its sequels, Bangkok Tattoo, Bangkok Haunts, The Godfather of Kathmandu and Vulture Peak. The Bangkok Asset, the sixth in the series, is due out as a hardback in…read more…


Dude Vinci illustration by Colin Cotterill

Dude Da Vinci illustration by Colin Cotterill

There are many things I like about being a blogger. As an example I can come up with an idea to do a blog post on book pirating over the internet and discuss two books, The Dude De Ching by Colin Cotterill (among others) and Hunters In The Dark by Lawrence Osborne, the latter being a new hardcover release by Random House, and there is no one around to tell me that’s a bad idea. The pirating idea isn’t even mine. That came up in the interview I did with Colin Cotterill, recently, on this site where he said, “That public is dying out and being replaced by a Kindle generation. And with e-reads comes pirating.” I have heard about books being pirated and readily available over the internet but I’d never actually gone to the trouble of trying to find a pirated book. Authors need to eat too. So I thought I’d give it a go and spent an internet eternity focused on one goal  (approximately twenty minutes) trying to capture an illegal copy of a copyrighted book, all in the name of literary research, of course. I focused on Cotterill’s books since based on his quote he gave me some hope of an ill gotten gain. I tried and tried and there are a lot of what seem like free downloads out there but inevitably they all lead to BestBookLibrary which always brought you to BuzzPlay looked legit enough but they want your credit card info, which I thought odd since all I wanted to do was violate copyright laws, not actually purchase anything. When I did a little research on BuzzPlay it seems they are the equivalent of the lawyer who will sue you for walking or sue you for standing still. It makes no difference to them. BuzzPlay will charge your card whether you want them to or not – monthly it seems – and then charge your card if you want to cancel your membership from getting free illegal books which I guess aren’t free after all. No word on how much of their fees trickle down to the actual authors who wrote the books.

The Dude De Ching

There were some good things that occurred during my search for literary booty. I had never heard of The Dude De Ching – ever. I know, I need to get to Dasa Books more. I wanted to buy it the old fashioned way. With One Click straight to my Kindle. But it wasn’t available in Kindle format and it must be some kind of collectors item as the paperback goes for $68.00 for this book, released in 2010. So much for my legal pursuit of The Dude.

Later, just for the fun of it, I tried to see if I could get an illegal copy of Hunters In The Dark. I knew this would be a tougher treasure as it is a new release, and sure enough it is being offered for free by those same shady BuzzPlay characters if you’re willing to cough up your credit card info. What happens after that I have no idea.


Asia Books told me the hard cover of Hunters In The Dark by Lawrence Osborne will available around June 21st, 2015. I’m looking forward to that read and doing a real old-fashioned purchase from a real bookstore. Hunters In The Dark is set in Cambodia with Thailand scenes. The reviews I’ve seen are glowing.

While I came up empty handed in my search for pirate treasure I was glad that was the outcome. As McMurphy said to his psychiatric ward friends in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, “But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did that.” It’s always interesting to try something different.

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Avoid the rush and learn about author Jack Fielding, now, at Thailand Footprint. Jack’s not particularly into self-promotion, which may be one reason I had not heard of him, until recently. My first thought after reading his writing: life isn’t fair. But we all knew that already, right? Jack currently resides in London and has spent a considerable amount of time living, writing, and working in Thailand. Jack enjoys the theatre, particularly if it is of the absurd. The strange worlds of Jack Fielding can be found on his blog, where he takes a satirical look at films, books and other things with a Zen point of view:


From his author web site found at Jack Fielding has worked and traveled throughout the world. Always drawn to the absurd and improbable, Jack has modeled cowboy hats in Tokyo, dined with General Franco’s English interpreter in Paraguay, informally coached Bangkok’s premier Elvis impersonator and once starred in a German travel commercial with​ a plastic ​dinosaur called Bernard. In his darker moments Jack describes himself as a “not terribly strident Zen Buddhist.”

Thailand Footprint welcomes Jack Fielding with mild trepidation.


KC: Greetings, Jack. I like your style. Your writing style. Your blog style. You even pull off wearing a hat and glasses with a certain panache. It’s been said you write absurdly entertaining fiction, often with a Zen edge. How would you explain your writing style to those unfortunates out there who are unfamiliar with it?

JF: Thank you and its great to be on Thailand Footprint! I seriously love books and everything to do with them – especially when they’ve got some kind of connection with Thailand. Digital books or trad I don’t mind. Just so long as they’re creative and out there!

​​​​​​For my One Hand Clapping stories, I guess I write in a minimalist fast-paced style. Hard-hitting. Less is more. When I’m actually  writing I visualize the narrative being played out as a Tarantino or spaghetti western movie. I suppose I’m writing what I see.  So my style is definitely born out of that. With Zen Ambulance I’ve tried to pare the narrative down even further, to give a stronger ‘Zen’ kick. I’ve also made up my own words, to help create a unique ‘one hand clapping’ world, fusing East and West.


I write across genres. So Shadows and Pagodas – an outrageous gothic tale set in Old Siam – has a more traditional style. I’ve even thrown in the odd archaic bit of English and Thai vocab – really love the idea of breathing life into long-forgotten words! Plus plenty of literary and movie references, too. With Neville Changes Villages I’ve stuck to a contemporary and relaxed style, reflecting the fact it’s a straightforward comedy about a guy in real-life Thailand in the 90s.

KC: What is the focus, if you have one, for your very original blog, Pulp Zen?

JF: Because I write across genres I thought my readers would enjoy a blog devoted exclusively to the ‘pulp Zen’ concept. Like the books, Pulp Zen draws in a lot of things really. Not only Zen Buddhism but samurai and spaghetti western movies, nikkatsu cinema and American / British noir. Teddy Boys, rockabilly. Retro streets. Vintage comics. Also very much about retro Thailand, you know back to 50s Bangkok and much earlier. I’m really fascinated by it, especially as there’s so little physically left. Zen City is particularly hot on breathing new life into all that long lost social history.

Pulp Zen old lined paper 2

KC: Talk about death, just for the fun of it. 

JF: One of the themes in my books is death and absurdity – always a laugh a minute around here – so I’ll share what I think by way of a true story:

At one time I was keeping a low profile in a fleapit river town called Concepcion in Paraguay. Every damned night I was plagued by the same dream: I was a young German guy called Nobby Tirpitz, working on a giant airship as a lavatory attendant in 2nd class. I had this special mop, given to me by my grandfather Othmar who had run a public convenience in Hamburg railway station. Anyway, I was in terrible danger in that airship. Trapped in the lavatory while a terrible fire raged outside, acrid smoke pouring in and the airship listing badly. Using my penknife I just had time to carve a message on the handle of the mop then shove it through a tiny porthole. There was an awful roaring noise…then I woke up.

Years later I was living in Thailand and teaching English. Porntip was one of my best female students and one night she invited me to her family house in Don Muang (where the old international airport used to be). Her dad was a colonel in the air force. Well, I met the folks and had fantastic meal. Then her dad took me into the garage to see his collection of memorabilia. Medals, a WW2 Japanese flag and an oxygen mask, that kind of thing. And then I noticed what looked like a wooden pole. It seemed out of place so I asked him about it. He explained it was a broom handle from the Hindenburg, the airship that had exploded in 1937. Said it had some writing on it but it was in German. Well, I knew German and picked it up. I went all cold. The handle seemed strangely familiar. Then I read the writing. Incredibly it was the message I’d written in the dream – ‘Anyone want to buy a cheap airship!’

You know, I’ve never forgotten that uncanny dream and the mysterious mop handle. Death, rebirth and multiple lives. I suppose it also explains why lavatories keep appearing in my books. In Zen City, Palmer is in one when he experiences the ghastly dream sequence at the end. Milo the assassin-monk emerges from a weird roadside toilet in Zen Ambulance and Neville’s family keep surprising him when he’s sat on the bog inVillages.

One thing’s for sure – ever since, no matter where I am in the world, I’ve always tipped big when I use public lavatories.

Like I said, death and absurdity.

Zen City

​KC: That’s the best mop handle story I’ve heard since … well, that’s the only mop handle story I’ve ever heard. One of my favorite fictitious private eyes of all-time, Nick Danger, was once told a good line in the Rocky Rococo caper. It went, “You can’t get there from here.” You said earlier, it’s always a laugh a minute around here.  How would you describe your, here? And throw in a few there’s also. Where have you been? But leave out Paraguay if you don’t mind.

JF: “You can’t get there from here” is a brilliant line really. Love it, especially when they’re laconic. I’ve always been interested in the military history of the Spartans and they were famous for it. At the battle of Thermopylae Leonidas apparently said to his 300, “Either that’s the Persian army or the new vacuum cleaners have arrived.”

Now where was I? Oh, yes. Where is ‘here’? To be honest, I don’t know.  I’ve never been able to stay in one place for very long. I hitch-hiked to Normandy when I was sixteen and never looked back really. I don’t own a car or property, always spending my wedge on trying to get to places – the less fashionable and visited the better. Either to live in or hang out in bars and cafes. Shooting the breeze with strangers, getting to know people. Listening rather than talking (and taking copious notes afterwards). I’m wary of trotting out a list of places I’ve been to – I hate that approach to travel. Going to other people’s countries is always a privilege, one that most of the planet’s population don’t have.

Having said that, you did ask! Well, lived in Finland for a while, in a Helsinki suburb. As a genuine English Teddy Boy, in a country where 50s rock and roll was mainstream, I was briefly a legend in my own lunchtime. That was also where I met my first wife (short marriage, long story). Inspired by the final sequence in Elvira Madigan, I got my butterfly tattoo in the sailor’s quarter in Copenhagen. I lived on a Prague council estate in the 80s (during their first free elections) and hung out in the St Thomas pub with some ex-cons who wore pinstripe suits with very wide lapels. I’ve been shouted at in Algiers, tricked into buying an expensive pair of slippers by a blind African man in Paris and getting my bottom pinched mercilessly by a Guarani Indian girl on the Argentine border. I think her name was Marina. Strong grip, too. Throughout the 90s I was forever crossing borders into Laos, Cambodia and Kelantan. Later, I spent quite a bit of time living near a sex shop in Transylvania and in Pest I ended up being a sort of unofficial therapist to a manic depressive café owner who was owned by an Arab gentleman – the girl that is, not the cafe.

Inevitably, I’ve also spent a fair bit of time in Britain. Although my experiences here haven’t always been as positive. Getting my nose broken by an amateur boxer in a working men’s club in Newcastle (he bought me a pint afterwards), thrown on the tube tracks in east London, racially abused in Leicester and completely failing to buy a Polish sausage in High Wycombe.

Zen Ambulance

KC: I’m intrigued by your making up your own words in your One Hand Clapping novels. Give me some examples of those words and their definitions.

JF: Yes, one of the ways I’ve tried to build the One Hand Clapping world is to create a unique vocab, fusing fact and fiction, East and West. Also provide info on retro Asia (particularly Thailand) and related matters which I thought my readers might find interesting. Here’s something I posted on my Strange Worlds blog a while back:

Atomic Age – the mid to late 1950s.

Bushido / ‘the code’ – warrior code of the Japanese samurai that drew on Zen Buddhism and Shinto teachings. A warped movie-trivia version of the code was adopted by the Colonel’s psychopathic gunfighters, the Four Truths.

Generalissimo Vissaek – fascist dictator of Siam and ally of the Axis powers.

Iso Isetta – the iconic ‘little Iso’ bubble car was designed by Renzo Rivolta, a successful manufacturer of refrigerators. These wonderful cars were incredibly expensive in Bangkok because of the heavy import duty.

Kamikaze Boogie – Thai rockabilly hit penned and sung by Johnny Izu.

Kouk Moun Kid – the long-forgotten star of home-grown Siamese Westerns.

Noir Age – roughly, the 1940s and early 50s.

Siam – the original name of Thailand. It was changed by Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram in 1949 as part of his modernisation programme, along with making men wear hats, women wear gloves and everyone putting on shoes when they went outside.

‘Siamese salute’ – slang term used by some foreigners in the Noir Age. It refers to the traditional Thai greeting, which involves bringing the hands together. Properly called a wai.

Shoho – name of a notorious girl gang, it means ‘Auspicious Phoenix’. The girls took the name from a famous aircraft carrier in the Imperial Japanese Navy.

‘slippy shippy’ – slang term for goods smuggled into the Bangkok docks by ship.

Teddy Boy – Street fashion that erupted on British streets in the early 1950s and quickly adopted by cool yakuza. It celebrated an Edwardian look, replete with velvet-collared drape jackets and waistcoats. Die-hard Teds can still be found in remote parts of Britain.

Ticals – currency used in 1940s Siam. Plenty of references to it in Reynolds’ novel, A Woman of Bangkok.

Amazingly, I’m still in one piece. Like Vivien Leigh I’ve always depended on the kindness of others. And, of course, being a good listener and non-judgemental helps – as does being able to retreat into my inner world. Maybe that’s where ‘here’ really is.

KC: I have enjoyed this interview, Jack. More than I would admit publicly. What’s on the horizon for Jack Fielding? What are you working on personally and professionally? 

JF: Yeah, this interview has been excellent actually, and tweaking the nose of absurdity along the way always helps! Actually, on a slightly more serious note, your questions have also prompted me to reflect, not only my writing but also what I’ve got up to over the years. As Orson Palmer would say, No one is more surprised than me.

I’m currently finishing off the latest version of Neville Changes Villages, with the help of the author Matt Carrell. All about a dysfunctional English guy teaching in Thailand in the 90s. The basic theme isn’t exactly new – but I think the way I tell it is! You know, giving it the ‘Jack Fielding’ treatment.

Then I’m working on a collection of short stories. They’re retro sci-fi, inspired by the vintage comics of Alan Class like Creepy Worlds and Astounding Stories. But instead of being American the stories are set in Siam. They’re a mix of absurdity, crime, speculation, dark comedy and just the plain weird. Inspired by our interview, there might be a guest appearance by one Nobby Tirptiz.

After that, I’m either going to get back to the One Hand Clapping stories (I’ve got rough drafts for about four more of those) or I might take a different direction. I’ve got the beginnings of a novel about a dysfunctional young guy growing up in south-east London in the early twentieth century and his involvement with the new film industry. It will link in with the mysterious Shadows of Siam film that gets mentioned in Zen City, Iso. Also it will be a bit of homage to the lost world of British silent films, which I’m quite keen on.

On a personal level, I could well be moving to Switzerland later in the year. It will be a brilliant place to raise my family. And at some point I really, really need to get back and visit Thailand. Apart from family, friends and wonderful temples, it’s important my two children develop their Thai heritage. Oh, and I want to take my family to the home of Kukrit Pramoj, the author of the superb Four Reigns, to pay our respects.

My two young children are absolutely wonderful. All my creative work is ultimately dedicated to them. If they show any signs of creativity in any form, I’m determined to encourage and nurture it. I don’t want them to be like me – it took me literally years to pluck up the courage before I finally put pen to paper. Lack of self-belief is a terrible thing. When my children are older, I hope my books work will inspire them to work hard, be creative, keep moving. That’s my main motivation really. And the fact that I need to get all these damned stories out of my head and onto paper!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about my books and also the more personal stuff. Really appreciated.

KC: Thank-you, Jack. Keep the Zen edge and the absurd outlook coming. Here’s to hoping I never get a tip from you in my next life. 

Send Jack a Facebook friend request HERE

Jack’s books may be found at the various Amazon sites.

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a_nose_for_trouble What is it about a pleasant fragrance that makes it appealing? What makes two people click? Often times it comes down to chemistry. Award winning photographer Hans Kemp (Burmese Light; Bikes of Burden; Carrying Cambodia) has entered the crowded private investigator genre under his pen name of Jonathan Kemp. Chicago P.I. Scanner Grant is teamed with a curvaceous ball buster of a beauty, Maxine Zwoelstra as they set out to solve two crimes: the murder of a young Tibetan girl on American soil and a missing person case, which smells more like Limburger cheese. The latter case involves searching for Max’s father and takes the duo to Hong Kong and the casinos of Macao. Kemp has put his keen sense of observation and Scanner’s olfactory system to good use in A Nose For Trouble. Physical descriptions and settings are well written with attention paid to detail. The first time novelist mixes an assortment of memorable characters, historical events, hot, spicy and believable sex scenes, along with a dead body or three in an entertaining but at times overly complex mystery. The characters include a Chicago Taxi driver with Tibetan leanings, a Vietnamese pimp, a Nazi scientist and my personal favorite a good old Aussie bloke who ends up down under.

Of the two main characters, Scanner and Max, both were developed well by Kemp but I enjoyed the time when the sultry Max was on the page or the crime solving pair were together more than when Scanner was flying solo. As dynamic duos go the scale is tipped heavily in Max’s favor. Scanner likes his sex – but he resists the ample temptations of Max; they stick to the business at hand, which turned out to be a good call. Scanner has few vices and isn’t crazy about toting a gun in gun crazy America or elsewhere – not that there’s anything wrong with that. The narrative tends to moralize a bit much, which I found distracting at times as it didn’t always propel the story forward. I get that corporate greed and skyrocketing real estate prices are bad for many. I couldn’t connect the dots as to how that effects a Hong Kong hooker turning her third trick of the day. The historical components were interesting about Germany and Tibet in particular and I have no doubt they are accurate even though they weren’t taught in any history classes I took. No surprises there. It is one reason I read fiction by knowledgeable and well traveled people like Kemp, to find out the truth. For humorous moments don’t look to Scanner for levity – a wisecracking P.I. he is not. The cab driving Lobsong is interjected at just the right times to entertain the reader in his own unique eastern way.

All in all Kemp gets a lot of things right with his initial novel. Is the writing and protagonist equal to the Detective Maier mysteries written by his partner at Crime Wave Press, Tom Vater? Not yet, in my opinion but by pairing Scanner and Max he’s given us a whiff of things to come. Kemp opens his novel with an explosive scene involving a 1978 NBA basketball broadcast, which referenced one of my favorite players, Brian Winters of the Milwaukee Bucks. Al McGuire coached at Marquette University in Milwaukee during the 1970s where he won an NCAA Basketball Championship. Al once said, “The best thing about a sophomore is they become a junior.” He meant experience matters. The best thing, in my opinion, about a Scanner and Max Mystery by Jonathan Kemp, will not be A Nose For Trouble. It will be the sequel, which has been set up perfectly. Scanner and Max have good chemistry together. And unlike perfume that’s something you cannot buy.

Click Above Picture to go to Crime Wave Press Site

Click Above Picture to go to Crime Wave Press Site

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“This is my seventieth year of ping-pong playing,” Henry Miller wrote in 1971. “I started at the age of 10 on the dining room table. I take on players from all over the world. I play a steady, defensive Zen-like game. The importance of my recreation lies in preventing intellectual discussions. No matter how important or glamorous an opponent may be, I never let him or her distract me.”


A picture I took at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, California – Summer 2014

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Write a book. Hell, I can do that. How hard can it be? I was sitting with a bunch of authors who had written a bunch of books, over a year ago at Checkinn99. So I told the owner, Chris Catto-Smith, “I’m going to write a book of non-fiction stories, which will include a chapter about the history of Checkinn99.” The cabaret bar owner and former Royal Air Force jet airline pilot replied, “Good idea.” It sure seemed like one at the time.



Yesterday I was in Checkinn99 again. It was a good day. I brought my longtime friend Bill there for the first time and he really enjoyed himself. The music was great as usual. Early on I spotted the photographer, Hans Kemp, sitting with a group so I went up to his table for a quick chat. Crime Wave Press recently published Hans’ first novel, A NOSE FOR TROUBLE under his pen name of Jonathan Kemp. I’ve already purchased A NOSE FOR TROUBLE for my Kindle. It has a great action packed beginning including some 1970s NBA basketball references, which I particularly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reviewing the novel after I finish it. I asked Hans, a very accomplished photographer and publisher, about his experience of writing his first novel. “It was harder than I thought,” the creator of numerous books on photographic topics, including Carrying Cambodia, and Bikes of Burden said. That made me laugh, as I’ll soon be crossing home plate after a long round-tripper, completing my first and I am pretty sure last book, Bangkok Beat.


Hans has already received his first four Amazon reviews with an average rating of 4.8. You can click the picture above to learn more about Hans’ debut crime novel, A Nose For Trouble, which is available now.

Neil Gaiman has a great quote that I came across recently. I believe it to be true. It is:

Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.

I do not expect Bangkok Beat to be a failure. The only way it would be a failure is if I failed to do what I said I would do. When it comes out that will be success enough for me. As the saying goes, I have learned a lot during the process. I happen to like Neil Gaiman, as a writer and as someone who gives advice to writers, no matter what their skill level may be. Here is one of my favorite pieces of advice from Neil: “Tell your story… as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you.”

If I were a younger man and a baseball player I’d be looking for a tryout in the rookie league. In professional baseball you have: A Ball, Double A, Triple A, and the Major Leagues. I’ve known guys who have played baseball at each of those levels. Self publishing allows just about everyone to be a rookie and make those inevitable rookie mistakes.

What have I learned? Neil is right. There will always be writers better than I could ever hope to be. Three Bangkok based writers of non-fiction come straight to mind: Lawrence Osborne, Jim Algie and Christopher G. Moore. They also write fiction better than I ever could but at least I have been smart enough, so far, not to tred on that turf. Before you ever buy Bangkok Beat make sure you have read Bangkok Days by Lawrence, Bizarre Thailand by Jim ,and The Age of Dis-Consent by Christopher. These three gentlemen have been in the Major Leagues for a long time and it shows. But if and when you are ready to read stories that only I could tell, I do hope you will consider buying Bangkok Beat even though there are hundreds of thousands of choices out there.

Stay tuned to Thailand Footprint for an upcoming profile of Checkinn99 owner Chris Catto-Smith.


Kevin Cummings:

“Vanity is my favorite sin.” Al Pacino … A timely blog post by Jame DiBiasio, which he kindly allows for reblogging. Timely in that I’ll soon be published by the renowned Frog in the Mirror Press, a Big 666 Publisher if ever there was one …

Originally posted on JAME DiBIASIO:

The stigma of ‘vanity publishing’ has been lessened or even eliminated – among those who engage in it. There are also huge corporations such as Amazon (which owns CreateSpace, the world’s biggest digital self-publishing company) that actively promote the idea that self-publishing is great for authors. Cut out the middlemen and go straight to the consumer, and let the buyers decide!

Indeed, there are actual success stories of good writers who couldn’t get any joy from the traditional industry, self-published, promoted themselves well, and made money. Being an only modestly successful writer stuck with a big-five house can be unpleasant because these corporations only spend time and resources on their best-sellers, so some established writers have ditched them to go self-published; at least you keep all of the royalties.

There are always cases when self-publishing makes sense. It’s cheap, and you can use Facebook to promote the work. But there…

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Colin Cotterill Dogs 2

Author Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill was born in London, England. He has dual English and Australian citizenship. He spent several years in Laos, initially with UNESCO. Colin currently lives in a small town on the Gulf of Thailand, where he writes the award-winning Dr. Siri mystery series set in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, and the Jimm Juree crime novels set in Chiang Mai and southern Thailand. Colin has trained in and taught physical education early in his career. He has also taught and been a curriculum writer at Chiang Mai University, was the Project Director of Child Watch, an NGO for itinerant children in Phuket, Thailand and worked at refugee camps along the Burmese border. His uniquely hand-written CV may be viewed here.

In 2009 Colin Cotterill received the Crime Writers’ Association “Dagger in the Library” award for being “the author of crime fiction whose work is currently giving the greatest enjoyment to library users.” Cotterill won the Dilys Award in 2006 for Thirty-Three Teeth and was a Dilys Award finalist in 2010 for Love Songs From a Shallow Grave. The Dilys Award has been presented every year since 1992 by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association to the title member booksellers have most enjoyed selling.

Since 1990, Cotterill has been a regular cartoonist for national publications (and he does cool book covers). He is also the cartoonist who drew Gop, the frog in the coconut shell for Thailand Footprint. I am pleased to welcome Colin here today.

KC: In an essay by Jong Jie in 3:AM Magazine titled Literature and Politics Jie states:

“Where politics seeks to obscure, literature seeks to uncover; it insists upon a scrupulous rendition of reality, and on the courage to face up unflinchingly to it, no matter what it holds.”

Southeast Asia politics obscures in their own particular way. You’re a novelist who has interwoven politics into your stories from many countries. I wish to focus on three: Laos – the setting for your Dr. Siri novels and a standalone novel Pool and Its Role in Asian Communism, Thailand – the setting for your Jimm Juree series, and Burma, which you’ve written about in one of your earliest novels focusing on child abuse and pedophilia, Evil in the Land WIthout. What, if anything, do you set out to uncover about the political society of those three countries or put another way, what rendition of reality do you wish to convey? How is the politics different among the three countries and how is it similar?

CC: Jesus H Trueman, this is like a bloody university exam. What happened to the good old ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Okay, start. I know nothing about the penthouse of politics. Or, rather, I know what the newspapers and websites tell me, which is the same thing. But I live down in the basement where the garbage chute comes out.  I think that’s why I write about the dregs and orts of policies and doctrines rather than the people who randomly make them up. I describe how people are affected by bad decisions.  I started writing because I wanted readers to know about the seedy child abuse issues in Southeast Asia. The first hurdle I hit was that people don’t want to read about the seedy child abuse issues in Southeast Asia. It took two more books before I learned how to cleverly disguise my issues in a jolly yarn (Pool and its Role in Asian Communism). And that has become my signature. You get to the end of my books and ask, ‘I wonder if there’s any truth in that.’ With a bit of luck you might even look it up.  I write fiction but I tend to stay faithful to history. I may move buildings or shift dates for convenience but my characters are always directly influenced by the politics of the day and they’re not afraid to have opinions.

Similarities? A country with no freedom of speech run by a military dictatorship. You tell me which of the three countries I’m describing.

KC: Your SoHo Crime colleague Cara Black has said, “We write to give a voice to those who aren’t heard.” You’ve told me why you started writing; why do you still write?

CC: I don’t really like writing that much. It isn’t my outlet of choice but how many people in the world are doing what they truly want to be doing? In the beginning (and I was a very late starter) I wrote to see whether I could write and whether I could write well enough to make a living out of it. It was one of the challenges I set myself. I’ve been doing it all my life. I got lucky and passed that test. There are much better writers than me today who don’t even get their manuscripts on an agent’s desk. My timing was right. I haven’t moved on to the next challenge because none of the others involve paying the grocery bills. So the answer to your question is, ‘to feed the dogs’.

KC: You seem to have made a conscious decision to live a reality based life over a virtual one. There is no shortage of authors of varying abilities utilizing social media at varying levels. Are you sure that walks on the beach, gardening, riding your bicycle, playing with your gaggle of dogs and illustrating in your spare time beat receiving a slew of LIKES for posting a picture of Laurel and Hardy on Facebook or replying to a fan on Amazon who left you a 4 Star review? What are your thoughts regarding technology trends in the 21st Century, particularly as they relate to the publishing world and interaction with your fans?

CC: What do you mean? I have email. Since when is that not technology?  But even that’s a little too convenient for me. I miss the days when you sat on the front step waiting for the postman and cursed under your breath when he walked past. I have an email account now so the postman walks past virtually and there’s nobody to swear at when I have nothing in my in inbox. If anyone wants to get in touch with me it doesn’t take a lot of detective work. I appreciate the effort. But they can’t do it by clicking. I don’t have face book because I think it’s dumb. In my universe, ‘friend’ is a noun and ‘befriend’ is a verb and never the twain shall meet.

I was lucky in that I rode the last wave of print publishing. That public is dying out and being replaced by a Kindle generation. And with e-reads comes pirating. I can download any of my books absolutely free any time I like. So why should I pay for them?  It might not be a bad thing as people who wouldn’t have bothered to pick up my books at a shop are able to take a taste of me. With that taste will naturally come addiction and, inevitably, sales. “You know? Granny might like this. I’ll get a print copy and send it to her.”

KC: Your first Dr. Siri novel, The Coroner’s Lunch came out in 2004. The protagonist is a green-eyed, septuagenarian coroner – the country’s lone coroner – living in socialist Laos during the 1970s. This was obviously all part of a winning formula that would see the Dr. Siri series remain popular for over a decade and reach 10 books strong, with the upcoming Six and a Half Deadly Sins (SoHo Crime), scheduled for a May 19th, 2015 release. What are the joys and difficulties of writing a series of that length, given the starting age of your protagonist? Is it a safe assumption you didn’t envision either the popularity or length of the series?

CC: I was once on a panel with Robert Crais and one of his words of wisdom for aspiring writers was to make your protagonist young in anticipation of a long series. Dr. Siri started out at seventy two in a country whose use-by life expectancy was fifty-something. I had no idea the good doctor would become so popular and it does present certain problems. One of these is that I can’t afford to dally too long between books. Sometimes the next episode follows on only minutes from its predecessor. Ten books on and he’s still only seventy-four.  I suppose somewhere along the line I should consider a prequel.

I have a horrible memory and that is a terrible affliction for someone writing a series. I’m supposed to remember every detail of every event, every character. You might think it wouldn’t matter if the dog changes gender (to anyone other than the dog) or Comrade Civilai’s Citroen suddenly becomes a Renault. But, to some, it is akin to misquoting the scriptures. I have fans who know my characters better than I know my own father. What do you do at audience question time when somebody asks, ’It appears Dr. Siri is clinically alcoholic. Don’t you think it’s time he gets some help?’ I want to say, ‘He’s fictional’ but I look into the fan’s eyes and realize he’s not.

The only good point in having a regular cast of characters is that they tend to develop stories without me. In the beginning you’d say hello to them at the first script reading and they’d be nervous and uncertain. But after a couple of years you arrive late for the first editorial meeting and they’d have their parts written out already. ‘This is how I’d react in that situation,’ says Nurse Dtui. You even dare to swerve out of character and the personality police are on your back.

KC: Lets stay with character and personality. Pick any characters whom you have created and enjoyed spending time with, other than Dr. Siri and Jimm Juree – tell me their strengths and flaws and the novel(s) they can be found in.

CC: I’m very fond of the two main characters in Pool and its Role in Asian Communism, mainly because they are so diverse. Waldo is an African American widower due for retirement from his lifelong job at a pool ball factory. Saifon is a Lao girl who was trafficked to the states when she was very young and grew up on the streets. Both are flawed in their own sweet ways but they develop an unlikely friendship that endures. It was a fun relationship to write and a challenge in that the entire book was written in ungrammatical colloquial English.

Of my more recent characters I think I’d have to choose Jimm Juree’s Granddad Ja, a retired Thai policeman who spent his entire career in the traffic division because he refused to take bribes. I know…but it’s fiction. I’ve just realized how many elderly characters I have in my books. It looks like I’m paving the way for my own journey down the other side of the hill.

KC: In 2004 you wrote, “We tend to notice only the atrocities that suit us.” There is no shortage of atrocities going on near and far. Let’s focus on two that have occurred in 2015. The Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris, France, which left 12 people dead and the killing of 29 school children in Damaturu, Nigeria by gunmen from the Islamist group, Boko Haram. In addition to being a novelist who has written about issues that affect African children, you’re also an accomplished cartoonist. There are those who argue that the same outrage was not felt world-wide over the killing of the 29 school children as there was for the security guard and Charlie Hebdo staff who were killed. What can you say about these two sad events?

CC: Disasters have an element of ‘Thank goodness it’s not one of us’ attached to them. If Malaysian flight 370 had been full of Australian rugby players or Canadian girl guides, there would have been more of an uproar. But most of the passengers were Chinese.  Sigh of relief. After the 2004 tsunami the west was shocked at the number of white holiday makers killed. Two movies were made showing the plight of the whities even though  280,000 of the victims were Asian. Perhaps when we see a photograph of a Caucasian massacre victim it’s easier to believe it could have been us. But even so, uproar has a short shelf life.

The Charlie Hebdo killings came as I was writing my latest Dr. Siri book. The title is “I Shot the Buddha”. A few people I’d mentioned that to got in touch with me and urged me to change it for fear of repercussions. It annoyed me that idiotic violence should have an influence on my freedom of speech. The book doesn’t insult Buddhism but even if it did I reserve the right to insult any religion I wish. I welcome dialogue on the subject but I do not welcome a round of ammunition through the chest. If I were to believe in a god it would be because I loved him, not because I was scared to death of him.

KC: You live with your wife in the literary hotbed of Thailand. A fishing village located on the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand, Pak Nam. Describe Pak Nam as if you were employed with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and then again, as if to keep your most brazen fan from stalking you for your autograph of a first edition hard-copy of The Merry Misogynist. 

CC: The small town of Pak Nam (cagily non-specific as down here every town a short way from the coast has its own Pak Nam) sits on the estuary of the xxx river. As the sun rises on the Gulf of Thailand, it nudges home the squid boats, their decks piled high with the night’s catch. The colourful market is vibrant with the mix of southern Thai and Burmese accents. The open fronted shops on the narrow streets offer great bargains: Malay cloth,  Chinese toys and trinkets and music CD’s all the way from Myanmar. And for tourists and locals alike, the restaurants offer all the delicacies one would expect from a town so in harmony with the sea.

But, of course, nobody in their right mind would live there. The beaches are strewn with garbage nine months of the year and the shallow waters are a breeding ground for great schools of jelly fish. To break the monotony of a place with no entertainment, bodies regularly wash up on the sand, carried in on the currents from popular tourist islands. If you’re really bored you can go to the high spot of Pak Nam, the 7-Eleven, and watch the Burmese being shaken down by the police, or take a drive along the most dangerous stretch of highway in the country to Tesco where they have thirty four brands of cooking oil but no wine. Better still, don’t come.

KC: What can your readers expect from Dr Siri’s latest adventure, Six and a Half Deadly Sins?

CC: During the decades of civil war in Laos, the Chinese were building roads in the north of the country under the guise of international aid. It wasn’t a coincidence that the roads headed from China in the direction of the Vietnamese and Thai borders. Even in the fifties the cunning Chinese were paving the way to international trade. But when hostilities began in 1978 culminating in a Chinese invasion of Vietnam, these roads had a more sinister meaning, providing the invaders with another front from the west. It was all Laos could do to prevent China from crossing their borders.

Dr. Siri and Madam Daeng become entangled in this international intrigue whilst following a trail of clues woven into the hems of Lao skirts. Can they solve the puzzle before the invaders swarm across the border? Can they hold their own with the criminals operating in the hub of the Golden Triangle drugs trade? And whose funeral is that at the end of the story? (Cue kettledrums)

Six and One Half Deadly Sins by Colin Cotterill - Interview

KC: Peter Sellers, in his role of Chance the gardener in the movie Being There said, “In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.” What wisdom can you add to that and what was the last item out of your garden that you shared with a neighbor?

CC: That’s my favourite movie. But Dr. Siri goes one better with his immortal line, ‘Forget the planet, save the garden.’ It’s my own pay-it-forward mantra. If everyone undertook one small random act of gratuitous generosity from time to time, the world would eventually sort itself out. But of course not everyone will, so we’ll be stuck with the mess we have today. Selfishness rules. In fact we took a bag of our mangos to the neighbor just this morning to wish them a happy new year. The buggers threw water at us.

KC: The dogs in your Jimm Juree series get more than cameo roles – a trio even get a mention in the acknowledgments of The Axe Factor – GoGo, Sticky Rice and Beer. One becomes a hero and saves the day. If everyone had the desire and ability to be a dog owner what are the first few things they would learn?

CC: Cesar Millan (the dog whisperer) reminds viewers every week that dogs are not small people. But, of course, they are. They have personalities and far more human characteristics than a lot of people I know. But they’re small people who forgive easily, who don’t care about our bad habits and who provide love unconditionally. After a tricky domestic upset a few years ago I made the decision not to go back on the road but to stay with my dogs. They’ve repaid me a thousand times for that decision. Of course they get a part in my books.

KC: This interview happens to coincide on the two year anniversary of my blog with the frog in the coconut shell, which you kindly drew for me. Thanks again for that. 

CC: Happy anniversary.

Colin Cotterill also has another novel coming out next week. Here is the synopsis from

Colin creates a new member of his cast of characters in is latest book Bleeding in Black and White. CIA agent Robert “Bodge” Leon has been deskbound since joining the agency at its post-WW2 inception. He dreams of being in the field, but when that happens it goes far from as expected. Sent to the Vietnamese highlands during the French fight against independence, he meets the beautiful concubine of the Emperor. Meanwhile back in the US the KGB is using a purge inside the CIA to recruit double agents. Can Bodge survive to find love in the Orient and see justice done back home?

Black and White CC

For more information about the author, cartoonist and regular chappy, Colin Cotterill go to:

You may pre-order Six and a Half Deadly Sins, scheduled for a May 19th, 2015 release at

To read page 306 of Six and a Half Deadly Sins click here.

For a book review of Six and a Half Deadly Sins from the New York Journal of Books click here.

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Kevin Cummings:

Wonderful interview by novelist Bruce DeSilva of Timothy Hallinan regarding his Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty series. Great Questions. Great Answers. Too good not to re-blog on a lazy Easter Sunday. Thanks Bruce DeSilva for allowing the ability to do so …

Originally posted on Bruce DeSilva's Rogue Island:

Timothy Hallinan Timothy Hallinan

I interviewed fellow crime novelist Timothy Hallinan for Crimelandia, the website of Left Coast Crime, a major crime fiction conference where he was recently awarded a coveted Lefty Award. Here’s the text of our conversation:

Bruce DeSilva: You have two critically-acclaimed crime series going, one featuring Poke Rafferty, an American journalist living in Bangkok, and the other chronicling the life of Junior Bender, a Los Angeles burglar with tormentors on both sides of the law. This has you turning out two books a year. How do you manage this and remain sane – or am I making a false assumption?

Hallinan: It’s a false assumption. I actually missed the deadline for the 2013 Rafferty book, For the Dead, and unless I put my ass in the saddle and keep it there, I’m going to miss the deadline for this year’s Junior, King Maybe. Despite all the energy…

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I found this month’s Henry Miller quote on an interesting site called, Henry Miller Online – a tribute to Henry’s books, art, loves and friends. There is a collection of unique and hard to find Miller items. The quote comes from The Books in my Life by Henry Miller. Click the picture above to go the web site. The quote is:


“The more one writes the less books stimulate. One reads to corroborate, that is, to enjoy one’s own thoughts expressed in the multifarious ways of others.” —Henry Miller (The Books in my Life)

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Matt Carrell was born in Brighton, England more than half a century ago. The son of Irish immigrants, he graduated from London University and then trained as an accountant. Matt’s work involved a great deal of international travel including long stints in Hong Kong and Thailand.

Author Matt Carrell

Matt’s first published work was a series of short stories entitled Thai Lottery… and Other Stories from Pattaya, Thailand. The idea for the book emerged while watching tickets being sold by a Bangkok street vendor, and hearing from a friend about the perils of getting involved in the parallel underworld lottery. After receiving positive feedback from readers he started work on Thai Kiss, his first full length novel, this was published in May 2013.


His second novel, Vortex, is also largely set in Thailand and draws on Matt’s extensive experience of the investment industry. Vortex was released in January of 2014.

Vortex Matt Carrell

In June 2014, A Matter of Life and Death, a novel with a football (soccer) theme was published.

Matt Carrell A Matter of life and death

Breaking the Thai theme, Matt has also written a short story, Something Must Be Done, about a High School shooting, set in the USA, which takes on the issue of gun control or more accurately lack of control and the USA’s crazy gun culture.

Vortex was very well received by critics and the public alike. As a result Matt wrote, Vortex – The End Game, which was launched in November of 2014.

Matt and his wife divide their time between England and the French Alps, with frequent trips to Asia. Matt Carrell is a nom de plume.  In today’s interview Matt explains, among other things, the game of soccer better than anyone ever has, in my opinion. I am pleased to welcome Matt Carrell here today.

KC: Let’s talk football. A game you call beautiful on your side of the pond and we Americans call Super, once a year. Tell me what is beautiful about the The Beautiful Game? I’m having a hard time figuring it out on my own. More people watch and cheer the game of soccer than any other. I’ll leave out the word, root, for now.

MC: Kevin, I think there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. I’d never call “soccer” a beautiful game, I’m just addicted to the spectacle. Humans are essentially tribal and if footballers didn’t play out our proxy wars for us, I’m pretty sure we’d be back to invading each other’s towns, burning houses and trying to kidnap the women folk. Fans vent their frustrations from a carefully segregated section of the stadium and trash-talk each other on web forums. If they couldn’t do that, they’d be killing each other. It’s not a sport so much as a cunning method of maintaining law and order amongst those who don’t buy into religion. The government loves it because it’s a neat distraction. They may be running the country into the ground but their incompetence pales into insignificance compared with that referee who denied your team a goal on Saturday afternoon.

The “beautiful game” is not in my heart, it just speaks to the dark side of my head.

American football is much simpler, it’s something for you guys to watch between the commercials!

KC: Your writing in Thai Kiss won me over in the first paragraph. Tell me the first paragraph or sentence from two of your favorite books  or stories you have written and then tell me your favorite opening line from any of your favorite works of fiction? 

MC: The hardest thing to achieve in any story is to keep the reader hooked, to make them want to know what happens next. If you want to upset an author here’s a foolproof method. When they ask if you’ve read their latest book you reply, “Well I started it.” There’s nothing worse than to hear that someone read a few pages and didn‘t feel compelled to stay up all night to finish it. The sooner you get your reader’s attention the better, but you’ve got to maintain that momentum through the story. One of my favorite reviews of Thai Lottery was a single word and I’m not even sure it’s a word. “Unputdownable!”

I don’t consciously try to deliver an attention grabbing first line but I’m sure it helps. Thai Kiss starts with:

When your best mate gets washed up on the beach with a hole in the back of his head, it’s time to reflect. I turned it over and over in my mind but there was only one conclusion. If I stuck around, I’d be next.”

I hope this gives the reader a pretty fair impression of what will happen next. The narrator has good reason to believe he is in danger and is going to have to abandon the life he has built for himself. I’m also trying to convey that the story is pacey and action packed.

My latest novel is called Vortex… the Endgame, the second book in the Vortex series. Chapter one starts with:

 “On one side of the sectarian divide, it was the brutal slaying of an heroic freedom fighter, on the other; the clinical execution of a ruthless terrorist. To an over-worked, underpaid Inspector in the Royal Ulster Constabulary it was just another ton of paperwork…”

 Again I hope it gives a flavour of what follows, violent death is an expected consequence of war. These days it happens all too often when the rest of the world is just trying to go about its business. The story is about the lengths some will go to, to further their business and political aims when others are just struggling to get by.

To answer the second part of your question I went to dig out all the books I possess which would make me look well read and quietly intellectual. Then I realised I don’t have any. I can’t say they are the very best opening lines but these two did grab me:

From Brighton Rock by Grahame Greene – “Hale knew before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell that he didn’t belong…” This is a great opening line, you get the sense of danger and the particular vulnerability of the character that’s being introduced. The smart money is not on Hale to survive.

From The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth – “It is cold at six-forty in the morning of a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.”  Again I think this is a great hook. The first time I read this I actually shivered.

For any writer who is worried that their first line isn’t sufficiently catchy to deliver them a best seller, I’ll offer you this, “I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair  – it just won’t behave…” I’m bored already that’s all I read, but it’s from 50 Shades of Grey, which I understand has been quite successful.

KC: Let’s shift gears away from sport in the interest of international harmony and away from 50 Shades of Grey, for this question at least.  Thailand is a mixed bag when it comes to the fiction authors. The general consensus is a lot of books produced by Thailand authors are sub-par as a group. In real estate the good properties pull up the value of the bad ones in the same neighborhood. But with authors in Thailand a case could be made that all the bad authors pull down the value of the good ones. Would you agree with that? Without naming any authors, at all, give me your impressions of the books written by Thailand based authors or books with Thailand themes? What is the upside of being an author in general if there is one, and what is the downside of being an author who writes fiction with a Thailand setting? 

MC: I’m an avid consumer of books set in Thailand and they certainly span the full range of the quality spectrum. Thailand is the perfect setting for a thriller. It offers a wonderful backdrop for the plot and the opportunity to introduce characters that don’t fit the usual stereotypes. The best writers seize that with both hands and offer an insight into a culture that will be completely new to many readers. When I had the initial idea for Vortex, a novel that takes financial crime as a central theme, I intended to set it in London. Switching it to Bangkok and Hong Kong gave the story an extra dimension.

The disappointing books fall into two categories. The first being those that really could be set anywhere in the world. “Got drunk, met a girl, made a dick of myself.” You don’t have to leave home to do that. The second is where the writer forgets that someone is paying cash for their book and the editing is poor and slipshod. Thai based books seem to have more than there fair share of bad grammar and random typos. When you get one of those that falls into the first category as well, it’s time to ask Amazon for a refund. Thailand is an extraordinary, complex country and the writers who help you to see what lies beyond the veneer, are giving their readers far more than those who write about their own back yard. There are plenty out there that deliver but, as you said, I’m not allowed to name names.

The upside of being an author is definitely the interaction with the people who’ve read my books. I often get messages asking me to bring back characters from previous books in whatever I write next. It’s a real kick to know that something I created has had that impact.

The downside is definitely that many people have a tendency to prejudge anyone who displays any sort of detailed knowledge of Thailand. My first two books focused on the bar scene and there’s an assumption that I couldn’t possibly know so much about it without being an enthusiastic participant. I’ve also written a short story about a high school shooting but, oddly enough, no-one thinks I’ve killed anyone.

KC: I want to talk about progress. I do not read Stephen King novels but I like, very much, what King writes on the subject of writing. What are you better at, now, than you were when you wrote your first book? How does one become a better writer other than writing a lot? Is it possible, given the opening salvo you’ve shared with us about Fifty Shades of Grey to define what a bad writer is? And finally what is easier to recognize, good writing or bad writing?

MC: I was incredibly lucky, my first book was taken up by a small boutique publisher called Aardwolfe Books. The editor for Thai Lottery was only interested in making it as good as it could possibly be and he didn’t spare my feelings. I’m still scarred by a note he put on one of my chapter endings, it said, “You probably think this is dramatic, it’s not.” He was right of course. I’d like to think my writing has always been strong on plot and in delivering plenty of twists and a good ending. With a lot of help from others I think I’m better now at creating a picture of what I want the reader to see in each scene and in fleshing out the characters so they feel like real people you can relate to. I’ve also learned to keep the story tight, eliminating the extraneous waffle that you might want to write but which isn’t key to the storyline.

If you want to improve as a writer I think you have to put your ego on one side. Encourage constructive criticism and try to get other experienced writers/editors to go through your books with a fine tooth-comb. You might not agree with everything they say but you’ll have learned something from the debate.

I wasn’t inspired by the first line of 50 Shades of Grey, and although I’ve read only a few lines from the rest of the book, it’s not for me. That’s not to say that EL James is a bad writer, quite the contrary. Anyone who has created something that people enjoy reading is a good writer. It’s rare to find an author who appeals to everyone, so as long as your books work for people outside your immediate circle, you pass the test. Excluding friends and family, if everyone else reading your stuff says it sucks, then you’re a bad writer.

An author’s task is to transport readers to another place, to make them eager to read the next page yet not want the book to end. I get irritated if I’m reading a book where the author fails to pull that off because of implausible plot lines, clumsy dialogue, bad grammar or multiple typos. I’d hesitate before calling that author a bad writer, however. If they are selling books and getting genuine positive reviews then their stuff is working for some people, just not for me.

I think bad writing is much easier to spot than good, you may not like classical music but you’ll know if the guy playing the piano is a novice. The same applies to novelists.


KC: Have you set any goals for yourself as a novelist? 

MC: I don’t see writing as a career, I had one of those and it left me somewhat disillusioned. I got into this because a story popped into my head that I thought would entertain people. Feedback from the publisher and from readers of my first book was better than I could ever have hoped and encouraged me to write more. As long as I think I can produce a good story and the positive reviews keep coming, I’ll keep writing. Obviously I’d like to see my books in every bookstore and most writers dream that one day they’ll get the call from a movie producer, but I’m realistic enough to know that is a distant dream. The biggest pay off I’ve had from writing has been the contacts I’ve made with other writers and readers of my books and everything I’ve learned whilst researching my stories. As long as I’m reaping those rewards, I’ll be happy.

KC: What makes you angry? 

MC: I just turned 55 and you don’t have time for me to tell you everything that makes me angry. I’m sure it’s an age thing. At the top of a very long list would be modern politics. I’m staggered at how venal and self-serving our leaders have been in recent years and appalled by the consequences of their poorly conceived actions. So many of our politicians have squandered the opportunity to make a real difference, choosing instead to ride the gravy train for as long as possible, with eye-catching short-term gimmicks rather than genuine long term solutions. I don’t see much chance of this trend reversing in the near future either. My second favourite bug bear is the media, which long ago stopped holding politicians to account and can now only be relied on to push its own agenda in a desperate rush for ratings and ad revenue. A good step forward would be if Mr Blair was to stand trial for his abuse of power. That would make me laugh.

KC: Thanks Matt for doing this interview long distance. I look forward to catching up with you the next time you are back in Bangkok.

MC: Thank-you, Kevin.


For more information regarding Matt and his novels go to:




200th Post at Thailand Footprint


Crackdown by Christopher G Moore - Kevin Cummings Book Review

As a resident of Thailand since 2001 reading and finishing a Vincent Calvino crime novel by Christopher G. Moore is akin to being presented with a gift. It comes with no strings or pretty bow attached.

I also liken reading a Christopher G. Moore novel to being outdoors, alone, on a nice day as you eat a delicious apple. Some bites snap off perfectly, with great pitch, and meet all your expectations. Once in awhile you spot an imaginary worm-hole that makes you pause. But the experience, overall, remains a satisfying one, especially when you get to the core of the story. Sentence by sentence I enjoyed CRACKDOWN, I read many of them twice.

CRACKDOWN is set in post coup Thailand and the insights Moore provides give the reader either an education or affirmation as to what they might know or think they know about life, illusions (and politics) in the Kingdom with a capital K. Moore shines a light on the plentiful black matter found in Bangkok with his signature noir style. CRACKDOWN is the 15th Vincent Calvino novel written by Moore, featuring the disbarred New York lawyer turned Bangkok P.I. and previously troubled shooter. The book may be considered the third in a trilogy starting with MISSING IN RANGOON and following THE MARRIAGE TREE. Readers who enjoyed one or both of those novels will find added pleasures in CRACKDOWN.

Moore takes you on a field trip complete with binoculars. Among the things you’ll see: University political dissidents using Banksy style art to get their message across, the life of an honorable Khmer tattoo artist, an unfinished 9 story condo that transforms itself into its dual role of slum dwelling and tourist attraction with small time thugs on top and big fish aplenty in the basement, Calvino’s white robe wearing, sage advice giving guru, and the behind the scenes attitude adjustment centers where happiness is born. Plus you get to know the lifestyles of high ranking policemen and their HiSo BMW driving wives. There’re more than a few dead bodies laying or floating around to remind you where you are and propel the mystery forward.

Technology plays a big role as does information gathering and high level computer science. You also get a retro 1990 re-creation of a computer-less Calvino office complete with his bun-hair wearing, saucy secretary Ratana thrown into the mix, just for a bit of nostalgia and contrast. For meet-ups with his disgruntled side-kick McPhail there’s a hamburger serving black van restaurant with the appetizing name of Road Kill along with an assortment of old Asia hands lamenting about the good old days, which have pased them by. Discussions among the veteran expats include the effects of the internet on the nightlife scene and the creative ways the Chinese use their black vans in Asia. Literary references are wide ranging including, Graham Greene, Joseph Heller, Lucian Freud, George Orwell and Henry Miller.

My niggle with the book it is that Moore doesn’t give us enough of Dr. Marley Solberg, the brilliant mathematician and algorithm specialist whom we last saw rocking away with Calvino in the stateroom of a fancy yacht in The Marriage Tree. Her presence is felt but she’s kept off the meandering map most of the time as Calvino navigates this journey solo. Keeping track of all the players involved in the Rohingya trafficking aspects of the novel proved trying for me, at times. It’s a novel Moore would not have written and probably could not have written twenty years ago. All in all I’m glad Vinnie lives to see another sunrise. There are more than enough messages to decipher; it all depends on how you want to unwrap the package.

As for any future Christopher G. Moore novels, I’ll read them the same way I live my days: one at a time, with appreciation for all the gifts they include.



Photograph of Christopher Minko by Jonathan van Smit

Christopher J. Minko was born in Australia in 1956, a child of European refugees and grew up outside a small Victoria bush town. From an arts and major event management background he spent a decade working for various Australian artistic and educational organizations, including the Moomba Festival and the Victorian Ministry for the Arts. He also served as events director for the Australian Football League’s Grand Final, the nation’s largest annual sporting event. Minko first came to Cambodia in 1996 as a technical advisor for the Cambodian Disabled Peoples Organisation, and went on start Cambodian Disability sport programs. In 2003, he founded the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled), which has become a model for sport and rehabilitation, and has also begun a countrywide wheelchair-racing program.

Minko and I have a mutual goal of bringing the Cambodia Women’s National Wheelchair basketball team over to Bangkok to play a Thai National team.

Christopher Minko is the lead man for the Cambodian noir band Krom, which made a historic three venue debut in Bangkok, Thailand in December of 2014. Krom strive towards originality at all times, they work acoustically and have the objective to establish a musical genre called contemporary Mekong Delta Blues, based on the merger of Delta Blues guitar work with the magic and mysticism of Khmer vocal sounds. Krom is unique on many levels, one of them being that they are a bilingual band, Khmer and English.

Thailand Footprint is pleased to have Christopher Minko back today to discuss, among other things, his new song Taliban Man.

KC: Christopher, welcome back for a second interview at Thailand Footprint. Our last interview went two parts and ended up in a couple of newspapers in Thailand and Cambodia. Lets see where this one goes. Today’s interview will be short, sweet and sour. You can’t escape sour in many Krom songs. And that’s putting it mildly. Taliban Man is no exception. It’s your latest release. Tell me where the inspiration came from and how long Krom worked on the song creatively once you had the lyrics down?

CM: Probably enough love songs floating about out there mate and someone has to do the dirty work and sing the songs that tell of the very sad reality of; it’s a mighty fucked up world out there at the moment and that we need to speak out or sing more about the grave social injustices and horrendous levels of violence and slavery that are enveloping this world.

It is the historical role and responsibility of the musical troubadour to write and sing about these issues, so in a world dominated by plastic mind numbing music and with very few troubadours left, that’s what Krom does (acknowledging author Christopher G Moore for that last reference to the role of the troubadour).

All KROM songs come from the heart – Like that master songwriter Willie Nelson said in a recent interview –“he doesn’t know where the songs come from – they just appear from somewhere (one doesn’t ask where…) and when they do appear in this unexplained way you make sure you damn well follow through with them” – I find similar – they fall into the Minko head (often unannounced) and in fact one is slightly tortured until they get recorded otherwise the song just keeps going around in the head which is not a good thing after a few days.

So with Taliban man –  I am the father of a now 21 year old daughter whom I raised on my own and of course I dearly love my daughter and am proud of her successes and growth into a confident woman – so I am a parent –When I heard of the Taliban massacre of the Pakistani schoolchildren – It somehow belted the shit out of me; the tragic and utterly insane concept of adults murdering innocent children is, for me, the ultimate act of cowardice and somewhere in the equation I see humanity as sliding downwards into an abyss of no morality covered by a cesspool of blood  and I am horrified that humanity can stoop so low with such acts of violence – The level of violence and selfishness that is swallowing the globe, deeply disturbs me along with the increasing use of children in warfare – so all of a sudden the following lines came into my head.

“Yeah, I’m the man

I’m a Taliban Man

I shoot little children

In the head

Ah gotta make sure

That they are dead”

….and from there came the song Taliban man

And it became, like so many Kromsongs; “a song that has to be sung.”

KC: The song opens with laughter and gunfire. Tell the story of Taliban Man to our readers as a lyricist might and then in broader fashion – how it could be interpreted by different listeners.

CM: Very simple / very blunt – Taliban man describes the ultimate act of cowardice carried out by so called “men” who slaughtered 165 Pakistani schoolchildren – Adults killing Children ! – a senseless, brutal violent act of  pure cowardice and the horror of this tragedy is described within the lyrics – the lyrics are very simple and are meant to be that way – To the point – for example

“A bullet in the chest

A broken breast

Her blood on the floor

Naked and raw”

Recognizing the complexity of the theme and the sensitivity of current global politics, I have included the below KROM statement about this song in order to avoid confusion or a misinterpretation of the song – however I very much stand by this song, as I repeat – It’s a song that needs to be sung and I do acknowledge that mockery is a very very powerful tool to campaign against violence in all its manifestations.

A KROM Statement: This KROM song is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of innocent children killed in war and civil conflict. The lyrics can be equally applied to the thousands of Jewish children gassed in Nazi concentration camps in WW2, to the multitude of children who died under the brutal regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, the recent kidnapping of innocent children by Boko Haram and the innocent children currently being killed by US drone bombs in Afghanistan. Saddest of all is the recognition that even in the 21st Century, humanity continues to use innocent children as tools of war and civil conflict.

KC: The Bangkok Post journalist Alan Parkhouse wrote a great article with the headline Dark sounds from the Cambodian soul in the December 18th, 2014 edition, prior to your three Bangkok events. Tell me what the Bangkok concert dates were like for you and the other members of Krom and when can we expect Krom back in Bangkok?

CM: We had a fantastic time in Bangkok for many reasons, great venues, finally a listening and attentive audience and wonderful and very professional hosting of the band by the 3 venue operators. Most of all I felt that KROM came of age in Bangkok. The band were very cohesive, travelled well together and by the third night we were all on a true natural high as a result of the music being made and the many positive responses to the music of KROM. It was also a wonderful opportunity for the band to meet many of the Bangkok based authors such as yourself and James Newman and many others whom I was delighted to finally meet in person and it gave me the opportunity to thank all of our KROM friends in Bangkok who are supporting the creative endeavours of KROM. I was also very proud of and humbled at the historical nature of the gigs given that KROM are one of the first Cambodian contemporary bands to perform in Bangkok due to the lack of cultural exchange between Thailand and Cambodia as a result of decades of unwarranted and politically manipulated animosity between the 2 nations. The Khmer members of the band were greeted at all times with open arms and respect by all of the Thais within the audiences – a truly great trip indeed and we are looking at returning to Bangkok for a minimum of 3 nights of performances in May of this year.

KC: Salmon Rushdie in a May 11th, 2012 New Yorker article titled simply, “On Censorship” wrote the following:

“Great art, or, let’s just say, more modestly, original art is never created in the safe middle ground, but always at the edge. Originality is dangerous. It challenges, questions, overturns assumptions, unsettles moral codes, disrespects sacred cows or other such entities. It can be shocking, or ugly, or, to use the catch-all term so beloved of the tabloid press, controversial. And if we believe in liberty, if we want the air we breathe to remain plentiful and breathable, this is the art whose right to exist we must not only defend, but celebrate. Art is not entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution.”

Talk about your art in the terms that Rushdie discusses. And also specifically the whole concept of rocking the boat. There are those out there – and I am sure you know this – that say, you shouldn’t rock the boat. Tell us, again if you have to because it is important, why the boat needs to be rocked. And if you can discuss the recent Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris, France in those same terms please do so.

CM: Great question, great quote  Mr. Kevin. Allow me to start this answer with quotes from three truly remarkable musicians who understood fully that original art is never created in a safe middle ground and there is no doubt that they also understood the responsibility they carried, not only in their lyrics but also in the quality of their musicianship and they knew that with both of these elements combined, pioneering works of powerful political musicianship were being created with their works revered to this very day.

From three great musicians:

“This machine kills fascists.”

Woody Guthrie

“The world is filled with people who are no longer needed — and who try to make slaves of all of us — and they have their music and we have ours.”

Woody Guthrie

“I know the police cause you trouble

They cause trouble everywhere

But when you die and go to heaven

You find no policeman there”

Woody Guthrie


“Slavery has never been abolished from America’s way of thinking.”

Nina Simone

“I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

Nina Simone

And a very important Q+ A with the legendary Pablo Casals. The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90 and he answered:

“Because I think I’m making progress.”

Krom does rock the boat in a musical world now dominated by mediocrity and artists subservient to the mundane musical meanderings of corporate greed and the power of the political lyric has sadly been lost.  Krom rock the boat quite deliberately. From the onset we set the objective to adhere to Pablo Casals advice in term of musicianship and to not hesitate to write lyrics about tragic social issues that often remain unspoken or only mentioned in a tokenistic sense when the world is now riddled with problems such as human and sexual slavery, being at the highest point ever in the history of humanity along with an ever increasing level of violence internationally including the murdering of thousands of innocent children as part of an accepted mechanism within warfare. Krom accepts its traditional role as the ancient troubadour: to observe and to write about life and sadly all its misery as we see it, and to be honest in that depiction with the hope that somewhere along the line the music and lyrics will assist to effect positive social change. The world does have the potential to be a remarkable place and there are truly inspiring individuals such as the recent Uruguayan president who resigned with a remarkable dignity and humility that is sadly missing in today’s world leaders. Krom does not seek to preach, we simply try to describe the world as it is, a world trapped in selfishness, greed, suffering and tragedy with problems that seem endless. Like Charlie Hebdo, Krom often use mockery within the lyrics as we recognize mockery’s power to counteract violence and social injustice.

Whilst our songs are often harsh and even brutal in their content we hope that Krom songs act as a catalyst for thought and that our music may assist the process of positive change “in a world where humanity has gone stark raving mad.” (From the Krom song, 7 Years Old – Her Body Sold). Even though our songs often ring of despair – Krom retains hope and please – don’t just listen to the words ( although we want you to !) – It’s also about the music as that’s what Krom is so Krom on!



Krom – L to Right: Christopher Minko, Sophea Chamroeun, Sopheak Chamroeun, Jimmy Baeck

Not Shown: bass guitar player and record producer James Mao Sokleap

(Photograph by Jonathan van Smit)

KC:  What’s the best way for our readers to support Krom by purchasing Taliban Man – where can we find it?

CM: In January 2015 Krom signed with Hong Kong’s Metal Postcard to promote sell and market Krom’s complete back catalogue and all future releases.

This is the statement from Sean Hocking the CEO and Founder of Metal Postcard Records:

Metal Postcard is thrilled to have Krom join the label. They are without doubt one of Asia’s most interesting and forward thinking acts tackling issues that you won’t be hearing any time soon in  C, M , K or J pop songs !  We look forward to getting Krom recognition worldwide.

(You can check out Metal Postcard Records on Facebook at: ).

[For a free download of the Krom song Don’t Go Away from BandCamp click here ].

KC: Thanks, Christopher for coming back to discuss the latest Krom happenings here at Thailand Footprint.

CM: Anytime, mate.



Follow Krom on Facebook:

And @KromSong on Twitter:!/KromSong

Official Krom website:








I really enjoyed my visit to the Henry Miller Memorial Museum in Big Sur, California last summer. A timeless respite, which I plan to visit again.


Writing and the spirit of Henry Miller are on my mind. Here is one of many quotes from Henry gleaned from a book I purchased while in Big Sur titled,  Henry Miller on Writing:

”I began in absolute chaos and darkness, in a bog or swamp of ideas and emotions and experiences. Even now I do not consider myself a writer, in the ordinary sense of the word. I am a man telling the story of his life, a process which appears more and more inexhaustible as I go on. Like the world-evolution, it is endless. It is a turning inside out, a voyaging through X dimensions, with the result that somewhere along the way one discovers that what one has to tell is not nearly so important as the telling itself.” Henry Miller



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Today we’ll run a reader’s poll on whether or not you, the reader of Thailand Footprint, like a poem or not?

But first, people have been asking when my book, Bangkok Beat, will be out? Well, two people – one family member and one apparent stalker who I think wants to retaliate for a lukewarm book review I gave a long time ago. But interest is interest in the 21st Century publishing world.

3dcover 28feb2015 (2)

The paperback and Ebook will launch simultaneously, hopefully by late-March or Early April. It will contain new stories and previously published blog posts from Thailand Footprint. Plus a great chapter on the iconic Bangkok cabaret bar, Check Inn 99. In addition standalone chapters will include six noir poems written by the Poet Noir, John Gartland and a wonderful story written by Thom H. Locke about the legendary Mama-san of Check Inn 99, Mama Noi, titled The Beauty of Isaan. Stay tuned. Ebook price will be $4.99. Paperback $12.99.

I wrote Bangkok Beat to please two people: Check Inn 99 owner Chris Catto-Smith and me. We’re almost there. Anyone else it pleases will be a bonus.

One of my all time favorite writers is Kurt Vonnegut. Lately, I’ve been re-reading his book of short stories, the 50th Anniversary edition of Welcome to the Monkey House, which I picked up at The Elliot Bay Book Company, when I was in Seattle, Washington for a few days in May of 2014. I am really enjoying some of Vonnegut’s earliest brilliance. If you haven’t read any Vonnegut in awhile or never have, this is a good one to go back to in order to rediscover the genius of his writing.  He is popular for a reason – he’s good. Here is what the original cover looked like when it first came out in the 1960s:

Monkey House

I cannot imagine a world without Vonnegut wisdom. It has served me well since I was a University Freshman and 18 years old. Here’s a quote I have always liked from his novel, A Man Without A Country:

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

― Kurt Vonnegut,

I agree with Vonnegut on the substance of the above quote, as I often do.

Here is where you, the reader, come in. Below is a poem. The author is not me – that’s all I will say at this point in time. What I’d like you to do, is read the poem and then take the poll, if you are so inclined. Most people are not inclined to take polls. I realize that, but we’ll give it the old college try. The poll will run for 48 hours – two days. Give it a go. It may be fun.


Here’s the poll. The poll is now closed. Thanks to all those who voted. I liked the poem. So did 11 other people. Only 3 against. You can view the results below. Thanks for the feedback. It was helpful!


City Pulse


Tonight we’ll light the neon. We’ll bring the wanderers home.

Spark up the coals and call the ships to port.

Come light up your contours from the inside and the shadows will fascinate the crowd.

You’ll see your will is marked when it’s lit from within.


The panic zone is all four walls, a melting realm of mirrors.

Complication is the comfort zone, mania the state of grace.

We are worms, pilgrim, we are tarnished coins.

It’s show time, your darkest hour.


You edge along the gills of the night, your heart aflame with burning songs.

You turn from your past for a more compelling now.

Facts are abandoned for superior fantasies, and who can stand to miss the fun?

Skiffs and brigantines glide like underwater shadows to ply the trade.


Come and set your fever loose to run between electric islands.

Welcome to the lucid trance where your quickened blood turns to ink.

The patient night is waiting for all you have to give.

It’s you again, walking into our midnight arms to create us.


You prowling sifters are mining the tangled gossamer yarns,

Paralyzing them in the amber strobe of your art.

You darken the doors, and then you darken the rest of the street.

You invite us, and we follow because we sense the importance of the journey.


A wheel has finished spinning – to pause and then reverse.

This blazing gyre is a vision of exhausted motion.

The city is busy erasing its inhabitants and their seasons.

You are only done when we are done with you.

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Kevin Cummings:

A blog post re-blogged from Pete, the Expatriate on his transitions, from world traveller, to international lawyer, to author. Looks like a blog worth following …

Originally posted on The Expatriate:

Nang Nak Banner Nang Nak Banner

Mae Nak Phrakanong or Nang Nak, the Ghost of Phrakanong, is the most famous ghost story in Thailand.  However, most Thais don’t consider it just a story, but believe it is tied to real events.  For me, the story of Mae Nak is of particular interest because I grew up in the middle of Phrakanong and witnessed the locals’ fears when unexplained creepy events took place in our neighbourhood.

For those who are unfamiliar with Bangkok, Phrakanong today is a district of that mega-city.  Sukhumvit runs right through it and it is located next door to Khlong Toey and just east of the main expat ghetto.  The events concerning Nang Nak are thought to have occurred in the 1830s and Phrakanong at that time was a small riverside market town situated along the Phrakanong canal.  In those days, it was a lot more isolated from the capital.

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How to Read a Poem?


The current state of Poetry is that there are a spate of aspirants and a dearth of audience.  There is also a spate of hierarchy and a dearth of quality.  You needn’t read much further to deduce this latter than the current “Best American Poetry 2014”.  I’m two thirds the way through my reading of it, and I’ve come across four poems I’d read again, none especially timeless, and yet, nearly to a person their bios detail honors, awards, recipientships, publications, fellowships, and prestigious academic positions up the yin yang.  The introductions and bios run for pages and pages.  Topically, the poems run the same playlist as People Magazine, Facebook and the tabloids.

So.  Here we have me, just one person – some tiny little non-entity, who writes poetry with some small success with a nearly non-existent audience, from a fly-over state, – versus, them…Click below to read entire blog post:

via Culture.

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Courtesy of MoonFruit Comics

No. I don’t believe everyone is a dick. But there are a lot of dicks on the planet and sometimes I think Thailand is the #1 dick country in the world. That makes sense, since the economy of Thailand, if not a good chunk of their GDP, has long depended on dicks. But I’m not talking about flaccid dicks or rigid dicks, I am talking about your basic everyday dick.

Dick: 1.  An adjective to describe a guy who is a jerk or does mean and stupid things.

2.An abrasive man. (Source: Urban Dictionary).


You don’t have to be named Dick to be a dick. But sometimes it’s a bonus. Like Tricky Dick Nixon or Dick Cheney. Cheney’s been a dick for a long time. I’m pretty sure even hard core Republicans would tell you Cheney is a big dick.

In literature, you have Herman Melville’s, Moby Dick but it’s actually the protagonist, Captain Ahab that is the real dick in that novel. What the great white whale did was always understandable. Not so with Ahab. What a dick.


I can be a dick; I know that. But I like to think that I am a dick to the dicks. The problem with two dicks going at it is no one will agree on who was the first dick. It always seems so clear to me. I think my dick meter is pretty accurate, subject to a margin of error of 5%, usually low. Agreeing on who was a dick first is like finding out someone doesn’t like you. It’s okay, you rationalize, because you didn’t like them first. It’s the same with dicks. You’ll be a dick back to a dick and the dick will think you’re the dick not realizing he’s the dick.

I did a book review for a Dick once. More than once, actually. This one has a web site, which he created, that has whatadick in the url address. Usually people talk about the dicks when they are not around, as in: “What a dick, he is.” And that may explain why there are so many dicks. There seems to be an element of pride about being a dick. And it doesn’t seem to matter if you are the first dick or the second dick, which is good because no one ever agrees on who was the first dick, anyway.

Can women be dicks? If men can be pussies surely women can be dicks. According to the above Urban Dictionary definitions, it would appear not. But that seems unfair to me and we live in age when people act like dicks when life is unfair. I’ve known some women dicks, but again it’s possible, I suppose, that they thought I was a dick before them. There’s a fine line between first dick and second dick.

Recently there has been some talk of vagina culture. I admit I know little about it. But I think I know a lot about dick culture. What makes a dick? Good question. If someone tears down a man of great accomplishments over petty reasons, I think that makes you a dick. Particularly if you tear down someone I like, such as Christopher Hitchens. If you dis Hitch you’re a dick in my book. A first dick, too. There is a bit of irony there, because even I will admit that Hitchens could be a big dick. But he did it with such class, I am sure he’d come up with a much better word for being a dick than, dick. Hitchens would pull a Philip Roth line out of his magnificent vocabulary. Anyone can call someone a wanker but it was Roth who got it down to an art form when he was talking dick:  “I am the Raskolnikov of jerking off.” He wrote in Portnoy’s Complaint. I miss Hitch. Roth stopped writing about dicks but he is still going strong at age 81. A sure sign someone is not a dick is when you miss them. No one misses a first class dick, although I’d have to be a dick not to admit that I could be wrong about that.

Is there good advice for dicks? Don’t be a dick would seem to be the no brainer, but does that include the second dicks? If there were no second dicks the first dicks would go around unencumbered by their dickness. The second dicks serve a potential purpose, to encumber the first dicks dick progress, provided you can agree on who the first dick is, and if you’ve learned anything in this dick tale it is that, while no two dicks are alike, the first dick can be in denial about his level of dickness.

So there you have it, my take on dicks. I say, knock yourself out and be a dick, sometimes, not all the time, as my wise wife likes to tell me. But only if the first dick doesn’t own up to being a dick. Or you could just ignore the dicks and do your best not to be around dicks. That’s probably the better idea. You’d have to be a real dick not to at least consider it.


Metaphors of Death

[Here is a book review I wrote for Chiang Mai City News a few months back but never got around to posting here]:

Metaphors of Death is written by former Chiang Mai resident and Netherlands author, Dick Holzhaus. The plot involves philosophizing reporter, Tom Terrence for LannaLife Online. In spite of the facts (or perhaps because of them) that Tom is a former glue sniffing teen from England, with drug and alcohol addictions, he has been offered a promotion from the food and entertainment magazine to that of Editor for a planned online legitimate newspaper. Tom’s also a misogynist or a whore lover, depending upon your point of view, with a penchant for variety of all kinds as long as it doesn’t involve material possessions.

The story opens with a poisoned batch of yaa baa making the rounds through the Rose of the North. Tom likes his medicine crazy, he buys a bag, smokes it and ends up spending a week in a coma. He awakes to learn that the same faulty meth he purchased has claimed the lives of three foreigners plus a Colonel in the Royal Thai Police. One of the dead may have been murdered and gay rape is involved because, why not? This gets the attention of the BBC who wish to take care of their own and take on the Thai  police and military brass as well. A turf war and cover-up over major drug trafficking is in the mix. Jon a well-connected Thai national and owner/publisher of LannaLife Online cooperates with the BBC on the story and Tom ends up assigned as translator and peer for BBC journalist, Rick Drummond.

An international drug and death investigation story in tourist-town Mecca coincides with the launch of the online newspaper. The chance for Tom to become a real alcoholic-journalist appears to be in the cards. His future’s so bright he’s gotta wear Ray Ban’s. There is also a dogeared manuscript Tom has been working on for years as a struggling writer, preserved in a plastic bag. It is either potential kindling for a fire or Booker Prize material, depending on Tom’s meds. Our leading man still finds time for a genuine romantic interest to appear and she neatly doubles as a helpful editor.

I’ll let the brooding prose of Dick Holzhaus take over from here:

On Tom’s abode:

My one room apartment is deliberately depressing. I’m a prisoner of life so I live in a cell. It’s shabbiness reminds me of being a convict, my penal servitude lies on the rickety table against the wall.

On the mountains of Chiang Mai:

I like sitting in the dark on the mountainside next to someone who is new here and looks at it with different eyes. That really makes me belong here. Then I realize my confidence is backed by the cabin behind me. However familiar as a view, at nightfall the jungle becomes alien territory. This world turns pitch black for a change of shifts, pieces of bark and soil move and life forms that can see in the dark appear. Distant fires flicker through the canopy, not spreading their light, just glowing pin pricks in a black vacuum.

On Tom’s favorite philosopher:

Celine never theorized, he is the only philosopher that truly dissected the nature of humankind by describing revealing events. Maybe a proper war would help my writing.

On drugs and alcohol:

If I don’t take control soon, alcohol and drugs will be the end of me. Tonight is Friday, so that’s okay, everybody has a drink on Friday. I look at my glass, still half full with this treacherous stuff. Burping in my fist I realize I might be expelling pure alcohol fumes. I have to find out if I’m a dragon. I swallow air and burp loud at the candle on the table, it extinguishes.

On western women:

Straight western women have the worst deal here. Thai men find them big, smelly and bossy. The few white women that have relationships with Thai men are looked down upon by their peers. Having sex with animals would be less dishonouring.

On prostitution: 

Our initial rent negotiations consisted of Adelina instructing me how she wants it and after some fine tuning that’s how she gets it … That’s how I earn fifty percent discount in weekly installments. After two months I still find the paying rent exciting. I like being a male prostitute.

On Tom’s view of Bangkok:

I don’t see a thriving society. Bangkok is way past livability. I would die here in two months. Everything is upside down; filth and crime have become integral parts of this pool of doom. The glamorous high rises are all paid for with drug money.

On Bangkok water taxis:

I would never sit inside a water-taxi. I can picture the scene when that thing hits a tow-boat at full speed. The captain and crew are in a world of their own. Thais change when they control motorized vehicles; no more sabai-sabai, no more graeng jai, no more smile.

On the BBC:

We are the bloody BBC! We are not impressed by police officers that think they’re bleedin’ emperors. We have two dead Brits here, murdered or killed in a popular tourist destination. We are going to find out all there is to know. Period.

On family: 

…the front door opens and my older sister appears. Still living here; too ugly to marry, I guess. I point at her while I shout at my mother. “Why could she stay and I not?”

Despite the Gloomy Gus tone throughout the book, Metaphors of Death has a happy ending – several, actually. Things work out well for LannaLife and Tom’s career.  I would have liked to have seen more of an antagonist character developed for Tom to take on, besides Bangkok and western women, I mean. The drug dealer was a possibility but he vanishes after the first third of the book. More of the well-heeled Jon and the minimalist Tom in the newsroom would have been another enjoyable scenario – like a reverse gender Perry White and Lois Lane from The Daily Planet.

For readers looking for a peculiar yarn, featuring a quirky yet oddly likable protagonist tethered mostly to an accurate Chiang Mai backdrop, Metaphors of Death by former ad man, Dick Holzhaus may be right up your alley.  At 160 pages, it can easily be read on one long flight. Ebook may be found through Spanking Pulp Press, Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble.



For more information about the author go to:

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henry miller (1)


Click the picture above to goto an essay: Thoughts on Henry Miller and Surrealism

By Robert Stanley Martin

Henry Miller Quote of the Month:

“I speak in cosmological terms because it seems to me that is the only possible way to think if one is truly alive. I think this way also because it is just the opposite of the way I thought a few years back when I had what is called hopes. Hope is a bad thing. It means that you are not what you want to be. It means that part of you is dead, if not all of you. It means that you entertain illusions.”
Henry Miller – Henry Miller on Writing

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Chaska Potter, Mai Bloomfield, Becky Gebhardt, Mona Tavakoli, Jason Mraz


“Isn’t she magical? My sister Roxanne asked, about her daughter, Chaska who had raced down the hall and hung a hard left. My Mom was dying of cancer on my King size bed in Mountain View, California and Rox had come up as part of the hospice team we had put together. My roommate, Sam had moved out of the two bedroom apartment. I was staying in his room so my two sisters and I plus an angel of a hospice nurse could manage the unthinkable.


 Marion Cunningham

Chaska knew Marion was dying. She just didn’t care. She was happy to be seeing her Grandma, right now. She was about 6 years old and her clean dirty blonde hair, with no exaggeration, almost reached her ankles. Except when she flew down that hallway. Then it wafted behind her, waist high.  Chaska had hopped up on the bed of Grandma Marion Cunningham by the time I got to the somber room. Only it wasn’t somber, anymore. Because Chaska was happy. And for some precious moments so was everyone in the room.

Chaska Potter Serena Potter

 Top to Bottom: Chaska Potter with older sister Serena Potter

Singing always played a big part in Chaska’s family. I remember singing Cyndi Lauper tunes with her and the clan: True Colors and Time after Time come to mind.

Kevin Cummings with family

L to R Roxanne Cummings, Jeremy Potter, Belle Potter (in Roxanne’s arms) Kevin Cummings, Serena Potter, Jim Tillson (brother-in-law) Skipper Cummings, Oriana Potter (the short one) and Chaska Potter

Chaska usually made me happy, when I saw her. And I would see her a lot over the next 30 years. As she got older, you could tell, early, she was going be a great athlete. Even better than her brother, Jeremy. And Jeremy was no slouch. In her sophomore year of High School, she averaged 19 rebounds a game on her varsity basketball team. The next highest person in the entire county averaged 14. I was a basketball junkie and an Uncle, so I wrote the legendary Stanford women’s basketball coach, Tara VanDerveer and told her about Chaska. The assistant coach wrote her back. I offered to pay for her basketball camp between her sophomore and junior year at the prestigious school. There was just one problem: Chaska didn’t love basketball. She loved volleyball. You can’t win them all, but you can try. Chaska loved volleyball enough to be third team High School All American and play on a Junior National Championship team that featured future Stanford All American, Keri Walsh. She was named not Santa Cruz County Female Athlete of the Year – she got it for the decade. Chaska got a full ride to U.C.L.A. where she was all Academic Pac 10 Conference. All was going well until she blew out her rotator cuff, learning to serve left-handed by her Senior year.

Kevin Cummings Hard Rock Hotel

Kevin Cummings and Chaska Potter

When she graduated from U.C.L.A. I thought she still could have made an WNBA team. I really did. But once again she went with, love. And a career much easier on the knees and shoulders, music. She joined an established band of female musicians called Raining Jane. They were good, I thought. Why wouldn’t I? Over the years I saw Raining Jane composed of Mai Bloomfied, Becky Gebhardt and the cool as Antarctica cajon player Mona Tavakoli play at coffee houses, free concerts outside a bookshop in Santa Barbara and a High Tech firm in Silicon Valley. Then they opened for Sara Bareilles at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, California among no more than 50 people while Sara’s Mom sat on the bar. The bar itself smelled of stale beer and dusty hardwood floors.

A YouTube video from almost 10 years ago. A lot of miles logged since this video was made.

Another great memory I have of Chaska was at a very large family gathering. At a Ramayana play in Salinas, California when I introduced my wife to the family. Later, Chaska uttered what is now one of my favorite quotes:

Everybody’s here…How awkward. – Chaska Potter



Chaska Potter, laughing

You’ve gotta love honesty. Then RJ played Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, The Great American Music Hall and Fillmore West in San Francisco and Ratree and I were there for those too. Things were looking up. After 14 years and 200,000 miles logged on a van they toured in. (Granted I do not know how many miles were on the van when they bought it.) After January concerts in Anchorage, Alaska. Skidding on icy mid-western highways, playing before college crowds of as few as 60, Raining Jane got lucky. Or was it something else? Jason Mraz and his management team agreed that of all the songs Jason had written, the best 75%  were co-writing collaborations with Raining Jane. The result, Jason and Raining Jane collaborating on the Yes! album where all five receive co-writing credits.

The Yes! album has done well at one point being the #1 selling album in the world. The tour dates usually sell out, quickly. Whatever you think of Jason Mraz he is the rarest of entertainers. As the saying goes, he puts butts in the seats. His voice and lyrics are also amazing as is his showmanship and concern for people and the earth. In high school back in Virginia, Jason was the lone male cheerleader, traveling with the girls to different schools. He gets to do it again, at a different level, with the ladies now. Lucky guy.



Tomorrow, January 30th, 2015, tickets will go on sale for a Saturday, March 21st 2015 concert of Jason Mraz and Raining Jane. I’ll be in the line. Part of a world concert tour that has seen them play well over 50 times already in cities around the globe, often in historic venues. My wife and I will be at Impact Arena that night. I’ll try and see if I can get my friend, Alasdair a photographer’s pass. It never hurts to reach out to family.


Kevin Cummings and wife, Ratree at Jason Mraz concert in Bangkok, Thailand on my birthday in 2012

Six months to the day from when that picture was taken, on December 16th, 2012, Jason Mraz and Mona Tavakoli headlined the Milestone Concert in Myanmar to raise awareness about human trafficking; the first international artist to play an open-air concert in Myanmar, which drew 70,000 people near the Shwedegon pagoda  and only one of a few major American artists to be invited to play in Myanmar in the last 80 years.  The others being Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Charlie Byrd.

Jason MrazRainingJane

Henry Miller said, “Forget yourself.” And his message is a good one. National pride is mostly silly. But there is a place for family pride. If you made it this far, thanks for reading about one of the things I am proud of – my niece. I’m also very proud and very happy for every member of Raining Jane and Jason Mraz too. It’s lucky for me to have a rock star for a relative. But then, I think all my nieces and nephews are rock stars. Everyone of them. See you at the show.

The World According to Gop by Kevin Cummings Illustrated by Colin Cotterill


Kevin Cummings Thailand Footprint blog


Thailand Footprint is pleased to announce a collaboration and the addition of a new feature: The World According to Gop. A monthly cartoon, featuring Gop the frog in the coconut shell. Talented drawings all done by an award winning author living La Vida Loca down in the south of Thailand. His signature is evident in its own unique style. If and when he starts to think the strip is getting funny he may include a second signature. Kevin Cummings takes responsibility for the writing and humor, absent or present. Welcome to Gop’s World.


Bangkok Beat Final

I am pleased to announce the launch of the paperback edition of Bangkok Beat via Create Space store and The book is now available at Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Europe and Amazon Australia as well. The eBook is also available at Amazon and the outlets listed below.
In addition and order has been made from Create Space which will enable Bangkok Beat to be sold directly from this web site and also directly at Checkinn99 located forever between Sukhumvit Soi 5 and Soi 7 in Bangkok, Thailand. Don’t look for the sign. It’s gone. The book sells for baht 400 at Checkinn99.

Here is what people are saying about Bangkok Beat and Check Inn 99:

In a Bangkok which is quickly destroying all signs of its past glories in favor of shopping malls, Check Inn 99 stands as a beacon of hope to those of us old enough to remember it in all its mutations and still young enough to enjoy it as it is now. Bangkok Beat, in a series of short stories, up close interviews and artist profiles, chronicles some of the amazing history, people and entertainment found in Bangkok and often at Check Inn 99. Many of the stories have been provided by the very creative owner, Chris Catto-Smith and his dedicated staff.

Dean Barrett, author of Kingdom of Make Believe, Hangman’s Point, and Pop Darrell’s Last Case


Bangkok 2015 is like Paris circa 1900 or Berlin in the 1920’s & 30’s, a vortex of noir where artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, journalists and musicians search deep into the darknesss for a glimpse of humanity and hope…..Kevin Cummings is one of the brave souls walking on the edge of the darkness in order to document its depth and breadth.

Chris Coles, artist & author of NAVIGATING THE BANGKOK NOIR


A fascinating collection of interviews, literature reviews and stories from Thailand and the region. Kevin focuses on one of his favorite expat nightlife venues — Bangkok’s Check Inn 99 — with accounts about musicians, poets, authors and other night owls.

 Melissa Ray, 4 Time Muay Ying Champion in Thailand and blogger of Muay Thai on the Brain


Chris​ Catto-Smith has a pig headed determination to give a voice to the often unheard talents of, writers, poets, actors, singers and artists.​ Check Inn 99 is a highly refreshing venue​ in a stagnating entertainment scene that only seems concerned with cheap copy bands that have churned out the same old tunes, ​forever. Chris, and those who support his vision, such as Thailand Footprint blogger Kevin Cummings whose new book, Bangkok Beat, is a collection of real events including entertaining stories involving the colorful history of Check Inn 99, could well drag Bangkok kicking and screaming into a brave new world, which it will be thankful for in the end because… it doesn’t get any better than this.

Kevin Wood, singer, musician, actor and author of, Opium Sparrows


Bangkok Beat is now available at all Amazon and Create Space stores as well as


Oyster Books app



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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. (Not bad considering I took time off).

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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