There has been a military coup in Thailand. Martial law is in place. Tough decisions have to be made. Like what to read? My most recent choice was GOD OF DARKNESS by Christopher G. Moore (Heaven Lake Press 1999 – 2nd Edition, Amazon 2010). The Canadian born author is best known for his Smiles trilogy beginning with A Killing Smile, first published in 1991 and his Vincent Calvino crime series now going 14 strong – the most recent being, The Marriage Tree (Heaven Lake Press 2014). Moore’s stand alone fiction is worth consideration.
When it comes to fiction or movies there is no shortage of choices out there, with many of them being bad or mediocre. As for cinema, you can stay at home and watch an HBO movie, go out and catch a blockbuster with a matching McDonald’s plastic cup or head down to your local art house and view a foreign produced film. Reading GOD OF DARKNESS was like watching an art house film, for me. And that wasn’t always good. Because I have the attention span in those films to wonder if they are still selling the buttered popcorn at the 1/2 way mark or why all theatres don’t save on labor by having the same person who sells you the ticket tear it in half also? I found either the book or my mind meandering at times during my reading of G.O.D.
And yet, just as when you walk home after the conclusion of a good art house film that confused you for a scene or two, I was completely satisfied at the end of this 320 page novel, which I would categorize as both a thriller and historical fiction. What Moore does so well is, like a paratrooper, parachute the reader into hostile territory that would otherwise be inaccessible. In PATTAYA 24/7 Moore takes you into the lush estate of a wealthy concert pianist and the lifestyle that goes with it. In ZERO HOUR in Phnom Penh you are admitted into the despair of a Cambodian prison. In GAMBLING ON MAGIC you are inside the heads of bookmakers, winners, losers, high rollers and low rollers. In G.O.D. you are behind the high walls of a wealthy Thai family compound. One that just happens to make frequent offerings to Rahu, the God of Darkness.
RAHU – THE GOD OF DARKNESS
GOD OF DARKNESS is set in 1997, mostly in Bangkok, during the Asian economic crisis. Thailand is no stranger to crisis as the current times reflect. Moore has written a wonderful time capsule of this roller coaster, crash and burn period. You land in a Bangkok high society family compound where the central character, Hurley has been convinced by his girlfriend’s family to leave the comfort of Seattle, Washington to become part of something he had not anticipated and never experienced in his young life. The drama unfolds when Hurley moves out and it is unclear whether he will return and marry the beautiful May under the heavy handed influence of powerful, potential in-laws. Additional characters include Hurley’s 73 year old former professor flying into Bangkok in order to find a Thai wife, a masturbating monkey, a cold blooded hit man and a ditched mia noi. Moore is not a cookie cutter writer. He takes chances. An example would be his use of settings. A short time motel room is not particularly clever for Bangkok fiction. But Moore chooses to use that scene. Twice. Two years apart. The same mirrored room. Once for the scene of a murder and a great education for the reader in the realities of privilege, face, ranking and Thai Criminology 101. A second time the unlikely room is used as a safe house, a rapid fire courtship and a marriage proposal. It is all believable in the good times and bad times of anything goes Bangkok. Another strength of Moore is examining what is right in front of us every day in Thailand. An example: Ancients. Moore’s term for old people. He uses the word with aplomb dozens of times and each time it seemed better than before. I never tired of it. Moore gives us some of his best writing for last. As Moore puts it: “Life is swimming to shore with cowboy boots on.” We get a good slice of that life in GOD OF DARKNESS. It’s a bit of a reverse Cinderella story with plenty of good intentions and malfeasance to go around.
GOD OF DARKNESS is not for everyone. If you like your protagonist to be 6’5″ and 250 lbs and roam around the United States a lot in lonely fashion only to be played later by a 5’9″ ex high school wrestler on the big screen then there are other choices for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer accurate interpretations of Thai behavior and want insight into the Asian economic crisis of 1997 or just want to know what goes on behind those high walls in those expensive Bangkok neighborhoods while getting a good thriller of a ride then read GOD OF DARKNESS by Christopher G. Moore. You’ll be glad you did.
This post may also be seen at Chiang Mai City News by clicking the above banner