Are you a fan of GG Allin? Are you more likely to read Mike Fook than John Burdett or Lawrence Osborne? Do you remember how Chris Rock understood O.J. and empathized with the Juice? Does your comedic sense of timing go more to Sam Kinison than Bill Cosby? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Dead Bangkok – A Novel of Thailand by J.D. Villines may be the apocalyptic Zombie flesh eating ghost thriller that you have been waiting for your entire life.
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As Zombie thrillers go this is the best one I have ever read. I should qualify that I have never read John Russo’s Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman …. or any other walking dead book ever written for that matter. But, hey, everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no better place for a Thailand Zombie ghost thriller than the corroded razer sharp mind of J.D. Villines. His style is not so much like getting a smooth shave as it is watching a hemophiliac try and stop a nose bleed. Villines delivers his prose with the tat tat tat of a Craftsman nail gun bought outside your corner 7/11 store from a perfect stranger.
As our story unfolds an outbreak of brain parasites has turned the living into flesh eating cannibals. Our protagonist, Joel, is a manly man who longs for the days when there were no bills to pay and “A man’s worth would be measured by how well he could swing a machete.” He gets his wish and then some. There are Conan poses to be made and at least one war cry to whoop. Along the way he also gets to throw some grenades, expensive Molotov cocktails, and one well hardened turd of his own meditative making.
Nok is Joel’s Thai girlfriend who is along for the adventure and their relationship is a joy to read about as the expat from California tightropes that fine line between love and hate, talking his Tarzan Thai and making his Tarzan love. The reader can tell Joel does care about Nok, despite his homicidal tendencies. “I had wanted to kill many people in Los Angeles, for no other reason other than that they irritated me.” Of course who hasn’t had the following thought going on in Joel’s drug fueled synapses if you have ever been in a relationship of any length, “My mind was flooded with thoughts on how to kill her.” At one point Joel offers Nok some kind advice, “Honey, if something bad happens; kill yourself okay?”
Joel notices that the best defense against Zombiehood is to be in a perpetual state of drug and/or alcohol intoxication. This explains the pockets of life existing in Bangkok amidst the parasite carrying flesh eaters. It also supports why his new best friend, Vato, a drug dealer has survived although not exactly thrived. Joel is the sharpest crayon in this colorful box of Crayolas. Before the threesome head to Pattaya, (another pocket of the living hung over) they meet up with a lady boy named Esmerelda who has a Paris Hilton transplanted face. She becomes the equivalent of the black guy in a 1970s action movie. We know when the face starts to rot if anyone is going to die next it will probably be Paris Redux. She was fun while she lasted.
When Joel and Vato see a fat woman in big underwear Joel thinks her bra will make the perfect slingshot to be used for humanitarian efforts among the parasite afflicted who have unwisely practiced sobriety. It’s a scene I would love to see on the big screen some day, including the attempt at a double leg take down. It turns out, “Fat bitch is a pro wrestler.” And we haven’t even gotten to Pattaya yet.
The action really picks up once they reach the family town by the sea. Some of it I quite liked such as the frequent shadowy ghosts, some of it a bit too scatological and Japanese for me. Give me Linda Blair and some green projectile vomit; I’m a simple man. Maybe this whole Zombie worm flesh eating genre is an acquired taste, like Vegemite. There’s a paranormal government study sub-plot involving a mind altering toupee that also adds to the fun. As another reviewer noted, we could have used more of the Joel / Nok banter, tension and confusion as the writing and humor consistently shined in that arena.
What I absolutely loved about Dead Bangkok – A Novel of Thailand , in addition to the ending, is the author uses his considerable imagination to the max and only sprinkles in his knowledge and understanding of Thailand when it adds to the story. As it did frequently with his Thai ghost references. This is a well written tale for fans of the genre. And even if you are not the brisk pace, macabre humor, and sheer transparency into the human mind will keep you turning the page. Go for it, one and all.
There is nothing worse for a reading experience than a book that cannot compete with what you did during a memorable summer vacation. That’s not the case here. Thanks to the first time author for the inside look at someone Rick James would have dug hanging out with. Dead Bangkok is a super freaky book; the kind you don’t take home to mother.
The author, J.D. Villines boxing the shadows in his mind as the owner and instructor at Echo Park Boxing Gym located in Echo Park, California