Thailand Footprint: The People, Things, Literature, and Music of Thailand and the Region
Bangkok based crime fiction writer, Anthony Perry
(Photograph by Jim Darkle)
I am a big fan of Christopher Hitchens. His stance on the Iraq War never bothered me much. You weren’t a real fan of Hitch if that swayed you away. Nobody’s perfect. Hitchens left behind a lot of wisdom. Among the quotes I like of his is this one:
“One should try to write as if posthumously. Because then you’re free of all the inhibition that can cluster around even the most independent-minded writer. You don’t really care about public opinion now, you don’t mind about sales, you don’t care what the critics say. You don’t even care what your friends, your peers, your beloved think. You’re free. Death is a very liberating thought. ” Christopher Hitchens
Anthony Perry is not perfect either. Given enough time I am convinced I will become a fan of the author, too. In fact I already am, although I have not read his novel, Lyle’s Grief, yet.
Why a fan, you might ask?
I did read this one and only passage written by Anthony Perry in a Facebook Thailand Expat Writer’s List group. Out of the blue, it seemed to me, Anthony wrote:
I wasted decades smoking weed, heroin, cocaine, stealing, collecting holocaust art, Alfred Manning, Russel Flint, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Thomas Moorcroft, Royal Worcester, Georgian Silver and obsessing over chemical equilibrium. Along the way I had five children, five black children cursed with a white junkie dad. I hope I’m not the only father looking back with regret and feeling unloved.
Another fine writer in that group commented, “I wanna read more”. That’s exactly how I felt. Anthony Perry was taking Hitchens advice and executing it. He was also killing it as a writer or so I thought. In one paragraph, consisting of three sentences, I gleaned that Mr. Perry is not a man who cares much about public opinion, I doubt he cares about what his critics have to say, and I am not even sure he cares about what his friends, his peers, and his beloved think – about this one paragraph anyway. As for sales of his books, I’ll guess that’s not a major concern of his either. In short, what Anthony appeared to me to be was a liberated writer, someone writing freely, as if he were already dead. That last sentence of his would make for a fine dying utterance in a noir novel.
This author was worth some further investigation. So I contacted Anthony Perry and asked if I could interview him for this blog. Friendly guy that he is, he has obliged. One of the first questions I asked Anthony was, “How old are you?”. He replied, “As old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.” Before I begin my first interview of a Bangkok based author in the seventh year of this blog, here is some information you can find about Anthony, which I have summarized from his Amazon author page:
If you want to know what year Anthony was born it can be found easy enough. I prefer the mystery of it all.
In his twenties, Anthony became a heroin addict. An addiction that lasted fifteen years. During that time there were stints in prisons in his native England and abroad. In the year 2000 Anthony underwent a successful nine-week detox program in Portugal and has remained drug free.
After rehab he went to college and studied counseling for four years. Upon graduating he became an addiction counselor and has worked in various prisons and treatment centers throughout London, where he still lives part of each year. Anthony has taught poetry classes for the homeless and art classes for people with HIV and AIDS. He now devotes his time to a life of writing crime fiction and helping others recover from addiction.
Lyle’s Grief is his first novel.
KC: Welcome, Anthony. Do you live in Bangkok? If so, talk about a random interaction you’ve had recently in the CIty of Angels.
AP: Yes, I live in Bangkok for 8 months of the year.
Two days ago I was sitting upstairs in a members room of a cigar bar in Soi 24. Myself, six other men who are multi-millionaire businessmen, and a 22 yr old Thai-Chinese woman. I asked her at what age did she realize the effect she had on men. With that, the whole room fell into silence in eager anticipation of her answer. Bearing in mind three of the men were married to Thai women, I guess they had a special interest. She sat bolt upright and simply replied, “Power and control.” At that point, I heard a couple of nervous squeaks coming from her audience. I abstained from further questioning because I got the answer I wanted everyone else to hear. To cut a long story short she held court gathering information about how best she would obtain a USA visa. I evaluated she was starring in her own feature film by demonstrating her sense of power and control. I wanted to leave but stayed around thirty minutes before doing so. The music in the background was too loud for me, and the semi soprano singer was trying to sound cool and jazzy, and I detached and all around me it was a nightmare.
KC: What is your first memory of illegal drugs? How much did you spend on drugs during your time as an addict?
AP:: My first clinical experience of mood change was in 1962 with Purple Hearts. I smoked weed and hash every day from most countries who farmed for commercial reasons. Although I always felt paranoid, I think the mood change is what I had become obsessed with. After breaking my back in 1971 I soon found relief with Heroin. At the time I had an antique shop. Heroin was £100 a gramme, and I needed to fund my habit. I used the Times tabloid and always checked out obituary columns to find abandoned properties that housed aristocracies precious items.
This is my first roll-call. Cost of my drug habit was around £5.2 million, but my addiction cost me much more. I gambled from the age of fifteen. However, my addiction cost a whole lot more than money.
KC: What is the criminal justice system like in the United Kingdom? Does it work or is it broken?
AP: The simplest answer I can give it’s corrupted, its always worked and its always been broken. There are and always have been special open prisons for white collar crimes. Fraud, big money fraud usually carried around a two-year sentence, and that’s why it’s corrupt and has always been broken. One tiny example of this is the MPs expenses scandal and just the one was imprisoned. The government funds various organisations for drug rehabilitation, and most clients are in the criminal justice system. As soon as someone is held in police custody a drugs worker asks if they have a drug problem. The government have a system in operation that requests KPT (key performance targets), and this enables them to state figures which imply the government are doing a great job. Most first time prisoners reach the status of a repeat offender.
Anthony Perry at play
KC: Tell me about your time in the hoity-toity art world? Do you have any Lucien Freud or famous client stories, per chance?
AP: I sold art and antiques for many years and my clients were among London’s top auction houses. I bought a large collection of art from Phillipe Le Bon, a leading pioneer in cosmetic surgery and hair transplants. He was a collector and was grieving the loss of his wife Pandora Astor. He was a using friend of mine for many years and we cleaned up together but Phillipe relapsed and lost the desire to stop. I attended auctions across the UK and bought art mainly for American clients.
Lucien was a compulsive gambler. He ran into our club with a painting for £275.00 to gamble one time. He offered it to my Jewish friend and I bought it. I also bought a few nice pieces from Lord Lucan (John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan). Lucan gambled in Curzon st Mayfair. He did too much cocaine and famously killed his Nanny.
KC: Talk about your first novel Lyle’s Grief and how would you classify your writing style?
AP: Lyle’s Grief is about a black female detective murder squad chief. I attempted to highlight the consequences of slavery. Missy Lyle’s only son committed suicide under the strange mix of Heroin, Cocaine, Hallucinogenics, and Amphetamines. My writing style for me is difficult to evaluate, but I tend to describe my characters as not being off the cuff.
KC: Are you in control of your demons or vice versa.
AP: No, I am never going to be in control of my demons and I hope they will never be in control of me. After 15 years of trying to control my demons, I surrendered and waved the white flag and it has been raised for almost nineteen years. I do this by talking with other recovering addicts. I found listening to the insanity of addiction and working with clients at times to be challenging.
KC: Why do you think you are still alive? What’s in store for your Act Three?
AP: I am alive through pure chance. I overdosed many times and had a few accidents and emergency admissions. I have let go of the past and the future and hopefully the best is yet to come.
Click the book cover above to go to the Amazon page for Lyle’s Grief
For more entertaining words from Anthony Perry click the YouTube Video above It has close to 10,000 views on his Facebook page.