Thailand Footprint: The People, Things, Literature, and Music of Thailand and the Region

Posts from the ‘Noir Fiction’ category

Jim Algie has done what many do not believe in and fewer still achieve. He has reincarnated himself and stayed alive in the process. The former punk rocker from Canada, known in those days as Blake Cheetah, spent eleven years playing bass guitar and touring with various bands before deciding to change careers at the tender age of twenty-eight. An age that Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison never reached. After a two year stint in Spain, where his focus on writing accelerated, Algie found himself in Bangkok, Thailand with the intention of heading to Taipei. In Jim’s case the road to Bangkok was paved with good intentions as Thailand has now been his home for over twenty years. During that time he did a lot of observation and investigation of all things not mundane in the kingdom. As with any good detective, he hit a few dead ends along the way. But as the saying goes, patience is its own reward. Jim Algie patiently studied what was in front of him and sought adventures off the beaten path. The outcome produced enough material to publish a variety of short stories, earning the writer several awards, including a Bram Stolker Award – a recognition presented by the Horror Writers Association for “superior achievement” in dark fantasy and horror writing.  Jim Algie has had two books traditionally published, BIZARRE THAILAND: Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic (Marshall Cavendish 2012) a collection of non-fiction stories and his recent collection of  fictitious writing, THE PHANTOM LOVER and Other Thrilling Tales Of Thailand (Tuttle Publishing 2014). Jim’s also an accomplished journalist, editor and travel writer; he has contributed to many periodicals and travel guidebooks. Jim  is the author of “Tuttle Travel Pack Thailand.” I am pleased to welcome Jim Algie here today.
TF: What makes Southeast Asia a good setting for writing?

JA: It’s all the myriad paradoxes and extreme juxtapositions. You’ve got these ancient sites like Angkor Wat and the Temple of Dawn, as well as hyper modern malls; there’s incredible hospitality jostling with every sort of barbarity; you’ve got arcane superstitions counterbalanced by a whole new wave of thinkers and artists; some of the most colourful festivals I have ever seen in stunning contrast to the shabbiest urban blight. And then there’s the hotpot of ethnicities and all sorts of eccentric expats. So you’re never short of stories, backdrops and characters.

TF: What books and or music  influenced you growing up?

JA: My first writing influences were Edgar Allan Poe and Jack London. My taste in tunes also strayed towards the darker side of the spectrum, with Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and the New York Dolls leading the savage wolf pack. Even today I still revere those bands and authors.

TF: What’s the last record you can remember listening to?

JA: I’ve been listening to Wilco again, and their scandal-plagued magnum opus, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It’s one of those rare instances when a group actually took no shit from the corporate rectums of the music business. Their label dropped them because they thought the album was anti-commercial, then the band sold it back to a different subsidiary of the same company for even more money and it became the biggest-selling album of their career. To my ears, Wilco is the best American band of the past 20 years, and Jeff Tweedy is America’s greatest singer and songwriter since the late Kurt Cobain and Paul Westerberg of The Replacements.

TF: Tell our readers about the musical chapters of your life. Your ability allowed you to travel a bit. Where did you go? What did you experience that stays with you from that time?

JA: For the first out-of-town shows we played with a surf-punk band called the Malibu Kens, we had to drive 200 miles to the city of Calgary in western Canada, to play four sets a night for seven nights in a row at a skidrow tavern called The Calgarian to largely hostile or indifferent crowds of truckers, junkies, alkies, wretched-looking prostitutes and a few punks who also hung out there. All four of us stayed in a small, mildew-smelling room, full of silverfish and other vermin, in the hotel. During one gig, a guy got stabbed to death in the bathroom and his bloody handprints could be seen on the walls for months afterwards. Another night there was a 20-men-and-4-whores brawl in the bar with people smacking each other over the head with chairs and tables while we played. For a bunch of middle-class boys, still only 18 and 19, that was our indoctrination – our baptism of hellfire – and real life on the dark side of the street.

Blake Cheetah

Jim Algie (far right) during his Blake Cheetah days

TF: Is there a book laying around your home that you haven’t gotten around to reading?

JA: Many, but the new biography of China’s Great Reformer, Deng Xiaping, is especially huge and daunting.

TF: Complete this sentence.  I write to

JA:  … communicate something to the world and myself that cannot be communicated in any other way or through any other medium.

TF: Make the case for fiction over non-fiction in 207 words or less.

JA: What’s missing from so much journalism and non-fiction is a sense of humanism and heart. When journalists strain for superlatives they resort to the same geriatric clichés about “triumphs of the human spirit” or “tragic demises” or “losing battles against cancer” while labeling serial murderers as “monsters.”  Dead language does not elicit any lively reactions. One of my favorite parts of Timothy Hallinan’s Breathing Water, a superbly suspenseful Bangkok thriller in his Poke Rafferty series, is how the Thai cop and his wife deal with her terminal illness. In journalism these days, human-interest stories are disappearing in place of celebrity gossip and business stories. By contrast all great works of fiction put people first and human concerns at their core.

To borrow another example from Breathing Water, Tim has a great paragraph about how the light in Bangkok around dusk, which is the protagonist’s favorite time of day and mine too, changes about five different times. I sensed that was true, but it really opened my eyes to something that I hadn’t seen before. In this way, fiction and poetry enrich our lives and perceptions. By contrast, in most non-fiction – except for maybe memoirs – the editor would cut all those descriptive details as irrelevant.

TF: Tell us about your latest collection of stories, The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand, and why book lovers should read it?

phantom-lover-455JA: If they don’t read it I can’t say their lives will be greatly impoverished or they will come down with any loathsome diseases, but those who are interested in Thailand and SE Asia will find a different set of stories and characters, often with Thai protagonists, that deliver some different insights into the lives of young high-society women, ancient folklore with modern twists, the rural downtrodden, and what will probably remain the biggest natural disaster of our lifetimes, the 2004 Asian tsunami.

TF: Please tell me about your current favorite dead author.

JA: Raymond Carver. I just reread a kind of greatest hits’ collection of his short fiction called Where I’m Calling From. He was the most heralded short fiction author when I was studying Creative Writing in the late 80s. So I wanted to revisit those stories to see how he achieved those incredible effects with the most unadorned prose and lack of sensationalism combined with very ordinary characters caught up in entirely plausible situations. “Errand,” his story about the death of Anton Chekhov, whom was the writer he was most often compared to, and which he wrote while dying of a similar disease, is one of the great masterpieces of contemporary literature. It’s most likely way beyond anything I could ever achieve, but there’s no point in aspiring to mediocrity. There’s already enough of that on TV as it is.

TF: What is your approach for a book launch? You’ve had two now – for Bizarre Thailand and The Phantom Lover. Were they similar or different?

JA: I am not an orator. I don’t do readings or impersonations. So my approach is similar. I present a slide show of travel pics, book covers, personal shots, “Hell Money Banknotes” from the Chinese Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, and talk about all sorts of influences that were melded together to form some of the stories, from serial slayers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, to lesbian erotica, European artworks, snake-handling shows in Thailand and black magic from the time of Angkor Wat.

Jim Algie Shadow

Jim Algie and shadow at The Phantom Lover Book Launch at WTF Bar

TF: Let’s talk about shadows and demons.  Just because they are fun to discuss. How important are they to a writer? Are they one and the same thing? Should a writer have demons of his own in order to create fictional ones? If a writer hasn’t struggled with his shadows or demons is he/she in denial? 

JA: Everyone has their own shadows and demons. Since we can’t talk about them in polite company we have to find other outlets like books, music, TV shows and films. From any artist’s perspective the demons are slippery and the shadows immaterial, so they are not easy to write or sing about. Either it comes off like macho bravado or like self-pitying whining. Ultimately, you need to strike a balance between the two and not give any easy solutions or sermons about conquering them. For the most part, I try to stay away from those first-person confessional sorts of stories, though I did write one long novella, “Obituary for the Khaosan Road Outlaws and Imposters,” in the last book that features some demon wrestling and shadow hunting.

TF: You were a drinking buddy of Thailand’s last executioner, Chavoret Jaruboon and attended his funeral in 2012 after he died of cancer. Chavoret was personally responsible for executing 55 inmates. I understand a movie about his life has just been released; can you tell me about it?


JA: I just reviewed the film for the Bangkok Post. (Biopic Takes No Prisoners) It’s a pretty accurate depiction of his life from being a teenage rock ‘n’ roller to becoming a prison guard, so he could take care of his family, and then working his way up to executioner. As I mentioned in the review, “conflicted characters make the best protagonists and hinges for dramatic tension,” so that’s why I’ve written about him in Bizarre Thailand: Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic, as well as the Phantom Lover collection. He was a fascinating man,  deeply tormented by guilt and karma, but in Thailand, and this is not mentioned in either the film or in my books, the executioner can be seen as an heroic figure, too, freeing prisoners from their bad karma to be reborn again. Tellingly, the death chamber at Bang Kwang Central Prison is referred to in Buddhist terms as the “room to end all suffering.”

TF: Any plans for the Year of the Horse?

JA: As with every previous year I am trying really hard not to die, and to finish some new books and a bunch of stories. Here it is July already and I’m still breathing, making toast and typing words on a keyboard, so I take these gifts as good omens.

TF: I’ll toast to all that. Thanks, Jim.

ALgie One Foot

An inquisitive Jim Algie

For more information about Jim Algie and his writings go to:



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Oh well, I’m the type of guy who will never compromise

When I whistle and I yell, you know that I’m around

I hate ’em and I hate ’em ’cause to me they’re all the same

I squeeze ’em and I squeeze ’em and everybody knows my name

They call me the yammerer

Yea, the yammerer

I roam around, around, around, around

Oh well, there’s Lek on my left and there’s Noi on my right

And Jasmine is the girl that I’ll be with tonight

And when she asks me, which one I love the best

I tear open my shirt, where my face is tattooed on my chest

‘Cause I’m the yammerer

Yea, the yammerer

I roam around, around, around, around

Oh well, I roam from street to street, I go through life without a care

And I’m as happy as a clown

I with my two fists of iron but I’m going nowhere

I’m the type of guy who likes to meet and greet

I’m never in one place, I roam from street to street

And when I find myself a fallin’ for some facts

I hop right in that ‘Benz of mine, until I’m back on track

Yea, ’cause I’m the yammerer

Yea, a yammerer

I roam around, around, around, around

‘Cause I’m a yammerer

Yea, a yammerer


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James A. Newman - Master of Ceremonies for Bangkok Night of Noir

James A. Newman – The nattily attired Master of Ceremonies for Bangkok Night of Noir 2014

For the second time in less than 9 months author James A. Newman, artist Chris Coles and company decided it would be a good idea to hold a Bangkok Night of Noir. It was. The purpose was to have an evening of music, readings, art and photography depicting the numerous sources of noir found in Bangkok, Thailand. The Check Inn 99 is the perfect venue for such an event. A place where Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Raquel Welch relaxed after USO shows during the Viet Nam War. A colorful history understates the facts of the Check Inn 99 by a long shot. It’s a place where, for anyone who had forgotten, Christopher G. Moore reminded us in a finale reading that a  dwarf once worked as the doorman for years at the entrance to the Check Inn 99 tunnel leading toward the door. And then one day he disappears. How does a dwarf go missing? It’s Bangkok, that’s how. Just down that tunnel a previous owner of the establishment was beaten so badly, over creative financing rumors, he died the next day. It happened on the eve of one of Thailand’s many political coups, decades ago.

The entrance to Check Inn 99 located on Sukumvit Road in Bangkok, Thailand

The entrance to Check Inn 99 located on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, Thailand (Photo: Courtesy)

The very day of Bangkok Night of Noir, Sunday January 5th, 2014 there was a film crew shooting a Karaoke scene in the morning for an upcoming movie regarding Thailand’s infamous last executioner, Chaovaret Jaruboon, a drinking buddy of Bangkok author, Jim Algie and a living noir legend until he died in 2012. If you  were looking for a setting to read dark fiction and show the neon noir world of Bangkok’s nightlife, you were in the right place. The 2014 Night of Noir kicked off, reading wise, later than some guests had anticipated. There was a full house, much more crowded than the one held in April 2013.

Photo Courtesy Check Inn  99

Photo Courtesy Check Inn 99  – Two Hours Before Tip Off. Veteran Waiters Rest While They Can

Music of the Heart Band came to the rescue as people were still buying books and getting them signed. Highlights for me, before readings began, were talking with Cara Black about some of her SoHo Crime colleagues and meeting John Burdett, author of the Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep series, which started with Bangkok 8. Just when I was getting impatient, Music of the Heart Band broke out into a song in French, known for its dedication to the fighters of the French Foreign Legion: Non, je ne regrette rien, which caused out of town visiting, New York Times best selling author and Francophile, Cara Black to smile broadly and sing along.

IMG_1194The readings started shortly thereafter with screenwriter, actor and presentation coach John Marengo reading from James A. Newman’s latest, The White Flamingo. Marengo has decades of acting and voice over credits. Newman’s fictional Fun City, AKA Pattaya never sounded better or bleaker, depending on your perspective, coming from Marengo’s microphone. That was followed by his reading of the Charles Bukowski poem, Dinosauria, We. A dark Buk special about death, decay and pessimism for mankind.


Tom Vater read next, publisher of Crime Wave Press, author of Devil’s Road to Kathmandu and The Cambodian Book of the Dead. The latter I have reviewed and recommend. When Tom Vater talks, I listen. He always has something interesting to say. He prefaced his reading with some fascinating history regarding the world’s busiest airport up until 1975, run by the CIA in Long Cheng in Laos. Tom is the co-author of the screenplay, The Most Secret Place on Earth – The CIA’s Covert War in Laos. That background will make his upcoming novel, The Man With The Golden Mind – a Detective Maier novel, which Tom read from, invaluable. It was a riveting read.

IMG_1222The Dean of Bangkok fiction was up next to read from a book I am proud to say is in my library: The Go Go Dancer Who Stole My Viagra and other Poetic Tragedies of Thailand. I am a fan of Dean Barrett’s writing and poetry. I am also a Dean Barrett fan. I’m going to go out on a limb here and make what could be misconstrued as a political statement, but what the hell: the world needs more Dean Barrett’s. A lot more. Always entertaining, gracious and humorous.  All of Dean’s readings are good but it’s tough to beat the classic, No One Wants to Boom Boom, Anymore.

IMG_1247John Burdett was in the house and that was a pleasure to see and to listen too as well. Mr. Burdett read from his latest Sonchai Jitpleecheep series, VULTURE PEAK about organ trafficking.  He starts off with these two quotations from the beginning of Vulture Peak, juxtaposing the two, which gets one thinking about morality and unintended consequences:

What you do to yourself, you do to the world.

What you do to the world, you do to yourself. – Buddhist proverb

If a living donor can do without an organ, why shouldn’t the donor profit and medical science benefit? – Janet Radcliffe-Richards, Lancet 352 (1998), p. 1951

John then read a wonderful passage regarding the murder investigation from Vulture Peak, which I have only included the very last part of the brilliant conclusion :

“Really? That will be helpful. By the way, what genders are the victims?”

“Two men and a woman.”

Now I notice something else. “No blood?”

“Somebody cleaned up meticulously. They even used some chemical that neutralizes our tests. I tell you, whoever did it were professionals. There were certainly more than one.” I nod.

“Any ideas?” the doctor asks when we have replaced the sheet.

“You mean whodunit? Only in the more general sense.” She raises her eyes. “Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, Margaret Thatcher, Adam Smith. Capitalism dunit. Those organs are being worn by somebody else right now.”


Cara Black wearing her Crime Fiction Writer’s Reading Glasses

The out of town guest of honor for the evening was Cara Black. John Burdett handed Cara the copy of Vulture Peak from which he read, after he finished. Cara seemed genuinely thrilled to receive the copy. Likewise, Chris Coles presented Cara Black with a copy of his book, Navigating the Bangkok Noir.  I would learn later, the copy of The Marriage Tree, which Christopher G. Moore read from last, now resides with Cara in The City by the Bay. Charles Bukowski got it all wrong. This was a congenial, generous and optimistic group of noir scribes.

Cara Black, deemed Madam Noir by M.C. James A. Newman was next up. Her protagonist is Aimee Leduc, half-French; half-American. Aimee is an computer fraud expert, can dress fashionably in Paris or in disguise for the job. She can handle a Beretta when need be. Her partner is a 4’0″ dwarf and computer genius, named Rene. Together they could probably team up with Vincent Calvino and solve the mystery of the missing Check Inn 99 doorman in two weeks time. But that was not the task at hand. Cara Black read from her first of 13 Aimee Leduc Investigations, MURDER IN THE MARAIS, but she did need the assistance of Calvino’s creator as she wore Mr. Moore’s spectacles to get the job done. I find her writing style eloquent and tense where it needs to be. Cara lives in San Francisco with her husband and son. Paris, the City of Light, is always a central character in her novels. I got the feeling Cara likes a good adventure and she got one at Night of Noir. She seemed to appreciate every moment and be in the moment.

Bangkok Noir artist Chris Coles - Author of Navigating the Bangkok Noir

Bangkok Noir artist Chris Coles – Author of Navigating the Bangkok Noir speaks about: The Stuff  That Lies Beneath Bangkok and South East Asia – Click the Photo to take you to the Chris Coles Blog

A Night of Noir is incomplete without a Chris Coles presentation. Enthusiastic about the where and when of Bangkok and what lies beneath the city. The where being almost anywhere after dark and the when being, now. Please take the time to click the above picture to take you an excellent review of the presentation Chris put together, complete with copies of all the pictures flashed onto the screen at 4’x5′ size. You can also go to his blog by clickng here: CHRIS COLES NIGHT OF NOIR TALK AND PICTURES. Chris also had the honor of introducing the final author of the evening, Christopher G. Moore, well known for his over two dozen novels, including the Vincent Calvino Crime Series, The Thai Smile Trilogy and his cultural books of essays, among others.

Christopher G. More - Author of the Vincnt Calvino Crime Series

Christopher G. Moore – Author of the Vincent Calvino Crime Series

Christopher G. Moore read from his latest Calvino caper: The Marriage Tree, the 14th in the popular series, which has Calvino dealing with some cumulative trauma issues regarding the deaths of close friends in Rangoon and Bangkok. Christopher’s reading was appropriate as he chose a scene where the fictional Calvino walks down the real life tunnel of the Check Inn 99 to find Colonel Pratt playing the saxophone near some white flamingos. It was art imitating life and it was fun. Even the ancient waiters were smiling.


Check Inn 99 owner Chris Catto-Smith

Chris Catto-Smith was coaxed onto the main floor one more time to recount the colorful history of the Cabaret Club. I never tire of listening to Chris speak about the history or seeing the old black and white photos of the club and Bangkok of an earlier time flashed onto the big screen. Among the things I learned, those white flamingos may like to hang-out around plastic flowers but they are made of cast iron and Chris even hammered the point home for the audience. Music of the Heart Band came back on to perform. Some stayed but it was late and many headed for home or wherever into the Bangkok night.

Could the readings have started a little earlier? I suppose they could have. But for one night some of the top noir stars from Bangkok and San Francisco aligned just as they were meant to align – perfectly.  James A. Newman, Chris Coles, Chris Catto-Smith and all the authors are to be commended, once again, for pulling it off. Anyone who plans to live or stay in Bangkok for any length of time would be well served by the words of Alan Watts: “Things are as they are.” Since the group picture was taken late some of the authors had already left due to commitments the next day. When asked to join in for the group photo, no one had to ask me twice. I’m not a noir writer or a noir artist, but the world still needs them. And as Chris Coles stated more than once, enthusiastically, during his presentation, this is a city with an almost infinite source of inspiration for noir.  It was a memorable evening. As I was headed up the elevator to my condo around 1:15 a.m. my telephone vibrated. It was one of the authors: “Back at the bar!” it read. I smiled as the doors opened to my floor. The beat goes on in Bangkok City.


L to R John Marengo, Dean Barrett, Christopher G. Moore, Kevin Cummings, James A. Newman, Cara Black, Chris Coles

All Photographs shown, with the exception of Check Inn 99 Entrance and waiters, taken by Alasdair McLeod of Bangkok, Thailand. Permission for the reproduction of these photographs is needed from Thailand Footprint if used for commercial purposes.


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Cara Black is one of a number of talented authors published by SoHo Crime, an imprint of SoHo Publishing. They include none other than Colin Cotterill creator of the Dr. Siri series set in Laos, Timothy Hallinan author of five and soon to be six Poke Rafferty novels set in Thailand and Lisa Brackmann author of the critically acclaimed ROCK PAPER TIGER and HOUR OF THE RAT set in China. Coincidentally or not all of the above authors have been extremely nice and cooperative to me. You can go to Cara Black’s author page at SoHo Crime by clicking the picture below.


It is my pleasure to welcome Cara Black back to Thailand and to Thailand Footprint.

KC: Thank-you for agreeing to this interview on such short notice. I’m looking forward to being in the audience for the Night of Noir event to be held January 5th, 2014 at the Check Inn 99 in Bangkok. It should be fun. I found it interesting to learn that you spent some time in Thailand in the 1970s. What are your recollections of Thailand and Thai people from that time? How has the country changed and how have the people changed, if they have?

CB: I look forward to the Night of Noir and meeting you, too Kevin. To your question (and it really dates me) I lived in Bangkok for five months – way past my visa –  when the Viet Nam War was in full swing. After traveling from India and running short of cash a fellow traveler – also staying at the Atlanta Hotel – advised me to ‘Go to Patpong and look for a hostess job’. The second bar I tried, a large Chinese one, hired me on the spot as the only foreign hostess. Bangkok then had few high rises, no BTS and the tuk tuk’s were bicycle powered. Every morning on the Soi the monks came with their bowls for alms – that hasn’t changed – and I remember in the evening before work everyone putting offerings before the shrine at the next corner. Bangkok was such a quiet place – apart from the adrenalin charged GI’s on R+R  from battle duty in Viet Nam. One evening everyone on the Soi was excited – my Thai was very limited – something about a boat and offering. Finally the lady on the Soi from whom I bought my Som Tom and Sticky Rice every day explained with laughter and sign language to take a tuk tuk to Chao Praya. The river was full of lantern boats with candles for Loy Kratong. Amazing. People prayed before launching them into the water. I’ve never forgotten the glittering lighted lanterns floating by the thousands past the temples.  The warmth and gracefulness of the Thai people stayed with me and I’ve found it again.

KC: Those are wonderful recollections, Cara. They will help explain the attraction Thailand still holds today for many.  I’ve just finished reading my first Aimee Leduc Investigation novel – MURDER BELOW MONTPARNASEE. But it is your 13th in the series. And the 14th, MURDER IN PIGALLE is due to hit the book shops in March of 2014. Raymond Chandler wrote a total of 7 Philip Marlowe novels, I believe, back in another era and another time as far as publishing. Your goal is to write 20 Aimee Leduc Investigation novels. What do you like about writing a long series of novels involving Aimee. What difficulties, if any, does it pose writing a lengthy series?

CB: I never intended to write a series, much less set in Paris, I was thrilled to get published. That still feels incredible and I count myself lucky.  In Murder in the Marais, my first book, I was passionate to write about the story I’d heard from my friend’s mother who was a hidden Jewish girl during the German Occupation. Using that theme to explore the less known side of collaboration, the grey areas I needed a detective. She needed to be half-American because I couldn’t write as a French woman – I can’t even tie my scarf the right way – but Aimée in the detective mold made famous by Chandler is a lone wolf, neither fish nor fowl, an outsider yet part of a Paris I saw. Every book in the series – at its core – explores social issues, mores, traces of old colonialism and often the ethnic areas I stumble upon in Paris.  Paris has twenty arrondissements, each with a distinctive flavor and ambiance, which still excites me. I feel fortunate to have the chance to write stories of the places, the people who inhabit these particular slices of Paris and research the history that pervades the cobblestones. To keep a series fresh and yet familiar to readers who want to spend time again with the characters who must grow and change is a challenge I never envisioned but I love it.

KC: Your energy comes across in your writing and also here, today. A younger Aimee Leduc reminds me of the cool girl I would have been attracted to but afraid to ask to dance in High School. Aimee likes the bad boys and may have a tattoo or three. Tell me about Aimee’s romantic interests in the past and from which novel(s) readers can find them?

CB: In the first three books Aimée’s gotten involved in an on again off again affair with Yves, a French journalist who she keeps saying goodbye to on the boulevard Saint Germain or on Cairo street corners. She’s drawn to him like metal filings to a magnet – the traveling foreign correspondent, a bad boy and unavailable as her best friend Martine keeps telling her. In Murder on the Rue de Paradis, set in the tenth arrondissement their relationship takes a turn on the Canal St. Martin. I can’t reveal much but decisive and heart rending come to mind. In Murder in the Bastille, she’s treated by Guy, an eye surgeon with whom she develops a relationship in later books (Murder in Clichy, Murder in Montmartre). But he’s the type who wants her to settle down, become a doctor’s wife, give luncheons and live in Neuilly. Not Aimée’s style at all.  Aimée’s vowed never to become involved with a ‘Flic’ a French cop (she knows it’s a hard life and killer on relationships – her father was a former flic) but Melac, a detective in the elite Brigade Criminelle, homicide squad in Paris treats her as a suspect in Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis (where she lives) becomes more than she bargained for. Things get complicated from there on.  She’s got an air of je ne sais quoi, handles a Beretta, finds haute couture at the flea market – all the things I’ve experienced and some I’d like to. And along with it Aimée’s personal life – her boyfriends, the sense of belonging she’s always looking for which reflects the young Parisiennes I know who even though chic, slim and with cheekbones that could slice paper have relationship trouble.


KC: Can you tell me when your love of Paris began? What is the attraction for you, if you can explain it to me?

CB: My Father was a Francophile – loved good food and wine and Jacques Tati movies. He sent me to a French school in California with old French nuns back in the day when they wore headgear like the Flying Nun. We learned – what I later found out to be – an archaic form of French. I had so many expectations and ideas of what France would be like that the first time I arrived in Paris it felt familiar yet different. Hitting Paris with a backpack to find the wafting scents of butter from the boulangerie,  the apricot sunset painting the roof tiles, the quai’s with bookstalls lining  the Seine, the narrow cobbled streets with women clattering on high heels sealed it for me. I fell in love with the City of Light, which has turned into a long running affair. I love the Parisians – cynical one minute, caring the next, passionate over everything and full of contradictions. That keeps me coming back hoping someday I’ll understand them…but mystery and elusiveness like any good affair keeps it alive.

KC: When was the last time you smoked a cigar?

CB: Last October in Paris outside a cafe – a Cuban Cohibo.


KC: That trumps my Wolf Brothers Crook after the 49ers Super Bowl XVI victory. And I doubt you’d be impressed that it was rum soaked, so let’s change the subject. Anais Nin has one of my favorite quotes on writing:  “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” She and Henry Miller get a mention in Murder Below Montparnasse.  I like many of the quotes Henry has on writing. Feel free to comment on either of those two writers, if you’d like, but I’d like to know how you would complete the sentence: We write …

CB: We write to give a voice to those who aren’t heard.

PS That’s funny, Kevin I have that saying above my computer!

KC: I like your sentence. It ties right in with the best advice I ever got from Henry Miller. “Forget yourself.” How long will you be in Thailand? Where have you been and where will you go?

CB: I’m in Thailand with my family and two others – ten of us in total! We’re visiting my husband’s old schoolfriend who’s stationed in Bangkok with the UN World Food Program. We stayed with him in Bangkok, visited Siam Reap and Angkor Wat and Beang Mealea temples in Cambodia – amazing – then on to Koh Lanta for beach time and where they film a French reality show. We’ll be back in Bangkok for the Night of Noir.

KC: Tell me the best reason I should go back and read #1 in the Aimee Leduc Series, where it all began for you, MURDER IN THE MARAIS?

CB: If you like to start at the beginning of a series and meet Aimée Leduc, her dog  Miles Davis, a bichon frise who live in a frayed around the edges 17th century townhouse on the Ile Saint-Louis and René Friant, a dwarf, her partner it’s a good place to launch. As I mentioned above this story was inspired by the experiences of my friend’s mother’s – a young hidden Jewish girl during WWII. Her experiences haunted me for years after I heard them. The book took me three and a half years to write – of course I was learning and discovering the process of writing. I think in writing, I tried to make sense of that past time, that world at war on everyday people, the dichotomies and the choices between right and wrong. But what if right and wrong weren’t clear when one’s trying to survive and live to the next day? And what if that choice to survive comes back to haunt you fifty years later in the City of Light?

KC: You’ve made a good case for me. And those Miles Davis references in MURDER BELOW MONTPARNASSE take on a whole new context. Thank-you Cara Black, again, for doing this interview during the holiday season. See you at the Night of Noir. 


This interview can also be seen at Chiang Mai City News by clicking the banner below:


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We will end the month with a good news post here at Thailand Footprint. Below is a current picture of the 12 up-country Thai students being sponsored through the leadership and generosity of Heaven Lake Press and their readers. Following the picture is a Press Release from Heaven Lake Press about the anthology, Phnom Penh Noir, edited by Christopher G. Moore and written by 15 authors, which has benefited some of Cambodia’s poorest. There are also links for anyone who would be so inclined to seek out more information about two organizations doing some good: Blood Foundation and FLOW.

‘A Dark Book With a Heart’
Phnom Penh Noir publisher and authors
support street children’s education

Phnom Penh Noir Bangkok (25 July 2013) – At the heart of noir literature may be wretchedness and misery, but even a very dark fiction is not devoid of hope and has a heart.

Heaven Lake Press (HLP) and the 15 authors of Phnom Penh Noir join in helping disadvantaged children’s education in Cambodia. A USD 1,500 donation has been made to two organizations helping poor street children and orphans. The fund comes from 20 per cent of the publisher’s net proceeds and 20 per cent of the authors’ royalties from the first six months of the book sales, since the book was launched in Phnom Penh in November 2012.

A $750 donation to Friends-International will help 25 young street children (aged 6-12 years) in their reintegration to public school in Cambodia. The $30 per child will go toward the children’s school fees, school uniforms, school bags, shoes, books and stationery.

• Friends-International is a non-governmental organization that works primarily with street children. It runs vocational training, day care centers, residential centers; provides educational, medical, and everyday life services, and other specialized programs to help street children and marginalized urban youth to reintegrate into society, while also supporting their families and communities. Friends-International has received multiple awards and named among the Top 100 NGOs in the World in 2012 and 2013. For more information about the organization or to make a donation, visit its website or Wikipedia.
Official receipt of donation from Friends-International)

The other $750 portion of the donation goes to Future Light Orphanage of Worldmate (FLOW) as a scholarship for Miss Yim Malida, a 19-year-old student. Miss Yim Malida comes from an impoverished family in Lovea Em district, Kandal province of Cambodia. She is the eldest of four children in her family. Her parents, a farmer and a primary school teacher, were unable to support all their children’s education. Seven years ago Yim Malida came to live at the FLOW where she has received education and nurturing. Her goal is to obtain higher education and a good job to support her family. She has worked towards that goal and is now a first-year student at Vanda Institute of Accounting. The $750 scholarship will cover her tuition and annual allowance for one year.

• FLOW is a non-government organization that aims to provide a home, well-rounded education and skills to orphaned and poor children in Cambodia. Established in 1993, FLOW is now a home of 287 such children and youth. For more information about FLOW or to make a donation, visit its website.

Phnom Penh Noir is Cambodia’s first English-language anthology of 15 dark short fiction stories by well-known international and Cambodia authors. Heaven Lake Press is a small Bangkok-based independent publisher, which publishes English-language literature focusing on Southeast Asia. The 15 authors of Phnom Penh Noirinclude film director Roland Joffé best known for his Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields, famous international crime authors John Burdett, James Grady and Christopher G. Moore (editor of the anthology), Thai SEA Write author Prabda Yoon, young Cambodian novelist Suong Mak, journalist Bopha Phorn, poet Kosal Khiev, Phnom Penh-based musician, song writer and KROM band leader Christopher Minko, and other international authors Andrew Nette, Bob Bergin, Richard Rubenstein, Giancarlo Narciso, Christopher West, and Neil Wilford. More than half of the authors have given 100 per cent of their first-period royalties to fund our first donation.

For more information about the book,

Phnom Penh Noir


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A good interview by Mark Bibby Jackson of Tom Vater on the state of publishing in the region and some clarity regarding what is hard boiled vs noir fiction …

mark bibby jackson


Everyone has a good book in them so they say, Asia’s first English-language crime publishing house looks set to put that adage to the test. Words by Mark Bibby Jackson.

The setting is hardly classic noir. A Bangkok sports bar just before noon, my source has a bottle of water in front of him, I a cup of black coffee. Our conversation flows naturally rather than being weighted down with unspoken innuendo. Then again we are here to talk about crime fiction rather than create it.

“Most of the books are terrible,” writer Tom Vater says of the spate of books he calls ‘bargirl genre’ on sale in book shops in Bangkok and across the region. “They are badly printed, the fonts are awful and the stories are just these endless sob stories about the bargirl scene here.

As a great reader of crime fiction himself, Vater felt there…

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Thailand Footprint looks to interview cutting edge and break-out literary talent. Efforts were made to secure an interview with up and coming pulp fiction writer, James A. Newman – author of the Joe Dylan private detective noir crime series. The Joe Dylan series has two published novels in pulp and ebook formats: Bangkok Express and The Red Zone.  The third in the series, The White Flamingo is now available on and has been charting in the Top 50 Noir Bestsellers List.

James A. Newman, available for a game but not for bloggers ...

Author, James A. Newman. Available for a game but not for a blog …

Repeated calls to Mr. Newman’s office were finally returned by his publicist (no name given).  Thailand Footprint was told, due to ongoing negotiations for an interview and cover photo with AFTER DARK MAGAZINE,  James A. Newman would be unavailable for “bloggers”.  As a result we pursued the next best thing. Gop, the literature loving, tobacco(?) smoking, sex-on-the-beach drinking , frog in the coconut shell was retained for one purpose: find protagonist, Joe Dylan and interview him for Thailand Footprint. Joe Dylan had last been heard from on a binge in The Zone after solving a murder mystery in Fun City for the famed ex-catwalk model, the widower, Mrs. Bell. Also known as, the White Flamingo.



Gop Joe, you are a hard man to find. It took me days to track you down here at Last Chance Samui Health Resort & Spa and I live in the south.  Big fan, here. I read all my books on the beach and a Joe Dylan novel  is the perfect beach book. There hasn’t been a noir style, hard-boiled detective like you since Nick Danger. Security at the main gate and the check point at the front desk informed me we haven’t much time before your next session. So let’s jump right in: the question all your friends, fans and readers want to know is, you seemed to have it all under control – what went wrong?

Joe D Well, I took a slide in the Red Zone following the White Flamingo caper. I guess you can fill in the details whichever way floats your lilly-pad. Let’s just say I broke a case. When I break a case I like to celebrate. Hard. The therapy here sucks, baby. The place is full with tree-huggers and eco-warriors bringing down the tone of the establishment. The joint used be run by some gimp called The Elf before he took the night train following a puffer fish salad served by an Aquarian temptress.

Gop Say no more, Joe. Your true  fans will stand by you and those that know the Red Zone can imagine those details. The White Flamingo case was quite a walk on the wild side up in Fun City. Congrats for cracking it. Let’s talk about the therapy game. The tone may be down but this spa is superb  – dragonflies are everywhere. Sliding appears to have an up-side. What are your days like here at Last Chance Samui Spa?

Last Chance Samui Spa

Joe D You’re kidding right? That asshole Newman wrote me into this place so I could research his next book “Synchronicity” set inside a rehab unit. So while the author’s up there in the big smoke hanging out with guys blowing their trumpets at the Checkinn99 and chewing the fat with comedians and actors I’m here sitting in a hut shoving a rubber tube up my Harris every four hours to cleanse the colon (whatever that is), and there’s no food. At least nothing solid. Two protein shakes a day and as much co-co-nut milk as you can vomit. You wanna swap places man, say the word, give me back the city. You got any smokes?

Gop Smokes? Sure, but they confiscated both along with my Altoids tin at the front desk. Juicy Fruit? … Negative on the swap, Joe. Sounds to me like someone needs to recite their Serenity Prayer.  The pipe cleanings explain the color choice for the staff uniforms and the incense. For a second, I had a Lumphini Police Station flashback. C’mon, Joe this is not your first slip and fall. I’ve read all Newman’s stuff – even the strange one about the lizards. Shouldn’t you know the rehab drill by now after what happened to your protagonist pal, Johnny Coca-Cola during his Buddhist temple gig?

Joe D Talking of color – you look a bit green yourself, Gop. Johnny Coca-Cola is another one of Newman’s dysfunctional creations. Let’s not talk about recovery for much longer. It kinda bores me.  You see the trick is to stop trying to keep clean and then there is no conflict, works for a while. The other side of the coin is that if you take your foot of the break too often, you may slide on the ice. We have the sea here and the beach, a couple of Hollywood types in the steam room. What could be better?

Gop  No worries, Joe. The color blonde is on my mind. Stop trying, eh? Sounds like a day at Beach Road. Let’s talk about your last client – the White Flamingo. Everyone knows these spas charge an arm and a leg to stick a rubber hose up, what you call, your Harris. Every country has a different name for it; all I know is, everybody has one. The Fun City telegraph was burning that private dick business wasn’t the only thing going on with you and Mrs. Bell at her mansion on the hill. And the word on the street is, the Flamingo has spent time at this very spa.  Is that a coincidence, Joe or is the Flamingo your Mrs. Jones, because it seems you gotta thing going on?

Joe D    Some reviewer said recently that I have a problem with women. Well, anyone who’s in a relationship has a problem and anyone who hasn’t got a piece of skirt or leather vest has a problem. Money and women are the same – they mean everything and nothing… You’ll have to ask the Flamingo herself if it’s serious – all I can tell you about the Flamingo is like the bird that gave her her moniker. Each way her head turns there’s a big bill in front of it.

The White Flamingo steps out with Joe Dylan for a ride in Fun City - Paparazzi photo credit to Johnny Coca-Cola

The White Flamingo steps out with Joe Dylan for a ride in Fun City – Paparazzi photo credit to Johnny Coca-Cola

Gop  I figured you for a gent, Joe.  And a wise one at that. I’ve always liked the way Joe Dylan sees the world. I don’t like to pry into people’s personal lives.  But I am a bit concerned for your mental health. So I must tell you.  There’s a Full Moon Party in two days just a short swim from here that will knock your flip flops off. The here and now could be a lot worse than this seaside spa. What does the future have in store for you, Joe? What can your fans expect from you while you still have a pulse?

Joe Dylan ponders a swim at Samui spa beach ...

Joe Dylan ponders the meaning of life in a James A. Newman novel and/or a swim on the beach …

Joe D Pulse? Odds are you’ll croak before me, frogman. My plans? Well I’m checking out of this here new age cesspit  when the doc gives the all clear. Then it’ll be swimming to the full moon, have a party, and the next assignment is something tasty. It involves a rich kid who leaves behind his promising career to live in a utopian society of naked chicks in the jungle in central Thailand. I get my assignments from the higher power.  This time Newman threw me a paddle. Talking of paddles why don’t you grab yourself a paddle and hit some ping pong balls in the rec room, I have an appointment with the enema tech in twelve, we get together this time everyday and just like to shoot the shit.

Joe's toilet ...

Joe D’s toilet … clean as a whistle …

Gop Ping Pong’s my game, Joe. When I was in California last summer I won a little tournament down in Big Sur. You’d love it there. Redwoods. Ponds. Beautiful. But I see you as more of a Paris kinda guy.

Joe D Sure, in another lifetime I lived in room .25 the Beat Hotel, Left Bank. I can picture it now – gazing out that window across the rooftops and chimney pots. Up close a chimney pot’s a work of art. Yeah, Paris, the 1950s – shore leave. Picked up a taste for the Chinaman’s curse, and discovered my first case of the clap. Both imported from the East. But that’s another story for another waiting room.

Gop I learned a lot today. And I hope to forget it pronto. Time for you to play your game of hole-in-one with the long haired beauty wearing the latex gloves. I need my Altoids and Camel’s to fuel me back to The Big Weird. It’s been a real pleasure, Joe. Before I get out like trout is there any message Joe Dylan would like me to bring back to the City of Angels? 

Joe D Yes. Buy the White Flamingo by James A. Newman. If my benefactor doesn’t come up with the readies to spring me from this joint then we’re looking at selling enough copies to spring me free. Listen, Just tell your readers, to buy the god darn book.

The White Flamingo by James A. Newman - Third in the Joe Dylan Noir Crime Series

The White Flamingo by James A. Newman – Third in the Joe Dylan Noir Crime Series

Gop You got it, Joe.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the frog on the blog and a pulp private eye and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thailand Footprint.
For a book review of The White Flamingo by Thailand Footprint, as published in Chiang Mai City News, please click the banner above.
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