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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.



“You’ve got to earn the couch”, one University mountain biker said to his mountain biking buddy as I stood behind them, preparing for the big event in my day – ordering a sandwich at my local deli. Bush Senior was President at the time. It’s an expression I liked immediately, haven’t heard much since but thought about a lot two days ago.

My wife has only two speeds: stop and go. It’s difficult to get her to downshift. I’m more like a Waring 12-Speed blender: no need to work at ice crushing speed when the task at hand only involves blending peanut butter into your yogurt. But last weekend we both got a lot of stuff done. My wife and I had earned the couch. I’m an American. We’re trained, some might say brainwashed, to get stuff done so we can get more stuff. And like the instructions on a shampoo bottle there are those out there that want you to “repeat process” until you hit the grave. Most of the time I ignore them. Sometimes they have a point. My wife had earned the couch and a nice night out. The choice was, The Living Room located on Sukhumvit Soi 12 inside the Sheraton Hotel. I had never been before and neither had she. Time for a new experience.


The Living Room is known for its world class Jazz. That night the Steve Cannon Group was playing. I first heard Steve play at CheckInn99 on a Sunday afternoon in May, where I discovered that Steve has some world class chops. I wrote about that experience and Steve here: Discovering Steve’s talent is like a prospector that trips over a 4 lb gold nugget – it does’t take a lot of skill. The skill and talent are all on Steve’s end. Steve was gracious when I introduced myself that day and I learned he worked The Living Room regularly. We had earned the couch, The Living Room has couches and Steve Cannon was playing. Some decisions are easier than others. We went.

World Class Trumpet Player, Steve Cannon

World Class Trumpet Player, Steve Cannon

Steve’s four man jazz combo includes Steve Cannon on trumpet, piano, drums and double bass. Apologies for not getting the other names. Most jazz aficionados agree that without the trumpet jazz is just not the same. It’s been an integral part of jazz from the beginning, long before the piano got on board. The combo was great, the acoustics lively and Steve was the leader on the stage and in The Living Room, where he came over a few times to our cozy couch throughout the evening. It was a weeknight but they still pulled in a nice, comfortable crowd as Steve worked the crowd comfortably on and off the stage. Grover Washington Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker and Lee Morgan were just a few of the compositions we listened to. As jobs go, it seems like a great one to me. We had a great time and we will go back. Next time when Steve plays with his piano playing bother, Randy Cannon.


The jazz schedule at The Living Room located inside The Sheraton Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 12:

Jazz Schedule

Tim Hedges Piano Solo
Monday – Saturday: from 18:00 hours onwards

The Steve Cannon Band
Monday – Tuesday: from 21:15 hours onwards

The Randy Cannon Group
Wednesday – Thursday: from 21:15 hours onwards

The Randy Cannon Group with Cherryl Hayes
Friday – Saturday: from 21:15 hours onwards

The Cannon Brothers
Sunday: from 21:15 hours onwards

The Tim Hedges Jazz Trio
Sunday Jazzy Brunch: from 12:00 – 14:45 hours

Ratree's Drink

Although It was my first visit to The Living Room it felt like a DejaVu experience when I arrived. Like I had been there before. Then I remembered, I had. One of the many pleasures of reading fiction is not just the characters we meet, it’s the places we get to go. It turns out I had read a novel about another duo that had gotten a lot of stuff done and decided to reward themselves with a night at The Living Room. The duo was fictional detective, Vincent Calvino and his fictional saxophone playing friend, Thai Police Colonel Pratt. The novel is one of my favorites in the Vincent Calvino Crime Series, MISSING IN RANGOON written by well known Bangkok author, Christopher G. Moore and published by Heaven Lake Press in actual paper book form in 2013. The last chapter in the book is Chapter 22. The title of the chapter is, Bangkok: The Living Room.


I won’t bore you with all the details of the chores that earned my wife and me a visit to The Living Room but in the case of Vincent Calvino and Colonel Pratt all they had done was gone to Rangoon in Myanmar to locate a missing person and break up an amphetamine drug smuggling operation into Thailand. Vincent even worked in a couple of 10K runs while he was there. In the process, guns were fired, people were killed and rich people had to find new ways of getting richer. In short, Vinny and Colonel Pratt had earned the couch.

The chapter begins:

It was closing night at the upscale nightclub, located at a five-star Sukhumvit Road hotel. Yadamar wore a newly tailored tan suit, a purple silk shirt and alligator shoes with shiny soles. He sat behind a grand piano, smiling at the audience, hands dancing across the keyboard as Colonel Pratt finished John Coltrane’s, “My Favorite Things” –which he dedicated to Manee, his wife, who was sitting at a front row table. – The narrative of Christopher G. Moore from his novel, MISSING IN RANGOON

It’s not in the book but my guess is that Pratt’s wife, Manee also earned the couch. The music always sounds better when you do. Given the choice between being a couch potato or earning the couch go for the latter as much as you can. Get out and watch some live music and appreciate the talented musicians that ply their trade all over town in every town, most every night. Read a good book by one of your favorite authors. Get some stuff done. Be nice to your partner if you have one. Earn the couch.


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