During my weekly trawl of the Avenue’s Bookazine shelves, I spotted the book by Nicholas Wade, called A Troublesome Inheritance, subtitled Genes, Race and Human History (ISBN 978-1-50420-623-8, Penguin, 2014).
There are not too many books that have provided new phrases for the English language. Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 (ISBN 0-09-947731-9, 1961, Random House) is one of the foremost.
Pirates have flourished in our society for thousands of years. From the Pirates of Penzance, to Pirates of the Caribbean to Somali Pirates and now some in the Straits of Malacca, pirates have held a fascination for us all (me included).
The Great Escape is one of those movies that has attained ‘cult’ status. With a star-studded cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn and Hannes Messemer, the actors carry the plot. But is the story, as seen on the silver screen, the ‘real’ story? No, says Guy Walters, the author of The Real Great Escape (ISBN 978-0-553-82611-1, Bantam Press 2013).
There was almost no book review this week. The week I was due to pick one up from Bookazine was during the extended Pattaya Songkran, and I had this mental picture of returning to Bookazine with a soggy pile of pulp. Fortunately I dodged all the revelers and settled in to read this book Fear and Loathing in Bangkok (ISBN 978-616-7503-24-0, Heaven Lake Press, 2014).
While I enjoy Christopher G Moore’s writing, I also enjoy Voranai Vanijaka, the journalist who promoted this book on the front cover, noting that “Moore is a keen observer of Thainess”, to which I would probably say “Moore is a keen observer!”
The book is a collection of Moore’s blog-style items and is divided into nine major sections. The weekly thoughts from Moore as he surveys his Thai world will fill the reader with interest as he delves into the Thai community world with humor and irony. “Try doodling cartoons about sacred figures and see how far your claims of artistic license and freedom get you in the 100 meter shackled leg race in the prison courtyard.”
The major sections are “Where the wild things are” which covers dumb criminals and elephants, the “Criminal justice system - Thai style”, “Crimes without borders”, “Culture and justice”, “Government, crime and technology”, “Anger and fear”, “Brain Games”, “Crime fiction”, and “On writing”.
Moore comes up with some interesting figures in the “Criminal justice system - Thai style” telling the reader that in one raid on a Thai prison, the authorities found “284 mobile phones, 1,700 methamphetamine pills and 50 gm of crystal meth.”
In dealing with justice Thai-style, Moore looks at the heir to the Red Bull fortune and his Ferrari which struck and killed a policeman and the ways the rich can manipulate the system. The worst punishment for the crooked police investigator being a transfer to an inactive post, where the officer waits for everything to blow over, while he still collects his salary and plays golf to while away the long hours. Moore sees and says it all.
Moore explains very succinctly the way that cross-border crime works, with opium being a typical commodity to be sold, with the money returning via multiple bank accounts in many countries. “Organized crime is highly profitable because it has the ability to patch together a makeshift set of mutually beneficial relationships that thrives on secrecy, non-traceability and the sanctity of borders.”
The current road toll is a recent topic with the figures from Songkran’s seven days being publicized. Moore writes, “In Thailand where I drive on the highway a couple of times a week, I witness something approaching low-level warfare on wheels.” Theoretically a dash mounted video camera would be evidence, but not necessarily here where CCTV’s can get “lost”.
For B. 495 you receive the thoughts of a master observer. If you are a long-stay ex-pat you will agree with the substance in his chapters. So get this book and nod sagely. If you are a newbie get this book and learn what the LOS really is like, before you venture out with your opinions.
One piece of advice that I give to new writers is that they should write about things that they know. The result is books that have the thread of realism necessary in today’s sophisticated literary world.
The American CIA has become everyone’s bête noir. Even recently I read that one writer proclaimed that the CIA took control over the missing Malaysian Airlines plane and landed in Diego Garcia, abducting 20 computer boffins from the passengers and assassinating the rest!
“I Am Malala” (ISBN 978-0-316-40346-7, Little, Brown and Company, 2013) is the biography of the Pakistani teenage girl who was shot in the head point blank by the Taliban. Yet she survived and recovered well enough to be a young heroine and female role model and address the world from the podium at the United Nations.
Editor John Brockman’s compilation, This Explains Everything (ISBN 978-0-06-223017-1, Harper Collins, 2013) has tackled what would seem an impossibility - explaining the inexplicable! He proposes discussion on “What is your favorite, deep, elegant or beautiful explanation,” and has 48 different scholars put forward their views.
For many of us adults, we look back on our school years with memories of sports after school being foremost. How many of you played soccer, rugby, tennis, athletics? How many of you wondered as a 15 year old if you could make the Olympics, World Cup or what have you at the pinnacle of sporting endeavor? A large percentage I am sure. I remember using Franz Stampfl’s book as the bible as I trained every afternoon with “interval running”. Alas, my knees gave out before I could pit myself against the top athletic crowd. No gold medals for me.