bangkok noir


A black cover is appropriate for an anthology of ‘dark’ writings from 12 authors and edited by Christopher G Moore.  bangkok noir (ISBN 978-616-7503-04-2, Heaven Lake Press, 2011) has items from nearly all the writers of ‘noir’ novels, based in Thailand.

In his introduction, Christopher G Moore opens with “Behind the Thai smile and the gracefully executed wai, in the near distance is another realm: the geography of conflict, personal grudges, anger, revenge, disappearances and violence.  Where loss of face, personal rivalry and competition for power often have fatal consequences.”  This is somewhat different from the travel guide images of Bangkok in every backpacker’s knapsack.

The collection of stories have been written by John Burdett (Bangkok 8, the Godfather of Kathmandu), Stephen Leather (prolific thriller writer), Pico Iyer (Video Night in Kathmandu), Colin Cotterill (The Night Bastard), Christopher G Moore (another prolific writer including the Vincent Calvino series), Tew Bunnag (writes on the contradictions in modern Thai society), Timothy Hallinan (Crashed), Alex Kerr (Bangkok Found), Dean Barrett (another very busy writer with recent titles Skytrain to Murder and Permanent Damage), Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn (more than 20 books, but mainly Thai language), Eric Stone (the Ray Sharp PI series) and Collin Piprell (four novels and many articles).

One with a very deep understanding of the Thai psyche is The Mistress Wants Her Freedom by Tew Bunnag, with much subtle manoeuvring as the Thai characters skirt around each other staying within Thai cultural mores, but only one holds the ace.

Another which has the reader guessing up to the final paragraph is Dean Barrett’s Death of a Legend.  A brilliant thriller, set in Bangkok.  Where else would you find a surfeit of hired killers?

Stephen Leather’s Inspector Zhang and the Dead Thai Gangster was almost an Inspector Clouseau as the inscrutable Oriental Inspector solved the riddle of how the man dies and who did it, before they had even disembarked from the plane.  A very clever deduction.

Timothy Hallinan’s Hansum Man demonstrates just why you should never retrace your steps in relationships, particularly when you are a senior citizen, and never believe everyone from your past.  They may not be!

John Burdett’s Gone East contains an expose of the HiSo includes and “… have a feel for just how low, dirty, petty, vindictive, fascist, sociopathic, paranoid and sick the fabulously rich really are.”

If you enjoy thrillers, especially ‘noir’ thrillers, this is the book for you.  A dozen of the best authors of the genre all in one book.  Wonderful value at B. 450.  I honestly enjoyed every one.  It would have to be the ideal airport novel with each item around 25-50 pages, so can be picked up and put down at will.

Christopher G Moore concludes the introduction with, “This anthology of contemporary stories weaves a pattern of intrigue and mystery where the living and the dead occupy the same space.  Crooked lawyers, crooked cops, transsexuals, minor wives, killers and ghosts take you along for a tour that unlocks the secret doors and invites you to enter the space where Thais and foreigners work, live, play and die together.”