The latest book from David Young (The Scribe, Thailand Joy, Fast Eddie’s Lucky 7 A-Go-Go, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok Dick, No Problem Girl) is Khao San Road (ISBN 978-616-90671-0-8, Hostage Press International 2010).
For those who are not conversant with Khao San Road in Bangkok, this is the Thailand Mecca for the backpackers, similar to Earl’s Court in London used to be for the Australians doing Europe on five pounds a day. Khao San Road is the place to get fake diplomas as well as real hangovers. Young describes Khao San Road as being, “Parades of young people rambled about, talking, laughing, and drinking from open bottles of beer. Everyone seemed involved in some great, final, free-for-all of independence and irresponsibility.” Excruciatingly correct.
Author David Young then takes his readers to that Khao San Road, where you meet a cast of several players, all in the one area, but all with different agendas. There is the American self-help guru and his fiancée, both of whom are desperately in need of help. The Thai national English language program school teacher who is not even barely literate in her subject (an all too frequent an occurrence), and who is given the brief to find five native English speakers in one weekend. There are a couple of grifters, all living off their wits, and the wallets of the unsuspecting newbies. Another an American youth living under the shadow of his deceased elder brother. A young teenager attempting to gain a place in a TV reality show and the TV producer who finally shows everyone that reality shows are not ‘real’. An aging “rock star”, who never really was, and for whom life was only sex, drugs, but probably the rock and roll was lost in the mix.
With so many characters in the cast, author David Young splits the book into several mini-chapters, which keeps the continuity going, not the reverse that you might expect.
The beauty inherent in this book lies in the way author Young manages to combine all the characters, eventually bringing them all together for the denouement. A clever psychological release in the end.
At B. 495 in English language bookshops, this is a hefty read (341 pages) for your money. It is also a book that you will find you need a good long weekend to read, even though the book only covers two and a half days in the lives of the Khao San Road travelers.
I found this an excellent book, full of details to give the reader a good insight into the personalities of the cast, and on the way, some minor characters, who also produce even greater depth to the plot and the players. Like a New Zealander called Ziegfried and a baby called Weasel. That these disparate characters could all impinge upon the lives of each other might look preposterous from the outside, but if you think back to your headstrong days of youth, none of it is impossible.
Well worth picking up this book even if just for a look at your own forays into the adult world. A psychological ‘thriller’.