If you think that this is another book in the Vincent Calvino series with its plot revolving around Christopher G. Moore’s Private Investigator Vincent Calvino, then think again. It is not.
If you think this is the next stand alone novel to follow the 10 that Moore has already written, then think again. It is not.
This is a completely new genre, a collection of essays in four broad parts commencing with Perspectives on Crime Fiction Writing, followed by Clues to Solving Cultural Mysteries, then Observations from the Front Lines and finally Outside the Southeast Asia Comfort Zone.
The subtitle to The Cultural Detective, (ISBN 978-616-90393-8-9, Heaven Lake Press, 2011), is “Reflections on the Writing Life in Thailand”. Author Moore manages to look at the reflections without becoming introspective, but has the ability to dissect concepts and customs with a very equal handedness. These are genuine explanations of Thai customs given by someone who does not let his own culture and customs impinge on the details.
An example of this is, “In Thailand the deference culture is largely built around age, rank, family and wealth. The Thai expression is kreng jai, and that term underpins the social, political and economic system and has done so for centuries.”
The essays do cover Moore’s methods in writing fiction. “You have a choice in the road you take. Authors make that choice every time they start a book. Writing blends death and sex into myth, folktale, legend and serving up a strong brew turns us into addicts.” He explains the pitfalls. “Writing a book takes long hours of focused attention. You can’t multi-task and write a novel. Because you have to keep the whole story, plots and sub-plots, characters, their connections and motivations inside your head as a unified whole. This is fragile territory. One that is easily distracted.”
However, these essays are much more than a potted ‘How To’ book (Dale Carnegie has a lot to answer for). Moore looks dispassionately at some of the reasons the youth of the world is resorting to anarchy. “….who have no job and turn to crime as the only available option. This new army of angry young recruits may not be fuelled by the hatred of a jihad. The fuel of despair and hopelessness are the precursors to hatred, and you don’t need a religion to motivate such young men. Wanting status and the material stuff that a material society proclaims is essential for your manhood is the new scripture.”
Christopher G. Moore is an excellent writer, and his style in this collection reminds me of Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) and Dave Barry (I’ll Mature When I’m Dead), though Moore’s subject matter remains more deeply thought provoking than the former, in my opinion.
Cultural Detective won’t be carried by Asia Books/Bookazine, so if you are in Thailand then you can order at a 10 percent discount for THB 350 retail price (includes free shipping in Thailand) from http://goo.gl/HZzrn. Outside Thailand, order directly from Moore’s website: http://goo.gl/tWwLn and there is a 30 percent discount for the first 15 orders. A literary bargain!