Blame it on Serendipity


I have two sayings framed and hanging on the wall of my office: “I am not the editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one.” – Mark Twain in Galaxy magazine, December 1870; and “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” Samuel Johnson, English author critic, & lexicographer (1709 – 1784).

Over the years, there are many times I wish had heeded the first message; but for all 20 years at Pattaya Mail, the past 17 as executive editor, I have always tried to follow the advice of the second.

My involvement with Pattaya Mail has been, in reality, the result of a series of “accidents”, or perhaps more accurately, accidental meetings and serendipity.  It’s all a bit complicated.  When I first moved to live here in Thailand permanently, back in 1991, I did so with the grand dream of sitting on a beach somewhere, writing novels and living off the royalties.  I did manage to write my first novel back in 1992, Mango Rains, but it took another 17 years for me to get the courage up to try and get it published.

In the meantime, I joined a group of fun loving people running the Pattaya version of the Hash House Harriers.  That crazy crew included two people that would be instrumental in my beginnings at Pattaya Mail.  The first, Dave Chandler, was the conceptual editor of an, as yet, unpublished local newspaper.  The second was Mark Gorda, who had signed on to be the sports writer.  They both decided that since I wanted to be a writer, perhaps I could fill in for Mark when he was away overseas, working his regular job in the oil industry.  As fate would have it, by the time the owners were ready to publish the first Pattaya Mail, Dave Chandler had been replaced by Chuck Pringle, and Mark was away in some exotic paradise, like Yemen.  So it was up to me to “fill in” for Mark whilst he was away.

That first issue was a bit of a challenge to complete, and I even managed to write a couple feature type stories, including an interview with members of the US Navy who happened to be in town with the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier group.  Would there be a 2nd edition?  Finally, three weeks later, there was.

As it turns out, when Mark returned from overseas, he decided that perhaps he didn’t want to be the sports writer after all.  So I was able to keep what I consider to be the best job I ever had.

The second piece of serendipity came when our gallant editor, Chuck Pringle, who had managed to birth Pattaya Mail and see it through some very rough early times, finally reached the end of his rope.  He’d had enough.  So, one fateful evening when I went into the office to drop off my sports pages, Peter Malhotra was there waiting for me.  He explained how Chuck wanted to move on in life, which in reality meant he wanted to try and get his life back, and would I fill in as editor for a couple weeks until Peter could find a “real” editor to take over.  I agreed.  After all, it would only be for a couple weeks.

Here I am, 17 years later, and I guess Peter was never able to find that “real” editor to come in and take Chuck’s place.

Over the past 20 years, there have been many contributors to Pattaya Mail, most of whom have made my job much easier.  Too many to mention, although Chuck Pringle was a great mentor. Andy Gombaz was a great friend (still is) who worked harder than even me in the beginning to make sure the Pattaya Mail came out on time every week.  Peter Cummins’ work, both as a sailing writer and a biographer of the Royal Family for our special editions, has helped us beyond words.  Dr. Iain Corness was brought on board 16 years ago to write an auto column, but at times has written about half the newspaper with his various columns and event write ups.  I still say, to this day, that Brendan Richards was the best translator we ever had, and we’ve had many.  When we expanded to include the Chiang Mai Mail, which I also edited in the early years, my job with both newspapers became a bit too much for one person to handle, so we hired a series of sub-editors, the latest of whom, Bob James, is highly responsible for molding all the Thailish news we receive from our translators into the professionally presented news you read today.  King in the graphics department, who took over from Kua, who took over from Andy, has become, as his name suggests, the king of graphics, able to lay out the newspaper up to professional standards.  My “sister”, Primpao “Poo” Somsri has been instrumental in the advertising department.

Peter Malhotra, of course, has been the most instrumental in my career at Pattaya Mail.  Somehow, at some time along the way, our relationship revolved from one of “boss to subordinate” to one of friendship, and further to one of family.  Peter has three sons, but he is father to a great many people, and brother to me and a great many others.  Thank you Peter.

Speaking of his three sons, the next generation of Malhotras, Prince, Tony and Dave, will no doubt ensure the long time survival of the Pattaya Mail, once us “old guys” get out of their way.

I am sure there are many more worth mention that I have left out.  For that, I apologize.

Over the past 20 years, there have been some amazing events, some of which you may find on other pages of this supplement.  Other, behind the scenes stories – well, I suppose they need to remain behind the scenes – for now.

Finally, as I wrote on the front page of this supplement, it is with heartfelt thanks that we salute you the reader, you the advertiser, and you the contributor, for without you we wouldn’t have been able to last this long.  We hope we may continue to live up to your expectations for the years to come.