Whilst in my late teens early 20’s and spending lots of time in Thailand, it was inevitable that I would stumble upon Asian fiction. My appetite for a story had always been there, but a story set in the far east (the place I considered as home), was certainly heaven-sent. So off I went, roaming the book shops of Bangkok during 1985, 86 and 87 to acquaint myself with what was on offer.
I remember coming away from Asia books in Bangkok with my first two novel purchases and reading them on my return to England. The first ever novel was called ” The World Of Suzi Wong by Richard Mason and was a taster for my next novel.
You see the first novel was based in Hong Kong, but with the second novel I got the perfect novel location of Bangkok, Thailand. Yes, I expect you have guessed already as the second novel was called ”A Woman Of Bangkok ” by Jack Reynolds. Reading these books really did me no favours as firstly, I pined for more novels from Bangkok to get my teeth in to and secondly, I just plain old pined to get the hell out of England and return to Thailand.
The Enjoyment Of Novels
Why did I enjoy a good novel? Should I not have spent my time focusing more on personal development and self-improvement books? Well, that did come, but I had to have my fix of escapism. The joy of going on a journey with the author without actually leaving my house held a real thrill. Yes, I was addicted to the thrill and the magic of where the authors imagination might take me.
The Authors Point Of View
The quote I like from an author’s side of the fence is from the book ” Atlas Shrugged ” by Ayn Rand. On why she enjoys writing fiction over philosophical non-fiction.
” In a book of fiction the purpose is to create, for myself, the kind of world I want and to live in it while I am creating it; then as a secondary consequence, to let others enjoy this world, if, and to the extent that they can” (p.6).
Now if I could write novels, this would certainly be my mantra.
The Reader: On Finding A Favourite Author
The tracking down of one’s favourite authors can be a lengthy process, but certainly a worthwhile one. This point is explicitly expressed in the book ” The Importance Of Living ” by Lin Yutang. On the art of reading Lin Yutang gives this advice.
” I regard the discovery of one’s favourite author as the most critical event in one’s intellectual development. There is such a thing as the affinity of spirits, and among the authors of ancient and modern times, one must try to find an author whose spirit is akin with his own. Only in this way can one get any real good out of reading. One has to be independent and search out his masters. Who is one’s favourite author, no one can tell, probably not even the man himself. It is like love at first sight. The reader cannot be told to love this one or that one, but when he has found the author he loves, he knows it himself by a kind of instinct” (p.381).
For this process I cannot say there is only one author. I enjoy a good few authors and there are sure to be many undiscovered authors whose spirits could be akin with mine. I hope to track them down in time.
Finding A Favourite Novel By Chance
However, it was not until my third novel purchase that was once again located in Bangkok, Thailand that I was really hooked on Asian fiction. It was probably the book that turned me in to an Asian fiction junkie during the mid to late 1980’s. It must have been around May 1986 as I remember the world cup being on at the time and a painful memory it was as well. I was staying at the Mermaid’s Rest Guest House on Sukhumvit soi 8, a great little place and had become buddies with an American from San Francisco. As I had spent lengthy periods in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Monica, we had plenty in common to talk about.
The gentleman’s name was Paul and although not a football or as he liked to call it Soccer fan, he was a fan of a beer or two. So each evening saw another world cup match that I would drag him along to. England were doing well and tonight was the night of all nights. It was the night that we would knock Argentina including the great Diego Maradona out of the quarter finals of world cup. I don’t know why, but for this night only I let him choose the venue where we would watch the match.
I must admit the drinking started early that day and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the venue that we ended up in. It was the evening that Diego Maradona scored the hand of God goal to knock England out of the world cup. It was hard to explain the misery of that evening on the football front and I will never work out how the hell I got back to the Guest House from either a physical or directional aspect. It was normal not to return with Paul as football may not have been his thing, but chatting up the ladies certainly was. It was another one of those nights where football took a back seat for Paul and I had a feeling he took a back seat as well.
Anyway, when sober, Paul advised me to get a copy of the book ” Ne’er The Twain Shall Meet ” by Nick Noye as he informed me that I would love it. I must admit that I never did get a chance to thank him as he returned to San Francisco on urgent business and quite probably to dry out. However, he was spot on with the recommendation and it still remains one of my favourite novels to this day. If you are still in this world today Paul, I thank you sir.
Further Asian Fiction
Of course, the Asian fiction education continued as I started to build a collection of early Christopher G. Moore novels like ” God Of Darkness ”, ”Minor Wife” and the short Stories classics of ”Chairs”. This would be the author whose books I have the most of. Besides his novels I am also a big fan of his short stories and essays.
Then there was the brilliant ” Letters from Thailand ” ”Botan” (the pseudonym of Supa Sirisingh) – original Thai text 1969. It was translated to English in 2002 by Susan Fulop Kepner. The novel is set in Bangkok and covers a 20 year life span of a Chinese family who emigrated from Southern China to Thailand after World War II. I remember reading this book 3 times straight off the bat as it left me stunned. I loved the cultural insights and the perceptions represented by the Chinese and the Thais about each other at that time. The book is an award – winning novel and one that I found an education of it’s own.
When I first purchased a copy of this book it had a pink cover, but one day I made the fatal mistake of lending it to somebody and you know what happened. I never saw it again. I yearned for the book and years later in a Bangkok book store in front of my eyes was the updated version of ” Letters From Thailand”. I now have the book back on my shelf at home and there it will stay, There is a lesson here – don’t lend your books out.
There was always room as well for the brilliant Collin Piprell who did ” yawn ”, kicking dog’s ” and ”bangkok knights” with a bit of Leary’s Law. What was Leary’s Law you ask? This would have been another chap to avoid a night on the town with. From the book bangkok knights by Collin Piprell.
” His name was Leary. Just Leary. He had red hair; he was beer-bellied, barrel-chested, and he swung his bulk along on two short thick legs. His hands were large and freckled, and there was a fair amount of scar tissue, particularly around the knuckles” (p.11)
Asian Fiction Of Today
Since then, as it was quite a while ago, many really good authors on Asian Fiction have joined them. Take the short stories of my recent purchase ” Bangkok Noir ” edited by Christopher G. Moore which has a collection of 12 short stories. Each story is the work of a different author and I have to admit to enjoying them all.
The 12 authors are John Burdett , Stephen Leather, Pico Iyer, Colin Cotterill, Christopher G. Moore, Tew Bunnag, Timothy Hallinan, Alex Kerr, Dean Barrett, Vasit Dejkunjorn, Eric Stone and Collin Piprell.
This is a review I wrote on ”Bangkok Noir” that will hopefully give you an idea as to what the stories are based on.
A Recommended Blog
I hope in time to do more on these authors individually as they are all excellent, but for more information now, please visit the superb blog of Kevin Cummings who looks at many of these authors. Besides writing on books and authors regarding Asian fiction he also writes on things, literature, music and not forgetting Henry Miller. It really is an excellent blog and well worth following.
All of the books mentioned here can be found at Amazon
In the next post I will delve into the Novel of ”Ne’er The Twain Shall Meet” and outline what I loved about it.