Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

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The Man with the Golden Mind in The Chiang Mai City News


The Man with the Golden Mind, the second Detective Maier Mystery, published by Exhibit A Books, gets reviewed by Kevin Cummings in The Chiang Mai City News.

Vater​ has fine-tuned his craft. The writing is tighter than The Cambodian Book of the Dead (Exhibit A 2013) although still on the darker and more violent side of crime fiction. Tom Vater describes two things particularly well, on an individual basis and grand scale: ​power and man’s inhumanity to man. The fact that one impacts the other should come as no great surprise but the way Vater dissects the two is skillful and to​ be appreciated.

Read the full review here.

The Man with the Golden Mind – Podcast hits 17.000 listens


The Podcast I did back in June on my new novel The Man with the Golden Mind, the second Detective Maier Mystery has had more than 17.000 listens.

Thanks very much to Stuart Beaton at The Small Picture Podcasts for the great interview.

Listen to the full podcast here.

Sacred Skin – A behind the scenes short video by Hans Kemp – Music By Keith Nolan


Check out this new short film by photographer Hans Kemp on sak yant, Thailand’s sacred tattoos. Music by Keith Nolan.

TIME Magazine Review (Asia Edition)

Luck of the Draw

By Andrew Marshall Monday, May 23

Read more:,9171,2071020,00.html#ixzz1MpMZ1QpH

The introduction to Sacred Skin, Tom Vater and Aroon Thaewchatturat’s new tribute to Thailand’s sak yant, or sacred tattoos, begins with an agonized exclamation: “Uaaahh!” So it should. While modern tattoos are efficiently (though not exactly painlessly) applied with an electric machine, sak yant are hand-hammered into your wincing body with a long needle.

But no pain, no gain – and, if you believe the enthusiasts, the rewards are out of this world. Devotees credit sak yant with warding off sickness, attracting lovers and helping them emerge unscathed from car crashes. A housewife caught in last year’s crackdown on antigovernment protesters in Bangkok tells the authors, “People around me got shot but my tattoo protected me.”

Sak yant are etched onto both soul and skin, as Thai photographer Aroon’s portraits record in hypnotic detail. The mostly monochromatic designs borrow from Buddhist and Hindu mythologies, and the space between them is often overlaid with an ancient Khmer script that German writer Vater likens to “mysterious instructions.” Designs are executed by priestlike figures who have their own secret ink recipes and recite prayers while they work. Their customers see themselves as disciples, bound for life to their master and feeling a kinship with all those bearing his designs. Some disciples are also in thrall to the tattoo’s spirit. That introductory “Uaaahh!” emanated from a man who believed he was possessed by the spirit of the tiger tattooed on his torso. Vater describes him careering around a Buddhist temple near Bangkok in a trance so violent that it took five soldiers to subdue him.

Prominent among sak yant enthusiasts are police, soldiers and gangsters, who claim bullets bounce off their magical second skin. Many Thais still associate tattoos — even sacred ones — with lowly or violent professions, but there are two things wrong with this view. First, explains Vater, many devotees give up lives of crime after getting sak yant, believing the tattoos’ potency depends upon their living decent lives. Second, the appeal of sak yant is broadening, not just among trendy young Thais but also foreigners, partly thanks to Angelina Jolie, who has a tiger sak yant on her back.

With its stunning photos and exuberant writing, Sacred Skin will further popularize a centuries-old tradition. In Thailand, sak yant have survived decades of economic development and Western influence. After warding off these modern forces, bad luck and bullets should be easy.

The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu reviewed at The Crime Segments


“There are plenty of unique, crazy and offbeat characters that fill this novel, and the author has a keen eye for detail.  The part of this story that took place in the Blue Parrot is one of my favorites, and is an excellent example of how the author sets a scene that sucks the reader right into the action. Using impressive descriptions, dialogue that’s totally believable and creating such a realistic atmosphere that you feel like you’re actually there along with the boys from the bus drinking it all in, he’s created a world out of this nightclub that I hated to leave. And that’s only one instance … he does the same where ever the action is — in Pakistan, India, and most especially in Kathmandu.  This is definitely not your average crime novel, which is a very good thing. Definitely and most highly recommended.”

Read the full text of this excellent new review of The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu at The Crime Segments.

Thailand’s Happiness


Cambodia 2014 – High and low and in between


I have just been on an early research trip for the second edition of my Moon Angkor Cambodia guide, first published in 2011. Cambodia has come a long way since then, the country is a little better well off and the poor are not quite as desperate  as they were a decade ago, but the culture of impunity remains pervasive, the government remains dangerous and corrupt and the magnificent Angkor temples remain under assault from millions of tourists who appear to have little interest in Khmer history and tend to focus on doing selfies with their GoPro or Iphone sticks.

That said, the temples are achingly beautiful and there are rare moments of quiet and contemplation, especially at the lesser visited sites. This Vietnamese lady was unconcerned about the crowds in Angkor Wat and made a showy effort with her prayers at every shrine she passed.

Sacred tattoos in the Nikkei Asian Review


I just wrote a new article on Thailand’s sacred tattoos in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Photographs by Aroon Thaewchatturat.

Sacred Skin in Rise Tattoo Magazine

Rise Tattoo Magazine #31 - Sample

Rise Tattoo Magazine #31 - Sample

I am interviewed in this month’s Rise Tattoo Magazine from France. Big thanks to Dom Pichard and Laure Siegel.

The Man with the Golden Mind reviewed at Crime Review UK


…there is little relief from a barrage of very dark deeds and sudden grisly deaths. To mine any humour from this book you will need a very black view of the world.

Chris Roberts reviews The Man with the Golden Mind at Crime Review UK.

As previously mentioned, my publisher Exhibit A decided to call it a day after just a year in business. Bad news for the many writers Ex A signed, but I am trying to see the silver lining in this…in six months, the Maier novels will be mine again. And I have a third Detective Maier novel in the pipeline.

Crime fiction publisher Exhibit A folds after just 12 months.

CambodianBookOfTheDead-72dpi    TheManWithTheGoldenMind-72dpi

Exhibit A Books, the publisher that put out my first two Detective Maier novels, The Cambodian Book of the Dead and The Man with the Golden Gun, folded yesterday after just a year of publishing.

How this imprint might have imagined to start making a significant profit in such a short time without proper promotional tools, proper media exposure and proper author publisher communication remains a mystery as twisted and impenetrable as those in the books published by Ex A.

I am currently writing the third Maier Mystery – Monsoon Ghost Image – and will find another way to publish that title next year. In the meantime, the first two Detective Maier books remain in print and available.

Here’s the statement from the publisher:

As you will be aware, Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.

We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.