Tom Vater

Tom Vater

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

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Cambodia: A Journey through the Land of the Khmer – Cover


Cambodia: A Journey through the Land of the Khmer has just been published. It’s currently only available in SE Asia but this will change soon. I am told the book will be available on Amazon soon.

It’s been a great project to work on with photographer and publisher Kraig Lieb.

And it’s the heaviest book I have published so far! About 1.2 kilos a copy.

Cambodia: a Journey through the Land of the Khmer – Out Now


“Cambodia: a Journey through the Land of the Khmer” , an illustrated book by photographer Kraig Lieb, went on sale over the weekend in Cambodia.  I contributed the text.

Great project, great journey.

This shot by Kraig is from Monument Books at Phnom Penh Airport.

The book will be available on Amazon US & Amazon UK within the next month.

Fred Branfman – Obituary – The Daily Telegraph


“The Plain of Jars, what it’s a symbol of, is how those people on the vague frontiers, those people in the Third World, those people we never see, we never know about, we never hear, can be vaporised, wiped off the face of the earth without people back here even knowing about it.”

My obituary of US whistle-blower Fred Branfman who exposed the bombing of Laos in the later 1960s in today’s Daily Telegraph.

Just-in-Time Printing of Stories from Our Dark Side


As my publishing imprint Crime Wave Press has been invited to this year’s Georgetown Literary Festival in Malaysia, literary reviewer Umapagan Ampikaipakan interviews me for The Business Station.

The publisher of a Hong Kong based fiction imprint (the company endeavors to publish the best new crime novels, novellas, and short story collections to readers around the globe) tells about print-on-demand fiction and about the recent explosion of Asian crime fiction.

Listen to the full interview here.

Thailand: Murder in the Land of Smiles in The Diplomat


The country’s tourism sector is taking a hit following a high-profile murder case and a bungled police response.

My report in last week’s The Diplomat.

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