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 – Review in Looking For A Good Book


Great review of my second Detective Maier novel The Man with the Golden Mind at Looking for a Good Book, from 2014.

Writers often hear the mantra “show, don’t tell,” but author Vater brings this to a new level.  Rather than showing us what is happening, he brings us in to the environment and lets us experience it with the characters in their own world.  A remarkable feat!…

Looking for a good book? The Man With the Golden Mind will suck you in and take you on a thrilling and exhausting journey through the jungles of Laos and beyond.  It’s a thriller not to be missed.

I’ve just completed the third Maier novel The Monsoon Ghost Image. Stay tuned.

Bangkok Noir: Crime Fiction in the City of Angels – Jonathan DeHart in The Diplomat


Jonathan DeHart writes an in-depth article on Bangkok crime fiction in The Diplomat today. Thailand’s capital is home to a vibrant community of writers exploring the city’s vast underbelly. Excellent overview of some the city’s literary forces.

Great to be interviewed for this piece and wonderful to see Crime Wave Press being mentioned. Authors James Newman, John Burdett and Christopher Moore also have their say.

Read all of Bangkok Noir: Crime Fiction in the City of Angels here.

The Last Tattooed Chin Women of Burma – Rise Tattoo Magazine

My story on the last Chin women in Rakhine state in northwest Burma who have face tattoos is out this month in the French magazine Rise Tattoo.



Chin3  Chin4




Chin7  Chin8

Nepal Earthqake – One Year On


One year ago today I got caught up in the Nepal Earthquake. I was covering with 5th international Nepal tattoo convention with Laure Siegel and Dom Pichard. The first big quake took place as we were interviewing tattooists in the ballroom of the Yak and Yeti Hotel.

We spent the next four days wondering through the partially destroyed city, sleeping on the street, and experiencing many aftershocks. The populace was dazed and the authorities absent.

I reported for several newspapers, including the Telegraph, the Nikkei and Mediapart and for our original client Rise Tattoo.
After we left, things got worse for the Nepalis. with continuing aftershocks, the government’s inability to cope with the disaster or the funds that came into the country – the money still hasn’t reached the people who need it, and the politically motivated economic blockade by India.
There is little business in the cities and tourism remains muted. The World Heritage monuments lie as they fell. My friends in the mountains continue to struggle. The political chaos continues.
It was great to see that the tattoo convention took place again this year, but I couldn’t make it.

Just before the quake, I was up in the Everest region in the village of Kumjung, surrounded by the world’s highest peaks and snowed in by a late storm. Walking through an April snowscape with Ama Dablam suspended in white fog above us, the crunching of our shoes the only sound, was the kind of moment that is prety impossible to put into adequate words. Nepal always provides moments like that.

Thanks to those I traveled and worked with on the roof of the world in 2015, especially Jit Bahadur and Ghale Kamal, Patrick Vater, Charlie Londs, Mohan Gurung, Bijay Shrestha, Quentin Inglis, Chris Powers, Angie Tostaky, Serjiu Arnautu, Paulo Jorje Cruzes and anyone I have forgotten, and finally the wild man who did the disappearing act.
I hope to be back in Nepal soon. It’s a magical place.

My first report from the ground after the quake in The Nikkei Asian Review

Generation Democracy: Jerry Ink and the Burmese Tattoo Scene in RISE TATTOO

Laure Siegel reports on Yangon‘s tattoo scene and one of its shops – Jerry Ink. Photos by me and Rāj Hegde for French magazine RISE TATTOO this month.

We had a great time spending a day with tattooists Jerry Api and Sweetz Sweetz.

Big thanks to Mg Mg Tha Myint for the connect.

Jerry1 Jerry2 Jerry3 Jerry4 Jerry5 Jerry6

Songkran 2016: where to celebrate Thai New Year – The Daily Telegraph


My guide for The Daily Telegraph on where, when and how to best celebrate Thai New Year.

Songkran celebrations begin under the watchful eye of the military – The Daily Telegraph

My lowdown on Thailand’s New Year celebrations in The Daily Telegraph today.


Among tourists, Thailand’s Songkran festival is best known for its exuberant and anarchic water fights. For three to five days, depending on the region, Thais of all ages throw ice cold water at each other and at visitors, along with copious ladles of talc, turning the country into a soaking and snow white playground.

Traditionally, the police are out in force to combat drink driving – last year the festivities cost 364 lives and incurred some 3,559 injuries. The Ministry of Culture usually reminds visitors and Thais alike that dressing in skimpy clothes damages the nation’s wholesome image. Following those pronouncements, everyone drinks, drives and generally lets down their hair – and sometimes a lot more.

This year, the New Year celebrations kicked off under the shadow of military interventionism. Official notions of what constitutes propriety were rolled out with greater conviction than ever before.

Short film: SHANK by Roy Harper – An explosive thriller by one of America’s most wanted outlaws!


Coming soon from Crime Wave Press:

SHANK – An explosive thriller by one of America’s most wanted outlaws!

Check out a short film by Roy Harper on his explosive debut novel.

Paperback and e-book available for pre-order now:
Amazon UK e-book

Amazon UK paperback

Amazon com e-book

David “Tool” Roney is a dangerous man with a moral code. Stuck in brutal Parchman Maximum Security Prison in Mississippi, doing life for armed robbery, and abused by his guards, he is consumed by only one thing – escape.
His plotting pays off, and together with two other inmates he breaks free. But escaping and staying free are two different things.
Tool hits the road with only one thing in mind – to return to the prison and to take vengeance on his tormentors. That’s Tool’s Law. But then he meets a girl called Rose.
With the police on his heels, injured and deep in the Mississippi woods, he has no choice but to trust her. For once good fortune is on Tool’s side, the girl turns out to be a bit of an outlaw herself and nurses him back to health.
But his demons will not let go, he hunkers for revenge and engages in several robberies to make money. And while the ex con slowly opens his heart to his Rose, his old habits take a long time to die. Rose, keen to hang on to her man, makes Tool an offer he can’t refuse – his own shack, deep in the woods, far from the arms of law enforcement. Tool is more than happy to take her up on it.
But will it be enough to give up his plans for revenge and his career of crime and carnage?

Shank is an archetypal Great American novel as well as an existentialist meditation on imprisonment and a gripping pulp story. The writing is clean and clipped, the pacing is breathless. The action and the story’s tragic background roll seamlessly together into a steam train of a novel. If Mark Twain, Jean Paul Sartre and Richard Stark had spent creative time in a prison yard, this is what they might have come up with

The Nepal Tattoo Convention – One Year Post Quake


It’s wonderful to see that the Nepal Tattoo Convention, which was cut short by the massive earthquake last year, is back this weekend. The quake was one of the worst catastrophes I’ve witnessed and written about, in a country I first visited in 1995, covered during the civil war and which remains very close to my heart.
Wish I could be there but it didn’t work out.
Nepal itself continues to struggle, its impoverished and beaten people badly served by corrupt governance, rapacious NGOs, constitutional chaos, indifferent media and cruel neighbors. Hope that those tattooists who have returned to Kathmandu will find closure and that those who are there for the first time will have a great time all the time.

I covered the immediate aftermath extensively for The Daily Telegraph, the Nikkei Asian Review and several other British dailies. With French journalists Laure Siegel and Dom Pichard, I later  produced extensive coverage of both the convention and the disaster for  RISE TATTOO and Skin Deep Magazine.

It took me a couple of months to come down from the experience, but of course this is rather trivial when considering the incredible suffering the quake produced for the Nepali people.  I gather that very little aid has reached ordinary citizens and that none of the historic sites that were reduced to rubble have been rebuilt.


A Day in the Life – Asia, mon Amour

cam pp-dog

Asia, mon amour.

Every time I go out in the street in my adopted continent, I see something that, by the central European standards I grew up with, is outrageous, logic defying, irresponsible, shocking or at the very least unusual. Sometimes it is terrible, at other times beautiful. Sometimes it is trivial,sometimes sublime, at other times absolutely appalling, debasing. Often it is defining of an entire culture, country or society. Never ever is it boring.

I am not trying to romanticize this kaleidoscope of life energy too much. No, the phenomenon of things not being predictable does not make Asia better than Europe. Chaos does not always offer more freedom. And freedom does not always appear as a result from a lack of order.
But it sure is entertaining out here, because freakishness is part of the picture and does not linger on the margins, the way it so often does where I come from. Freakishness in Asia is often mundane, because only in mundanity can otherness truly flower without risking to offend the status quo. And we all know that offending the status quo is always fraught with huge risk, no matter where one might be doing it.

Here is a sweet moment from Phnom Penh, Cambodia at night, at a wild guess around 2003.