Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond
Originally published by Exhibit A, my second Detective Maier novel, The Man with the Golden Mind, is now available again via Crime Wave Press.
Julia Rendel asks Maier to investigate the twenty-five year old murder of her father, an East German cultural attaché who was killed near a fabled CIA airbase in central Laos in 1976. But before the detective can set off, his client is kidnapped right out of his arms.
Maier follows Julia’s trail to the Laotian capital Vientiane, where he learns different parties, including his missing client are searching for a legendary CIA file crammed with Cold War secrets. But the real prize is the file’s author, a man codenamed Weltmeister, a former US and Vietnamese spy and assassin no one has seen for a quarter century.
Get you Kindle copy from Amazon.
Very happy to report that the 17th edition of the 900+ page Reise Know How Thailand handbook, c0-authored by Rainer Krack and myself and photographed by Rainer Krack and Aroon Thaewchatturat, is in the shops in the German speaking world, just as I am finishing up the update to my Angkor guide in Siem Reap for the same publisher.
My latest story with French journalist Laure Siegel on Odisha, one of India’s least visited states, and its fledgling tourist industry, published in the Nikkei Asian Review.
PURI, India — “Jay Jagannath! Jay Jagannath!” A sea of people chants the sacred mantra while pulling on thick ropes hauling three massive, 14-meter-high wooden carts decorated in red and gold. The carts, loaded with dozens of priests, carry the statues of Jagannath, the Hindu lord of the universe, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.
There are almost no foreigners among the 700,000 visitors who have made the pilgrimage to Puri, this coastal city in India’s eastern state of Odisha, formerly Orissa — even though the Ratha Yatra, as the cart festival is called, is one of the larger and most colorful religious events in India….
Read the full story here.
Cambodia: Journey through the Land of the Khmer , photographed by Kraig Lieb, with my text, is doing well in Siem Reap bookshops.
Cambodia: a Journey through the Land of the Khmer throws the doors to this small Southeast Asian kingdom wide open and invites both visitors and armchair travelers on a trip through the history and landscape of Cambodia while introducing the country s people, their unique and resilient culture and colorful festivals. Cambodia s temples are legendary the Angkor Empire ruled much of Southeast Asia from the 10th to the 15th century and its ancient monuments left to us today are a sublime dream in stone, a Herculean effort in craftsmanship and a tour de force of the imagination.
From the world famous Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world, to the gigantic capital city of Angkor Thom and to lesser known ruins of Beng Melea and Ko Ker, hidden deep in the Cambodian jungle, acclaimed Lonely Planet photographer Kraig Lieb has scoured Cambodia s architectural treasures for more than twenty years to cover all aspects of one of Asia s greatest civilizations and most intensely productive cultures.
But there s more to Cambodia: a Journey through the Land of the Khmer than architectural splendour. The book is also a journey through the kingdom s countryside which is almost as dreamlike as its monuments traditional farm and river life carries on as it has done for hundreds of years, people live by the rhythms of nature and season. Cambodia s smaller cities and towns as well as its beaches, stretching from Thailand in the West to Vietnam in the East, have been barely discovered. Beyond the temples, Kraig Lieb takes us on a visual journey to the most attractive corners of Cambodia s capital Phnom Penh, called the Pearl of Asia by the French – a bustling, attractive city crammed with colonial and modernist architecture, busy temples and thriving street markets.
Cambodia: a Journey through the Land of the Khmer brings the kingdom to life, presenting festivals and lively street scenes, sumptuous rural vistas and a close look into the country s tragic recent history.
Asia-based writer Tom Vater wrote an insightful text to accompany the images.
For those who can’t find it in a shop, there’s always Amazon.
“A detective should have facts, but sometimes, you just had to dance to the song playing on the jukebox, work the instinct routine, wherever it takes you.”
James Newman is cutting his anchors and leaving the shore. He probably sails under a black flag and his destination is rather undefined. He’s not concerned with heaven or hell, though both feature prominently in Fun City Punch, the most far out and radical in his Joe Dylan series.
Newman started off writing about Bangkok/Pattaya’s dirty underbelly and conjured up a great line-up of demented reprobates who inhabit the night of one of the sleaziest, most lawless parts of the world that isn’t in an actual state of war. But times have changed since the publication of his earlier novels. Fun City is no longer much fun.
As Thailand moves towards becoming a tropical North Korea where people disappear or get thrown in jail for spurious reasons with increasing frequency, its leftfield chronicler is leaving his demi-monde roots behind and is moving into heavier, darker and richer territory. The writing is more assured, the plot is more disjointed, the characters are more desperate and the journey is more uncertain.
In his fifth Joe Dylan outing, the story’s location morphs into a kind of Beat netherworld, a dystopian universe where contrary citizens are hauled in for attitude adjustment sessions by a faceless, brutal government, a fantastical reality deeply embedded in a sense of literary despair.
His protagonist Joe Dylan is a victim of state power but he is also a player, a lone wolf, an investigator who works on reflexes in a world in which investigations no longer really matter. His motor will keep on running until it can run no more.
But none of this is really important. The power of Fun City Punch lies in the details, the rich language, the torrid corridors of verbal fireworks that lead into post-modern echo chambers crammed with the screams of a thousand and one wasted human narratives. This is where Newman shines like a dead star from another galaxy – his descriptions of the mad world he created are so cunning that they propel us back into our own desperate and crazy realities. Trump may become president. In Newman’s world, we suspect, someone like Trump already has the top job and is pissing on all of us.
““Follow me inside,” Newman writes, “I think you will find it more comfortable out of this sun.”
I’ve recently reviewed six hotels in Kandy, Sri Lanka for The Daily Telegraph.
Kandy House, the former home of the last king of Ceylon, now a stunning hotel property amidst jungle and paddy fields outside of town, was a particular highlight.
My latest story with Laure Siegel on government censorship and the arts in India, focusing on theater on Mumbai and Delhi.
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI — “First they come for the movies. Then for the books. Theater will be the last to be hit, but the clamp-down is coming,” said Anish Victor, a founder of Rafiki, a theater collective from Bangalore, in India’s Karnataka state.
“They constantly test how far they can push their agenda and how much resistance they encounter,” Victor said of the Hindu-based Bharatiya Janata Party government that took power in 2014. “It happens in the courts, on the censorship boards. They push their moralistic values to suppress all public means of expression.”
Victor’s comments reflect growing concerns among many intellectuals in India about the impact of resurgent Hindu nationalism, which is widely thought among artists to have had a chilling effect on artistic values and contemporary theater.
Read the full story in The Nikkei Asian Review.