Tom Vater

Tom Vater

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

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A Night of Bangkok Noir with Peter Rozovky, Christopher G. Moore and James Newman


I attended a great evening of talking crime fiction at the Checkinn99 in Bangkok with pulp author James Newman doing the introductions, and crime writer Christopher G. Moore interviewing the incredibly erudite Peter Rozovsky, author of celebrated crime fiction blog Detectives Beyond Borders.

The talk veered from the profound to the profane, from traditional to imaginative definitions of what makes Noir literature, to the Bangkok crime fiction scene, and to my favorite Noir writer David Goodis who got several mentions.


Incidentally, Christopher G. Moore has started an interesting facebook page called Bangkok Noir Authors.

Tom Vater, Author & Traveller


Tom Vater has a dream job: as a travel and guidebook writer, he constantly explores Asian roads to get the details right and inspire others to start their own adventures.

Writer Marco Ferrarese, author of seminal punk rock novel Nazi Goreng, recently interviewed me about my early travel exploits in Asia.

Read the full story here.

Burma’s election fever grips Yangon and its foreign observers


I feel incredibly humbled to have witnessed the first semi fair and almost free election in Burma in decades.

I was at the NLD’s headquarters tonight where an exuberant and chaotic party atmosphere prevailed throughout.

But as one Burmese told me, ‘the military are like chess players and they are planning their next move.’

That coupled with ASSK’s and the NLD’s unforgivable  stance towards the country’s Muslims, the continuing war along Burma’s borders, the common use of child and slave labor, the majority’s nationalist chauvinism, the early scars of globalization, the kleptocratic tendencies of the military and business elite, and the slow burning genocide of the Rohingya certainly makes me wonder about the western media’s persistent blanket gushing (with some rare exceptions) over what is but a step on a long hard and uncertain road for this beautiful and tragic country.

Many Burmese will rightfully remember today as a wonderful moment. And no doubt, the incumbent government will be a vast improvement on the horrors of the past.

Many foreign observers, establishment journalists, pandering historians and celebrated experts might want to take a long hard look at their simple-minded Disneyland narrative that is pretty divorced from realities on the ground but that plays so well with readers back home who are gagging for happy endings in a scary and confusing world.

But of course I am exaggerating.




James Bond in Yangon


Went to see the new James Bond movie in Yangon (Burma) yesterday. A bit slow to start with, supported by plenty of crackling and chewing noises from the audience devouring vast amounts of sunflower seeds, Spectre was almost Citizen Bond, taking on the current global obsession with surveillance of everything, with 007 serving as a kind of ultra-violent Ed Snowden. Ironic then that many people in the audience were more focused on the screens of their smart phones and pads than on the movie, turning the cinema into a sea of white lights that competed with the onscreen explosions. After the show, the hall looked like the lair of Spectre post-destruction, covered in sunflower shells, pop corn and other snack debris.

Addendum:  Spectre was lame. Monicca Bellucci was wasted in her role, the young heiress to the Gaumant/Pathe empire clearly got the role because of who she is, Christoph Waltz,who played the super villain, brought far more menace to earlier roles than this one and the Jaws type thug was only memorable for the one word he said in the entire film, ‘shit’.

The camera work was a bit flat too and the first half was so slow it looked like an arthouse movie that went nowhere. But that wasn’t my point. I liked the fact that the movie picked up a counter-cultural issue touching on the Zeitgeist, albeit in a corporate entertainment context, and that the Burmese audience were oblivious to it because they all had their noses in their own screens playing candy crush, chatting with their aunts in Myawaddy or grinding up dried seed pods and chuckingspitting them across the row of seats in front.

Message from a Treacherous World


I spent the day on the back of a motorbike today in Kayan State. Beautiful bucolic countryside, nice people, more Buddhas than you can shake a 1000 incense sticks at. There are even some backpackers here and there, gormless young people with selfie-sticks who enter temples in hot pants and seem oblivious to almost anything.

Especially the fact that the world’s longest running civil war rages 60 miles from here.

I drove past a quarry this afternoon. My driver told me that all the men working the rocks, mostly by hand, are prisoners from the local jail. They get called out during the rice harvest as well. Perhaps it’s better toiling in 40 degrees heat than rotting in a Burmese jail cell. Beautiful country. Nice people.

Especially the Buddhist monks who tell western journalists that Muslims shit all over the country, those same monks that are co-architects of a slow genocide unfolding a few hundred kilometers north from here in Rakhine state. The men at the mosque I visited yesterday tried hard not to look scared to death. Burma is sublime and grim.

The Romance of the Road – Yangon Central Bus Station

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I spent years in Asian bus terminals when I was young, broke and keen.

Yangon Central Bus Station is a real throw back to those times. Some struggle, some wait, some are plain crazy.

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Yangon Noir


Yangon Noir. Photo by Charlie Londs.

Yangon Nights


Great to be back in Yangon for a few days, my first visit in a couple of years. The city has changed immensely, far more traffic, more donut shops and everyone has their nose in a smartphone or two.


As Myanmar is gearing up to general elections next month, there are serious allegations of genocide against the Rohingya minority while the largest heist of the 21st century appears to be taking place in the north of the country – the selling off of the country’s jade deposits.


In Yangon though, things are booming, the roads are packed late into the night with vendors and stalls though the downtown area reminds far more of Kolkata than Bangkok and still retains that refreshingly apocalyptic feel of a city on the verge of drowning in its own muck.


The future appears very much uncertain. Yes, people have more freedom and a little more disposable income than a few years ago but at a cursory glance, the development favours a tiny elite while the vast majority is likely to be left behind.


The ugly face of racism in crime fiction – from Dresden to Bangkok


Well known German Turkish crime fiction writer Akif Pirinçci (his bestseller Felidae is translated into English, spawned several sequels and was also made into a movie) went on stage in Dresden during a recent PEGIDA (German far right movement) demonstration last week and bemoaned the fact that Germany’s concentration camps were closed, suggesting they’d be good places to send the current wave of refugees streaming into Germany, while referring to those unfortunates as a Muslim garbage heap.

The organizers of the demo did not stop him and the crowd of 20.000 racist fucktards who had traveled from all over the country to bathe in a verbal orgy of abuse and hatred of foreigners duly applauded (he was not booed off stage as has been suggested in some media).

The leader of PEGIDA Lutz Bachmann, himself a far right scumbag in sheep’s clothing, has since apologized for not intervening and letting Pirinçci finish his hate speech, presumably to cover his own extremist arse from prosecution. It remains to be seen whether the Pirinçci will be prosecuted for his latest outbursts.

Pirinçci is also on record for vile anti-gay rants, for calling female asylum seekers fugitive sluts and for naming Germany’s Green Party as child fuckers. Nice guy.

Random House did the right thing and immediately stopped selling all his books. “The protection of democracy and human rights is for us a key part of our publishing creativity, as well as respect for traditions and the desire for cultural diversity,” the publisher stated on their website, stating that Pirincci’s statements “are conflicting to these values.”

Several old friends and acquaintances of mine in Bangkok have recently started voicing similar opinions both on facebook and in abusive private messages. Friends no more of course. In one case at least, this has been extremely painful as I worked with that person for a decade and respect their work.

But there is neither room for empathy nor forgiveness for racists, whether they are celebrated crime fiction authors or some Joe Public ranting on a digital street corner.

You just need to shut up and disappear.

Conversation in the City of Angels


Shooting the breeze with my friend Cameron Cooper, editor of several Crime Wave Press titlees as well as my illustrated books Sacred Skin, Burmese Light and Cambodia, Journey through the Land of the Khmer, high above the Bangkok, City of Angels, a few nights ago.

Photograph by Charlie Londs.,