Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Eclectic crime fiction and informed, irreverent non-fiction from Asia and beyond

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Cambodia: Jouney through the Land of the Khmer 2nd edition bestseller

Cambodia: Journey through the Land of the Khmer with photos by Kraig Lieb and my text remains a bestseller in Cambodia. The second edition came out late last year.

There’s currently a great light display for the book at Phnom Penh airport.

Sacred Skin – Second edition, 8 years in print

Sacred Skin -Thailand’s Spirit Tattoos by Tom Vater and Aroon Thaewchatturat, published by Hong Kong imprint Visionary World, was first published 8 years ago. The highly acclaimed best-selling title, currently in its second edition, garnered more than thirty reviews, including a three page spread in TIME Magazine.


Sacred tattoos, called ‘sak yant’ in Thailand, have been around Southeast Asia for centuries and afford protection from accident, misfortune, and crime. Young women get tattooed with love charms in order to attract partners, while adolescent men use the protective power of their yants in fights with rival youth gangs. For most though, the tattoos serve as reminders to follow a moral code that endorses positive behavior.


During the application of a sak yant, the tattoo master establishes a series of life ‘rules’ that need to be closely adhered to, starting with Buddhism’s first five precepts. Failure to observe the master’s instructions will cause the sak yant to lose their power.


Beautifully photographed these are tattoos that are the essence and ‘key’ to individual identity, a philosophy for living, the translation of soul to skin, as complex as the leaves of an autobiography, the story of a life

Will cleaning up Thailand’s most famous party street improve it, or kill its soul? – in The Daily Telegraph

Leonardo Di Caprio has been here. As have countless young backpackers from the West. Over the past forty years, Khao San Road, once a quiet residential street on the fringes of Bangkok’s historic centre, has morphed into the world’s best-known backpacker hub.

Loud, inexpensive, garish and in your face, the 400 meter long strip has been a party destination and traveler transit point like no other in Southeast Asia with more than a million annual visitors slumming it, often in a culturally insensitive manner and on a tight budget, through its guest houses, cheap eateries and roadside bars.

Now it seems, the days and nights of laid back, devil may care tropical revelry may be coming to an end….

My latest in The Daily Telegraph looks at government plans to regulate and reorder one of the world’s most anarchic and free-wheeling business strips.

Past Masters

Spotted a couple of books of mine in a second hand shop in Banglamphu, Bangkok, the other day.

My first nonfiction Beyond the Pancake Trench (2004) and my second novel The Cambodian Book of the Dead (2013).

Eaux Troubles – crime novella set in la Reunion – published in Ecoute Magazine

Finally got my hands on the first short novella I wrote with Laure Siegel for Ecoute Magazine.

The five parts of Eaux Troubles, a crime story set around the problematic relationship between man and shark on the French island of La Reunion have been published.

Our next story, set in 1940s French colonial Cambodia, is set to start running this month, with a spoken word version on accompanying CDs, and we have a third novella set in the Atlas mountains of Morocco in the works for 2020.

Figures Libres – A Tattoo Book Classic


I just finished translating Figures Libres, an incredible book that documents how tattoos morphed from back alley subculture to global pop culture.

Published by Noir Meduse, Figures Libres features crazily beautiful portraits by Dom Pichard aka P-mod & a colorful round-the-world-to-follow-the-needle essay by Laure Siegel.


Figures Libres is out in September in French and English.
Pre-order a copy now and receive a free print.

48 hours in . . . Bangkok, an insider guide to Thailand’s colourful capital in The Daily Telegraph

My latest look at Bangkok in The Daily Telegraph.

Welcome to Bangkok – a sprawling, humid metropolis of more than 10 million souls that rose along the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya river a little more than 200 years ago. Today, the Thai capital brims with interesting historic sites, stylish hotels, incredible culinary adventures, and fantastic shopping, and none of this need break the bank. The city has had some success in shedding its longstanding image of sleaze for a younger, more cosmopolitan mantle and is a pretty safe urban space. And while the military government has put the break on non-stop partying, the arts scene and the world-famous street food culture, many visitors continue to feel enchanted by this cornucopia of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and moods. Bangkok remains on the map for its temples, palaces, malls and markets, but it’s the ever-present smiles of its citizens that give the city a quite lovely human dimension.

Read on…

Bangkok’s Heritage Hotels – in Roadbook!

Bangkok is better known for modern skyscrapers than historical hotels but exclusivity can be as much the province of throwback boutiques as luxury big names. Tom Vater visits some heritage properties that hit the spot.

Photo by Laure Siegel.

Read the full story here….

MERIAN Thailand

I contributed eight pages on Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Thai history and my favorite place in Thailand (can you guess where? See above pic) to MERIAN Magazine. The current issue of Germany’s classic travel publication focuses exclusively on Thailand.

The Gingerbread Houses – New title from Crime Wave Press

Crime Wave Press, Asia’s only crime fiction imprint, has published its 34th title, The Gingerbread Houses, a taut, nasty British Noir thriller from Ben Jones, his fourth title with us. Ben previously published Skewered and other London Cruelties, Pennies for Charon and my personal favorite, the totally outrageous, twisted The Devil’s Brew.

Crime Wave Press is a labor of love, seven years in the making, founded and run by Hans Kemp and myself, with Chris Roy helming the PR wing of our endeavor. We have recently sold foreign language rights to one of our titles and are negotiating for another. We plan to publish another title later this year and continually read new submissions. We are especially interested in signing more female authors.

Get your ebook copy of The Gingerbread Houses here.

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