Detective Maier in Suspense Magazine

Cambodia Laos Thailand USA

I recently published The Name’s Maier – Welcome to the Far East, an essay on the world of my fictional detective and his latest appearance in The Monsoon Ghost Image, in Suspense Magazine.

Here is an excerpt:

Southeast Asia is a fascinating part of the world to live in and write about. The region is full of contrasts and extremes. It’s usually hot, the cities are crazy and crowded, and the countryside is sublime. The politics are turbulent and often murky, sometimes violent. The pollution can be apocalyptic. In Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the three countries I set my novels in, Buddhism, capitalism and cronyism all thrive. The poor see little justice, and in recent years autocratic governments have really stepped up to head off civic attempts to create more equal and open societies. Last but not least, foreign meddling has been common for centuries and the white man has done his fair share of damage, from colonial enterprises in the 19th and early 20th century to the USA’s destruction of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 60s and 70s. In comes Detective Maier, a former war correspondent turned private eye. Having worked in Asia as a conflict journalist in the 1990s, Maier—single, late 40s, and based in Hamburg—is regularly sent east to look into crimes involving Germans. Why would anyone write a series of detective novels in English, featuring a German protagonist in Asia? Well, why the hell not? I thought. Anything goes in fiction: There are zombie PIs out there. I knew the region and had met more than enough edgy, creepy characters, both local and foreign, on my travels, to provide rich material for gripping crime fiction. And for a while, time was on my and Maier’s side. I’ve lived in South and Southeast Asia for much of my adult life and write both non-fiction and fiction about this part of the world that, for all its darkness and chaos, I love. My travels have led me on foot across the Himalayas, given me the opportunity to dive with hundreds of sharks in the Philippines, taken me to the largest human gathering on Earth in India, and offered me the chance to uncover and document recent history (often hair-raisingly dramatic, if not utterly tragic) and cultural trends and gems in the region. On my journeys, I joined sea gypsies and nomads, pilgrims, serial killers, rebels and soldiers, war lords, dissidents, pirates and sex workers, hippies, secret agents, drug dealers, hitmen and dope fiends, cops, prophets, rock stars, artists, tattooists, film makers and fellow writers. A few of these remarkable people have become friends. Others inspired characters in my novels. My first visit to Cambodia was brief and reckless. In 1995, I found myself in Trat Province in eastern Thailand. A fellow traveler told me it was possible to cross the border into war-torn Cambodia without a visa or passport. The following day I cruised across the Gulf of Thailand and into the mouth of the Koh Kong River in a speed boat, accompanied by a man with a suitcase chained to his wrist and a sex worker on her way home from Pattaya. Someone wrote that Cambodia is the most dangerous country in the world. First one falls in love with it, then it breaks one’s heart. The heart break was not long in coming. As I re-crossed into Thailand the following day, a young Khmer man approached me. He asked me if by any chance I would visit the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. At the time there was no overland connection between Koh Kong and the rest of the country, the roads had all been destroyed and marauding armies—Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese backed Cambodian government forces—still clashed every now and then. The man asked me to take a letter to his wife. He had not heard from her in three years. I had no plans to travel to Phnom Penh at the time. His sadness was overwhelming. A few years later I was back, for the Angkor temples, the amazing gun metal skies, the funky people and burnt landscapes, the country’s crazy and dark history and its uncertain future—the small Southeast Asian kingdom really got under my skin….

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