Tom Vater

Tom Vater

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

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Interview by Reading Nook

I ‘ve been interviewed at Reading Nook about my recent literary shenanigans and get another chance to talk about my new novel The Monsoon Ghost Image.

The Detective Maier Mystery Series – at Amazon for 10US$

All three Detective Maier novels, including my brand new title, The Monsoon Ghost Image, are available from Crime Wave Press via Amazon in one handy The Detective Maier Mystery Series package for less than 10US$.

First Amazon review of The Monsoon Ghost Image

Fellow author Janet Brown has posted a fantastic and very thorough review of The Monsoon Ghost Image on Amazon.

E book copies are US$3.99 at the moment.

It’s not easy to find a true noir detective in fiction these days, probably because as the German gumshoe Maier decides in The Monsoon Ghost Image, “Why solve a crime when everything he read about was criminal?” Maier, as was clearly shown in the first two novels in his trilogy, is no starry-eyed idealist about life and crime but the state of the post-9/11 world has him living in a bottle of Orange Campari, drinking crushed insects and waking up to a life “dulled by booze, self-inflicted monotony, and isolation.” “He could no longer remember a world that was reasonably safe.” Still he remains part of a family of investigators and when called by the man whom he works for and respects, he responds.

A man who has become one of Germany’s national heroes, a photographer who has risked his life over and over to show the world the face of war, is presumed dead after his boat is blown to smithereens off the coast of Thailand. His widow, however, has reason to doubt that the funeral she presides over is a valid one, and she wants to tell Maier what those reasons are. And suddenly readers are in a world invented by Raymond Chandler, where the hardened detective faces a beautiful woman who “carried herself like someone who swam a mile a day. Every day.” Behind Emilie Ritter’s black veil is a face that has tempted Maier for years. When she shows him an email from “the Wicked Witch” who assures her that Martin Ritter is alive and well in Bangkok, “involved in the crime of the century,” Maier takes the case, even though his instincts tell him he’s walking into a trap. Accompanied by Mikhail, a deadly gay giant with the “air of an eastern Mike Tyson who read Bulgakow on Quaaludes, 150 kilos of Russian super power,” he goes off to the city of Fellinis, those “holiday psychos who arrived in their thousands every day” to throng the streets of Thailand’s capital city.

Maier becomes immersed in “downtown Bangkok, where there was nothing to look at but plenty to see.” Here he encounters a “man who could charm a snail onto a razorblade,” a transgender woman who “had invested thousands of dollars to look like a million,” and “the kind of guy who would chew through his own arm for his master,” in a city where “it was both unfashionable and dangerous to think about the bigger picture.” It’s all comfortably noir until it becomes unimaginably evil on a global scale. Martin Ritter is indeed alive, documenting atrocities at the front line of the War on Terror, and he’s made the ill-advised mistake of trying to profit from his new line of work.

Tom Vater is a journalist who has practiced his craft in Southeast Asia for decades. He knows the territory better than most writers and has the talent to make it thrilling in a literary fashion. In The Monsoon Ghost Image, he uses that knowledge and talent to construct a world where “truth is just another story,” where government agents do “wet work” in rooms that are located in “an ocean of darkness far below somewhere, populated by the truly cursed,” where they operate so far beneath ideas of soundness that even the devil squealed in discomfort at the thought of this submersion.”

Buttressing this story of the woman whose brutal beauty “had a price but was not for sale,” the insane billionaire who “dripped vanity the way others drip sweat” and “every time he moved, needed to reconfirm his own brilliance,” Martin Ritter who had “crossed the line and cashed out,” the plastic surgeon whose inhuman art was hitherto undreamed of even by the Marquis de Sade, is the farthest circle of hell, “a Western nation letting go of so much – dignity, pride, aspiration, perhaps even hope,” to practice evil in the realm of “instutionalized brutality.”

Yes. The Monsoon Ghost Image is classic noir. Readers will race through it, entranced by the Dickensian cast of characters in Thailand’s bars and on its beaches, all rendered with piercing and often very funny accuracy; cheering for Maier and Mikhail as they try to escape an island that is a wild game park and the hunters who hope to bag human trophies; and recoiling from a hellish doctor who redefines evil and seems to possess the secret of eternal life. There are striking descriptions that are as funny as they are accurate: “The Thais welcomed [sex tourists] the way Europeans welcomed Santa Claus, like an old, rather distant friend who came to play and left presents,” Poet’s Night in “ a bar that sold a vibe that no longer existed, to people who were no longer quite there,” “a great place to stare into the void and contemplate the injustice of your existence with a beer in your hand,” Western ravers on their way to the Full Moon Party, ignoring their surroundings, ” more comfortable with itself, admiring each other’s tattoos, reveling in a shared tribal experience that encompassed doubtful fashions and earnest discussions on how to save money on the road.” Vater’s classic noir vernacular is as assured as Dashiell Hammett’s ever was and connoisseurs of the genre will savor gems like “the tattoos on her face told disturbing stories from the edge. Maybelle had let go of a thing or two,” “Like an old-hand chess player she was always a few moves ahead,” and “Civilization’s just a haircut. People are extreme. Always have been.”

But when readers finish this book, none of us will be able to say, just as Maier no longer can, “We are not killers, Mikhail.” We’ve all been laid low by “the perfect 21st Century weapon,” shattered by reading “It’s radical stuff… when you think of what we really need to do when we face evil. We have to become evil. We have to embrace evil.” And if only by our tacit silence, we all have.

Men Reading Books review The Monsoon Ghost Image

Men Reading Books found my just published novel The Monsoon Ghost Image a little disturbing…

The Monsoon Ghost Image by Tom Vater is a very dark murder mystery which takes place in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Cambodia. The book starts in late 2002, and the course of the story covers about six months. One key figure are Martin Ritter who fakes his death at the outset even though that resulted in the death of the other half-dozen people on his sailboat, which was located in the Andaman Sea off Thailand. Those deaths are only the beginning – lots of people are killed in the course of this story. After having his appearance altered by a psychopathic plastic surgeon, Dr. Suriporn, Ritter thought he was safe, but then he was still recognized, so the chase was on to find him. Another character was Fred Maier, a drunken German detective, felt like his life was no longer worth living and he descended into a severe alcoholic state in an attempt to flee the worsening world that he perceived.

The author set the stage for the dismal state of the world when he wrote, “A clear demarcation line had been drawn in the collective narrative of the brotherhood of man. People weren’t arguing about issues anymore. People were arguing about what had happened and what was happening. People were arguing about the course history had taken and was taking, about who was writing it up and how it was being broadcast and consumed, and they no longer agreed on the broad strokes. The truth was becoming just another story. For better or for worse, every certainty was fragmenting.”

You can get the ebook edition of the third Detective Maier Mystery,  The Monsoon Ghost Image, here. Print will be available in December.

 

Talking about writing at My Book Place

I was interviewed at My Book Place a while ago about all things bookish….

What is your favorite book of all time?
Hard to say, so many – Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, the Chandler novels, Treasure Island by Stevenson, Burmese Days by George Orwell, The Quiet American by Graham Greene, Killing Mr Watson by Peter Matthiessen, Shoot The Piano Player by David Goodis, Death’s Dark Abyss by Massimo Carlotto, Riding Shotgun And Other American Cruelties by Andy Rausch,
a German children’s novel called Krabat by Otfried Preußler and so on…

Read the full interview here if you dare…

The Monsoon Ghost Image – Out Now!

Grab a digital copy for US$3.99.

The print edition is out in December.

The third Detective Maier mystery, published by Crime Wave Press, is a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph.

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

Read more about The Monsoon Ghost Image at Literary Titan.

 

2nd Revised Edition of Cambodia: Journey through the Land of the Khmer out now

Kraig Lieb’s illustrated book Cambodia: Journey through the Land of the Khmer, featuring my text, is currently Cambodia’s bestselling illustrated book.

A newly revised, freshly edited, fantabulous edition with new images is out now!

The Monsoon Ghost Image in Literary Titan

I was interviewed by Laure Siegel for Literary Titan about my forthcoming novel The Monsoon Ghost Image, the last past in my Detective Maier southeast Asian trilogy, to be published by Crime Wave Press next month.

With The Monsoon Ghost Image, I wanted to bring the series into the recent past. Rather than have Maier sift through the detritus of long gone cruelties, I wanted him to face something that is relevant today – the war on terror, America’s endless war and the co-option of weaker nations into its realpolitik. I’m not out to blame Thailand. The pressure applied by the US to assist in its barbarism was presumably immense.
I feel that the clearly undemocratic actions of nations who talk about democracy incessantly and who pride themselves on their apparently participatory governance, need to be a much more prominent part of our common narrative if we are to create a future in which it’s worth living. And I am not sure we’re doing anything like that. The renditions were a collective failure, not just of agency people, the military, the politicians, but of everyone who waves this off as a mad minute, including Europeans. I love American arts, their music, their movies, their paintings, but the abuse of the very norms the US cherishes is so commonplace now, it comes with a sheer endless number of historical precedents and is nonetheless so fiercely defended by many Americans, that there needs to be a counter-narrative.

Read the full interview at Literary Titan.

Dirty Pictures, Secret Wars And Human Beasts – Detective Maier Is Back To Investigate The Politics Of Murder

The third Detective Maier mystery is a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph.

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

 

Dirty Pictures, Secret Wars & Human Beasts – Coming soon: The Monsoon Ghost Image

Detective Maier Is Back Soon To Investigate The Politics Of Murder

The third Detective Maier mystery is a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph.

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

Out in November…

 

The Crime Fiction of Phnom Penh @ Crime Reads

Patrick French reports on Drifters, Conspirators, and Noir in Cambodia’s Capital City for Crime Reads and writes…

“Hard-boiled and noir is pretty much the only option on the menu when it comes to Phnom Penh crime writing. Tom Vater, a Bangkok-based writer and publisher, wrote The Cambodian Book of the Dead (2013) which sees German Detective Maier travels to Phnom Penh to find the heir to a Hamburg coffee empire. It’s 2001 and Cambodia is only just emerging from Pol Pot, starvation, civil war and political infighting. Maier is plunged back into Cambodia’s dark history, which collides with his own when it transpires that a Nazi war criminal has remained hidden among the chaos of the Khmer Rouge.”

Read the full story here…

The third and final Detective Maier Mystery, The Monsoon Ghost Image, is largely set in Thailand and will be published by Crime Wave Press later this year.

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