Tom Vater

Tom Vater

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

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Rise Tattoo goes to India



























The brand new edition(#46) of Rise Tattoo, available at all good newsagents in France at present, features 16 pages on India by Laure Siegel and myself. We look at ethnic minorities tattooing, street styles, the world’s largest tattoo market in Delhi, political tattoos and Mumbai’s celebrity tattooists.

The Bangkok International Tattoo Expo

Just attended Bangkok’s International Tattoo Expo with writer Laure Siegel for French magazine Rise Tattoo.












Encountered a great cast of remarkable characters and some old friends.

My Rumble In The Jungle – Getting Tattooed In An Iban Village in Borneo










I have just published a guest post on The Next Best Book Blog on how I got tattooed in Borneo.


I was in the jungle in Borneo, somewhere, a day’s travel from Kuching – first by car, then by boat up a Conradian river, to an Iban longhouse community. I was on assignment with two French journalists to write and photograph a story on the tattoo traditions of the Iban.
The Iban are an ethnic minority living in Sarawak, Brunei and West Kalimantan on Borneo, former head hunters, but long socially check-mated by national politics, loggers and oil palm companies. And by cheap alcohol.
The young men in the villages we visited knew little about their grandfathers’ tattoos, but they did know a thing or two about getting so drunk in the mornings that the communal space in front of the private long house sections had turned into alcohol graveyards by mid-day. They called the stuff they drank langkau. It was made from rice, and perhaps lighter fuel, judging by its taste.
Well, they say that if you can’t fight them, join them, but I am not a drinker and don’t like having a glass shoved into my face for days on end. Other problems, the usual casualties of alcohol abuse in remote areas, soon manifested. Dark stuff. The booze really was doing damage to this community.
To complicate things, Obama friend and master TV chef Anthony Bourdain, the Donald Trump of cooking, had been to the village the previous year and had given every villager a fistful of cash in return for their cooperation while he shot his culinary reality apocalypse. This had created significant and unrealistic expectations of our little group of poor-ass, underpaid freelance journalists who needed to get the story on the cheap…

Read the full story here.

Roy Harper interviewed at Noir on the Radio

“Being an outlaw is about freedom, it sets you loose from the boundaries of society, the boundaries of law, and the things that hold you back. The limits of where you can and can’t go and what you can and can’t do. If you have no boundaries there, then that’s the freedom that it gives you.”

Noir on the Radio host Greg Barth interviews Crime Fiction author Roy Harper and it’s absolutely epic.

Roy Harper has been incarcerated in Mississippi since 1981 for armed robbery. He has gained nationwide notoriety for two highly publicized escapes from a maximum security prison in 1983 and 2000 and for his efforts in the courts to reduce brutality and injustice in American jails.

Roy Harper is the author of Shank and Heist, both published by Crime Wave Press.

Listen to this truly incredible interview here.

Interview on Creative Writer’s Post














Liz Kingsbury McKeown interviews me about my writing career.

It was fun.

Do something creative with your life. Don’t work for a boss in an office all your life. Don’t fall into consumerist trappings. Don’t get a mortgage if it means having to earn money day and night to make payments. Stay free enough so you have time to write. Once you have to make time, it all gets very difficult. Contribute something to the community. Don’t expect to be financially secure. If that is a priority for you, do something else.

Read the whole story at Creative Writer’s Boost.

The Man With The Golden Mind reviewed at Literary Fits

The Man with the Golden Mind gets a great review at Literary Fits.

“I am again impressed with a Crime Wave Press offering, this one being a Cold War aftermath spy thriller set in a country about which I knew very little: Laos. Tom Vater sets up an intricate and complicated plot which I found it a joy to get lost in and also introduces interesting and believable characters, both male and female. The women in this novel aren’t just eye candy! I was a little concerned that I hadn’t already read the first in what is becoming the Detective Maier series, but that turned out not to matter at all. This is a self-contained tale, admittedly with nods to its predecessor, but I enjoyed the read without any prior knowledge of our lead character.

Laos provides a fascinating backdrop to the story and I loved seeing glimpses into a completely different culture and way of life. I hadn’t realised just how comprehensively the nation was bombed as a result of the Vietnam War, or that its people are still being killed and maimed by that war’s bombs and landmines. Vater manages to include such education without losing the pace of his thriller. I did occasionally lose track of peripheral characters as there is quite a large cast to keep track of, but the twists, turns and double-crosses make for compelling reading and I particularly loved Mikhail. What a fabulous creation!”

Get an ebook copy of The Man with the Golden Mind here.

When tattoo culture meets politics – Tamil Nadu – Nikkei Asian Review

Usually a matter of choice, Indian state takes political tattoos to new level.

Check out my new feature, with Laure Siegel, on one of India’s enduring personality cults.

For decades, the followers of six times state minister and recently deceased Jayalalithaa Jayaram, have been wearing their political idol’s face on their skins, acquired in mass tattoo sessions.

MADURAI, India — On a sweltering summer morning in 2016, D. Pandiamall, a 52-year-old money lender and political activist, was sitting in the entrance hall of her huge family home in a suburb of Madurai, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The room was bare but for images of Jayalalithaa Jayaram, a former movie actress who led the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (All India Anna Dravidian Progress Federation), India’s third largest political party, who had just been declared chief minister of Tamil Nadu for the sixth time. The state is home to about 78 million people, equal to about 60% of the population of Japan….

Read the full story here…

The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, published 12 years ago
























The first edition of The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, published in 2005 by Dragon’s Mouth Press in HK.

Photo by Charlie Londs.

The novel about a drug deal gone wrong on the 70s hippy trail between Turkey and India has since been republished by Crime Wave Press and there’s a Spanish translation published by Editorial Xplora.

‘The Devil’s Road To Kathmandu’ is a tense, fast paced and kaleidoscopic pulp thriller, following the lives of two generations of drifters who become embroiled in a saga of sex, drugs and murder on the road between London and the Indian subcontinent. In 1976, four friends, Dan, Fred, Tim and Thierry, drive a bus along the hippy trail from London to Kathmandu. En Route in Pakistan, a drug deal goes badly wrong, yet the boys escape with their lives and the narcotics. Thousands of kilometers, numerous acid trips, accidents, nightclubs and even a pair of beautiful Siamese twins later, as they finally reach the counter-culture capital of the world, Kathmandu, Fred disappears with the drug money. A quarter century later, after receiving mysterious emails inviting them to pick up their share of the money, Dan, Tim and Thierry are back in Kathmandu. The Nepalese capital is not the blissful mountain backwater they remember. Soon a trail of kidnapping and murder leads across the Roof of the World. With the help of Dan’s backpacking son, a tattooed lady and a Buddhist angel, the ageing hippies try to solve a 25-year old mystery that leads them amongst Himalayan peaks for a dramatic showdown with their past.

The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu is a better backpacker’s book than The Beach. – The Bangkok Post

The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu is a great read. – The Nepali Times

Vater sets scenes on a razor edge, catastrophe, oblivion and unbridled passion waiting for these volatile characters to lose their balance…. Multiple narratives and parallel plots give this book breadth and depth – quite a mind trip, actually, and a rather addictive read. – Lifestyle + Travel


Tom Vater – Noir On The Radio









My radio podcast interview with the great Greg Barth on Noir On The Radio. I talk about my crime novels, Crime Wave Press and the life on the road.

…listen to it here.

I get to talk about my books, SE Asian history, Tony Poe, The Heart of Darkness, The Dead Kennedys, the media, the far right, Asian dictators and Donald Trump.

Tom Vater talks crime fiction on Noir on the Radio on Friday January 14th, 10pm EST

I will be talking about my crime novels and my publishing imprint Crime Wave Press on on Friday, January 14th at 10pm EST on Noir on the Radio with host Greg Barth.

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