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New book about Thailand Tourism during The Early Days

New book about Thailand Tourism during The Early Days

A new book detailing the history of the tourism industry in Thailand and the pioneers behind its early development has just been published. Written by Thailand-based journalist and lecturer Mr Steve Van Beek, and edited by Mr Roy Howard, “Thailand Tourism: The Early Days” charts the rise of the industry since the 1950s and examines the people, places, institutions, hotels and agencies which have transformed Bangkok from the Venice of the East to a dynamic gateway to all the attractions the country now has to offer. The book examines in detail the challenges faced by these early pioneers and, through profiles, anecdotes and quotes, underscores the need to preserve their stories.

A free ebook, available in English and Thai, can be viewed at www.thailandtourismtheearlydaysbook.com. From February 2017 onwards, the book will also be available at Asia Books and all Dusit hotels in Thailand, priced at THB 1,500. In remembrance of His Majesty the late King, all proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Royal Project Foundation, which helps to improve the living conditions of Thailand’s rural communities.

Launch of “Bangkok Beat” on Sunday night at Checkinn99

Launch of “Bangkok Beat” on Sunday night at Checkinn99

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The launch party of the new book “Bangkok Beat” will take place from 6-8pm at the historic Checkinn99 cabaret club on Sukhumvit Road on Sunday 26th July 2015. The authors will be available, as well as Checkinn99 owner Chris Catto-Smith, to talk about the history and stories that make “Bangkok Beat” a special book. The principle author is American businessman Kevin Cummings. Contributing authors are James A. Newman, Thomas H. Locke, John Gartland and Alasdair McLeod. The book contains more than 50 black-and-white photographs, many of the historic nightclub.​ Bangkok Beat photographer Eric Nelson will also be present.

Bangkok Beat is a compilation of short stories, interviews, literature reviews and author profiles, plus the previously unpublished history and photos of the Checkinn99. Between the covers you can get up-close and personal with some well-known writers, expats and other colorful characters who have made Southeast Asia home. The launch is a tribute not only to the book but also to the efforts of the many artists, authors, poets, musicians, actors, staff and customers who have contributed to it in many ways and brought Checkinn99 back to life as one of Bangkok’s most quirky and best-loved historic entertainment venues.

Visit Checkinn99 on Sunday night for two entertaining hours of light-hearted readings by special guests, along with entertainment by singer-songwriter Kevin Wood and the Music of the Heart band immediately after the regular Sunday jazz jam. A limited number of copies of this fascinating book will be available for purchase along with the iconic Bangkok Soi Dog #1 T-shirts, with original artwork by the renowned ‘Bangkok noir’ artist Chris Coles. Visit http://checkinn99.net/ for directions to the club and for more information.

Christopher G. Moore on Vincent Calvino and his latest book “Crackdown”

Christopher G. Moore on Vincent Calvino and his latest book “Crackdown”

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Christopher G. Moore is a Canadian writer who has been based in Thailand for 25 years. He is best known for his behind-the-smiles trilogy “A Killing Smile”, “A Bewitching Smile” and “A Haunting Smile”, and for his Vincent Calvino Private Eye series. His latest book is “Crackdown” which is set in post-coup Thailand. I sat down with Christopher recently to ask him about Vincent Calvino, the private eye in his successful series of books.

>> Scroll down for two chances to win a copy of “Crackdown”

Can you briefly tell us who Vincent Calvino is and what initially brought him to Bangkok?

Here’s the short version: “I have no attachments. Next life I will make a perfect Buddhist. But in this life I am paying off the karma of a last life. I am an ex-lawyer from New York City. No one gets himself born in New York City without having made some major mistake in the last life. Whatever that mistake was, it was bad enough to cause me to abandon New York City for Bangkok. Flipped from the wok straight into the fire. For the past dozen years, I’ve been solving crimes in Southeast Asia, keeping and trying not to get burnt.” Vinny’s story can be read on the website www.vincentcalvino.com

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What compelled him to stay in Bangkok?

Karma. Some people are meant to walk the mean streets of a foreign land and Calvino is one of them. After nearly a quarter of a century in Bangkok, the super glue of time fixes a man to the masonry of a culture and place. Like another brick in the wall as the old Pink Floyd song reminds us. The novels in Calvino series have a psychological, political edge and the characters, including Vinny evolves over the course of the series. Part of the attraction the Calvino series has for readers is they keep track of the lives of the central characters, watch them change and watch the culture change around them. Novels when we can connect on a personal level with the mental condition of the character. How they cope, doubt, suffer, bleed, and struggle, sometimes failing, testing friendship and patience.

So, why did Calvino stick around?

Because the place never lost the ability to surprise him. And every time you are surprised, you learn something about yourself. We read novels for those moments of surprise even though in real life almost no one likes to be surprised.

How much of Bangkok/Thailand and events in the country have been covered in the series of books?

Chad A. Evan’s “Vincent Calvino’s World” will be published in a couple of months by Heaven Lake Press, and the author has tied the 15 books in the Calvino series to the main historical events covered in the books. The series has covered the gradual cultural and social transformation and the upheavals in Thai society in the past quarter century, including the technological revolution, the coups in 1992, 2006, and 2014, terrorism, smuggling, human and drug trafficking, racism, prostitution, tourism, surveillance, secret prisons, as well as the major political and economic shifts in Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia. A great deal of change has happened over the last 25 years when I started the series. In many ways, the Calvino series is a chronicle of how these events have affected the lives of those living in Southeast Asia.

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Are all the locations in the books real?

At the end of 1988 I arrived in Bangkok with a carryon suitcase and a laptop with the idea of staying on a 90-day visa to research a book. I extended the visa. Then again. It became a habit. In the first couple of years I’d written A Killing Smile, a Bewitching Smile, Spirit House and Heart Talk. God knows where that burst of energy came from. Obviously I’d connected with the place and time that inspired me. My writing has always been based on reality—real people, locations, and events. For many years I ran a blog called International Crime Authors Reality Check.

How did you go about finding/researching these locations?

For me authenticity is an important component in fiction. In many ways fiction must have hooks to the real world. It must be plausible. While in the real world the most improbable events happen. Readers want creativity anchored to the real world. Places they’ve seen and a novel can allow them to see them from a different perspective. I spend a lot of time doing field research, closely examining the details of a street, buildings, entrances, exists, the flow of people, how they inter-react. Locations have a dynamic fluidity and capturing that movement and rhythm is the essence of good story-telling. I look for locations where I can blend into the community of people who occupy that space, and try to understand what emotional commitment they have to meeting others in that space. All good stories are about character and a character’s inner thoughts and feelings are influenced by his/her location. When those people gather inside a crime zone, the anxiety and fear brings out the worst and the best. Crime fiction is the space where these emotions play out.

I write about the forces that transform culture, society and people—locals, strangers, illegals, and expats—the full landscape of those who occupy Thailand. Most people don’t realize they live in a crime zone. It’s there but they don’t see it. Crime zones are like the sewers and electric wires under thestreets, we don’t notice what we don’t see. But one day it happens. Something turns sour. And the victims appear in plain sight. Writing crime novels, you want to be present in the crime zone when suddenly things go pear shape.

Are any of the characters based on real people you have met in the expat community in Thailand?

Any writer of fiction who tells you that none of his characters are drawn from real life is lying. At the same time, novels that succeed aren’t a series of mini-biographies of personal friends or acquaintances. How well do you know your friends? This is the first question you should ask yourself. If you’re honest, you only know a part of who they are, the part they are willing to reveal. A novelist must go much deeper than the surface. Even if you think of a friend, you must invent emotional and intellectual content that makes the fictional character unique. The reader should know that character vastly better than they know any of their friends, or the author knows his friends. Real life friendship is more toward the shallow end of the pool we swim in daily, it has less depth than we wish to admit; the friendship found in novels ideally is a submarine descend into the realm we rarely experience in real life with our friends. This is a good question. It is one many readers ask, because they are curious about the process of character creation. The reality is character formation transcends the experience you have lodged in your memory about personal friends. Our memories are a source of great creativity.

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How has Bangkok and Thailand changed since Vincent Calvino first landed in the country?

When I started writing the Vincent Calvino series, we were still firmly in the analogue age. I took photo of above in 1989 on Asoke/Sukhumvit Road. That is the world where Calvino started. There was no Internet. No cellphones. No Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You were required to have a permit to operate a fax machine and they were rare. Bangkok was much closer to the age of Joseph Conrad and George Orwell than the world of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Part of the satisfaction of writing the 15 book series has been to capture the acceleration of technological change and how these forces have disrupted the political, social and economic structures in Thailand as in the rest of the world. Our age is one of vast instability caused by constant change and our ability to adapt to each new jolt to the system has caused anger, fatigue, and resistance. Writing books set during the firestorm of such change has been the challenge I’ve set for myself in creating books in the Vincent Calvino series.

Has his own experiences and time in Bangkok changed him? If so, in which way?

Over the 25-year-period of the series, Calvino’s experiences have changed him. He started off in a slum apartment in Spirit House, and by the time of The Risk of Infidelity Index, he had come into a source of wealth that has made him independent. Despite the vast improvement in his personal circumstances, his burning passion for fairness and justice keeps in in the thick of things, taking cases because he believes someone is trapped or ambushed by the forces that crush ordinary people. Like Calvino, I trained as a lawyer. Unlike Calvino, I was a law professor who has taught in England, Canada and Australia. My legal background prepared me to seek a solution to hard problems and to resolve conflict. While experience may have shaped Calvino, his people reading skills have become good allies confronting those in the crime zone.

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Could he, or would he, ever return to America?

L.P. Hartley’s words come to mind: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Vincent Calvino will always be inside a foreign land trying to understand its values and customs. Like many long-term expats, he’s adjusted to his fate of the blind man explaining the anatomy of an elephant by touching the trunk.

Is it possible for foreigners to follow in the footsteps of Vincent and become a private eye in Thailand? Can you even get a visa and work permit for this?

Good question. There are foreign private eyes in Thailand and there have been for many years. They may go under different names or titles and may work for big international firms. We’ve discovered in recent times the gathering of information on a vast scale has transformed the way we live, shop, travel, and communicate. The larger question is whether the old-fashioned private eye in the tradition of Hammett and Chandler remains relevant in this Brave New World. Going forward, it will be the computer expert who knows the ropes who will inherit the mantle. There will always be cases and geographical pockets where having boots on the ground is essential to finding a missing link, person, or body. I am not worried that Vincent Calvino will run out of cases any time soon. Though in recent books like The Marriage Tree and Crackdown, you start to see how the technological revolution and big data have entered Calvino’s world.

Your latest book Crackdown, number 15 in the Calvino series, is set in a post-coup Thailand. How would you describe that book?

In Crackdown visual art becomes a powerful take down tool to push back against the oligarchs. Think Banksy, the English street artist. Some people fail to adjust to the surveillance state and its agents. Post-coup Thailand is the setting as high tech competes with traditional power in a battle for hearts and minds. It is a noir landscape where Calvino finds himself ambushed as casualties from this battle leave behind a mystery or two. Calvino enters a world of ancient maps, political graffiti, student protestors, foreign migrant workers, and murder. The finger points at Calvino as the killer. He searches for allies who will help him prove his innocence.

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WIN A COPY OF CRACKDOWN BY CHRISTOPHER G. MOORE

You have two chances to win a copy of “Crackdown” by Christopher G. Moore. In the first competition, all you have to do is follow @cgmooreauthor on Twitter and then retweet the following tweet before midnight on Friday 19th June 2015:

[CLICK TO TWEET] Follow @cgmooreauthor & retweet this message to win a copy of his latest book “Crackdown” set in post-coup Thailand http://www.richardbarrow.com/2015/06/christopher-g-moore-on-vincent-calvino

For the second competition and a second chance to win “Crackdown”, all you have to do is answer the following question in the comments section below. “What brought you to Thailand the first time”. It’s that easy. The deadline for this second competition is midnight on Friday 19th June 2015.

Small print: The two competitions are open to anyone around the world. However, if you live outside of Thailand, you will be sent a Kindle version. For those inside Thailand, you will receive a signed printed version (unless of course you prefer an e-book).

New Book: “Americans in Thailand”

New Book: “Americans in Thailand”

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This month sees the launch of “Americans in Thailand”, an elegant 304-page illustrated hardback book recounting the history of Thailand’s American community. Focusing on famous and notorious personalities of each era, the colorful tale begins with the first American to set foot on Siamese soil in 1818. It then describes how the early missionaries, diplomats and traders navigated, sometimes with hilarious or disastrous results, the unfamiliar terrain and customs of Siam.

In the 20th century, Americans became more influential, with several assuming powerful roles within the Siamese court and assisting the country’s reforms. By the 1970s, American influence was becoming ubiquitous and increasingly contentious, as the Vietnam War era inspired clandestine operations, decadence and development. Through the present day, Americans in Thailand continue to contribute in compelling ways. Collected in this lavishly illustrated volume are many of their stories and historical nuggets never unearthed before.

Several long-time American residents of Thailand contributed their writing, including Denis Gray, who worked for the Associated Press as Bangkok bureau chief for more than 30 years; Nicholas Grossman, who created Chronicle of Thailand and other historical volumes on Thailand; Jeff Hodson, who is former editor and reporter for The Seattle Timesand was a project director for Internews in Chiang Mai, Thailand; Robert Horn, who has worked as a reporter in Thailand for Time magazine and the Associated Press; and Wesley Hsu, who is an awardwinning copy writer. An allowance was also made for a Canadian writer, Jim Algie, whose latest book is The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand. Archives expert Grissarin Chungsiriwatled the picture and text research.

Americans in Thailand is available at Kinokuniya and Asia Books in Thailand for 1,295 Baht. Kinokuniya is presently having a 20% sale on this book at all their stores. You can also pre-order at Amazon.com.

Book Expo Thailand is from 15-26 October 2014

Book Expo Thailand is from 15-26 October 2014

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Book Expo Thailand 2014 will take place from Wednesday 15th October to Sunday 26th October at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. Over 400 leading Thai and international publishing houses are expected at the event. The two annual book fairs are always held during the school holidays and are always packed on every day. It’s very difficult to find parking space and if you go, I would suggest that you use the MRT subway. Most of the books are in Thai but there are enough stands selling English language books. There are also many bilingual books for children now which are good for both expat families and learners of the Thai language. All books are sold at discount prices.

New Children’s Book about Songkran

New Children’s Book about Songkran

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Songkran, which is the traditional Thai new year, is just around the corner. If you are an expat family in Thailand with young children, you might like this new book called simply “Songkran!”. Aimed at children aged from 3-7 years, the book follows a young Thai boy as he celebrates Thailand’s new year. “Songkran!” is written in English by Pepa O’Donovan and illustrated by Thai cartoonist Chanin Suasungnerm. The price is 250 Baht and is being sold in Nanmee Books. There will be a book launch at Bangkok Prep on Wednesday 26th March 2014. For more information on the book launch, please call 02-260-7890.

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Bangkok’s best second-hand book sale is this weekend

Bangkok’s best second-hand book sale is this weekend

Neilson Hays Library

Thousands of quality secondhand English language books at the book sale this weekend at Neilson Hays Library in Bangkok. Book sale is on Saturday 16th – Sunday 17th November 2013, from 9:30am-4pm. Prices start from only 20 Baht. The library is at 195 Surawong Road in Bangkok. Gates open at 9:30am. Parking is available in the Voravit Building (Surawong Road, near Naret Road) for 30 baht/hour.

While at the library, you are invited to view the artwork on display, enjoy a delicious meal or snack at their Garden Cafe, or simply browse the shelves and relax with a good book in their beautiful library. Children’s storytime and craft activity will take place as usual at 10:30am on Saturday – free for members, 100 baht donation for non-members. All proceeds from the book sale will go towards the upkeep of the library. For more information, call 02-233-1731, email neilson.library@gmail.com, or visit their Facebook page.

Jasmine Nights by @Somtow now available on Kindle

Jasmine Nights by @Somtow now available on Kindle

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One of my favourite books set in Thailand is “Jasmine Nights” by S.M. Somtow. I bought it many years ago during my first years in Thailand. I had forgotten all about it until @Somtow just tweeted to say that his book is now available on Kindle for $9.99. I’m tempted to buy the new e-version to re-read this book. Highly recommended.

At twelve years old, Little Frog has a richly fantastic and sustaining inner life. It is 1963, his parents have disappeared, and he lives with his maiden aunts, known affectionately as the Three Fates, on a family estate in Bangkok. But, fed by a steam of books and accompanied by his pet chameleon, Little Frog refuses to accept that he is Thai; eats English food; speaks only English; and answers to the name Justin. Into Justin’s eclectically fashioned, whirling fantasy world steps Virgil, a black American boy, and together they embark on a glorious spree of magic and growing up, in which sex, adult confusions, comedy, farce, politics, and the voices of the East and West are fused into a voyage of exhilarating discovery.

Buy on Amazon.com for $9.99 (price may vary depending on your region)

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Books about Thailand

Books about Thailand

I was in Asia Books this afternoon and I thought you might be interested in these four books.

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19th edition of “Bangkok Guide” is now available at Asia Books at 990B. It’s the essential guide to living in Bangkok

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“Images of Bangkok” published by Marshall Cavendish at 650B looks like a nice souvenir for anyone visiting Bangkok

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One of the first books that I bought about Thailand was “Thai Ways” by Denis Segaller. Good to see it back in print

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“Cooking with Poo”, despite its name (or because of it), remains a bestseller at Asia Books. Priced at 550B

Free Book: I Found the Fountain of Youth

Free Book: I Found the Fountain of Youth

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If someone had suggested to me a year ago about buying a book called “I Found the Fountain of Youth” I would have said “No way!”. I wouldn’t have listened back then, but things have since changed for me. It all started with a new year’s resolution to consume more fruit and vegetables through juicing (see here). The research I did for that completely changed my outlook on life. I am now more conscious of the food that I eat and the environment where I live. It would seem that Benjawan Poomsan Becker, famous for the “Thai for Beginners” series, also went through a similar transformation last year. She managed to turn her life around and feels much better for it.

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Benjawan has now written a book on her quest to living a healthy life in a modern world. I only just downloaded a copy for my Kindle yesterday and so will do a proper review later. But I must say, it has already got me thinking in different directions. My “juice detox” has worked well for me but I’m now ready for the next level. Unlike other so-called health books that only concentrate on one subject, Benjawan’s book gives you an overview of a variety of different health options. That is the strength of this book. It won’t overwhelm you like other books and if you do want to find out more, she has provided a comprehensive list of resources that includes documentaries and books.

“I Found the Fountain of Youth: The Holistic Approach to Living in the Modern World” will be available on Amazon from 28th September 2013. Full price is $19.95 but discounted to $18.95. If you have a Kindle like me, or even a Kindle app on a device like the iPad, you can download a copy of “I Found the fountain of Youth” for only $12.95.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until this Sunday, you can download the Kindle version on amazon.com for FREE! 

Bangkok Book Expo 2013 is on 16-27 October

Bangkok Book Expo 2013 is on 16-27 October

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According to recent surveys, the average Bangkok resident only reads five books per year. As this year Bangkok has been named World Book Capital, local authorities are keen to raise this average to 15-20 books per year. That does seem to be unrealistic, but if you have ever visited any of the big book fairs held at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC) you would know that there are countless thousands of book lovers in Bangkok. The book fairs are always held during the school holidays and are always packed on every day. It’s very difficult to find parking space and if you go, I would suggest that you use the MRT subway. Most of the books are in Thai but there are enough stands selling English language books. There are also many bilingual books for children now which are good for both expat families and learners of the Thai language. All books are sold at discount prices.

Event: Bangkok Book Expo
Venue: Queen Sirikit National Convention Center
Date: 16-27 October 2013

Second Edition of “Very Thai” is Now Out

Second Edition of “Very Thai” is Now Out

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It has been a long time coming, but the bestseller “Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture” has just come out as an expanded and fully updated 2nd edition with many new photographs. According to the author, Philip Cornwel-Smith, this is “a heavily rewritten, updated and expanded new version of the original Very Thai. Plus 4 new chapters.” The first edition came out in December 2004 and was an immediate bestseller. Since then it has been reprinted four times in July 2005, January 2006, February 2007 and January 2008.

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This is the book description on Amazon.com: This pioneering insight into contemporary Thai folk culture delves beyond the traditional Thai icons to reveal the casual, everyday expressions of Thainess that sodelight and puzzle. From floral truck bolts and taxi altars to buffalo cart furniture and drinks in a bags, the same exquisite care, craft and improvisation resounds through home and street, bar and wardrobe. Never colonised, Thai culture retains nuanced ancient meaning in the most mundane things. The days are colour coded, lucky numbers dictate prices, window grilles become guardian angels, tattoos entrance the wearer. Philip scoured each region to show how indigenous wisdom both adapts to the present and customises imports, applying Roman architecture to shophouses, morphing rock into festive farm music, turning the Japanese motor-rickshaw into the tuk-tuk. Colour-saturated illustrations help you navigate various social traits, whether white-faced hi-so matrons or Red Bullswilling workers wearing coins in their ear. This is Thai culture as it has never been shown before.

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I already have the first edition and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Thailand. I just bought myself a copy of the 2nd edition of “Very Thai” at Asia Books in Bangkok. The price for this hardback book is 995 Baht. I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about the real Thailand.

“Family Book Festival” this weekend at QSNCC

“Family Book Festival” this weekend at QSNCC

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This weekend there is a book fair for families at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC) in Bangkok. It runs from now until Tuesday 23rd July, from 10am-8pm. The ‘‘Family Book Festival 2013’’ features new publications, premium-quality educational media and books for young people from leading publishing houses. As well as some great discounts there are many free activities that young children can take part in. Not all of the books are in Thai. This year there are more books than ever which are bilingual. Great for expat families or for people learning Thai.

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Laundry Man Free for Kindle until Friday

Laundry Man Free for Kindle until Friday

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Jake Needham is one of the top international authors who is writing novels based in Thailand. According to his bio on Amazon, he is “an American screen and television writer who began writing legal and spy thrillers when he realized he didn’t really like movies and television very much”. Some of his most popular books are the series of Jack Shepherd crime novels. These are Laundry Man, Killing Plato, A World of Trouble and The King of Macau.

If you haven’t been introduced to this excellent series yet then you will be happy to learn that  Laundry Man, the first in the series, is free on Kindle until Friday.

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From the back cover: Once a high-flying international lawyer, a member of the innermost circles of government power, Jack Shepherd has abandoned the savage politics of Washington for the lethargic backwater of Bangkok, where he is now just an unremarkable professor at an unimportant university in an insignificant city. Or is he? A secretive Asian bank collapses under dubious circumstances. A former law partner Shepherd thought dead reveals himself as the force behind the disgraced bank and coerces Shepherd into helping him track the hundreds of millions of dollars that disappeared during the collapse. A twisting trail of deceit leads Shepherd from Bangkok to Hong Kong and eventually to an isolated villa on the fabled island of Phuket where he confronts the evil at the heart of a monstrous game of international treachery. A lawyer among people who laugh at the law, a friend in a land where today’s allies are tomorrow’s fugitives, Jack Shepherd battles the global tide of corruption, extortion and murder that is fast engulfing the new life he has made for himself in Thailand.

Visit Amazon.com now to download for the Kindle for free. Normal price is $4.99.

Thailand’s First Pornographic Magazine

Thailand’s First Pornographic Magazine

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This is Thailand’s first pornographic magazine which was printed in 1907. The name of this Playboy like magazine was called “พระตำหรับโยนี”. Only 200 copies were printed.

RT @FirstTimeTh: หนังสือโป๊ เล่มแรกของไทย ชื่อว่า พระตำหรับโยนี พิมพ์ขึ้นใน ร.ศ. 126 เพียง 200 ฉบับ !!!! http://t.co/oSCPtWr2Ws

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Bilingual Books for Thai Kids

Bilingual Books for Thai Kids

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Every year there seems to be many more English language books being published locally in Thailand. Many of these are bilingual. Great for expat families but also for Thai parents who want their kids to enjoy English. I’ve found the best way to motivate children to become fluent in English is to tell them that they will soon have access to far more books and cartoons than their friends. And it’s true.

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Recently I have seen more effort by Thai parents to bring their kids up to be bilingual. There are Facebook support groups for this as well as several books with tips. Recently I have also seen books and flash cards at Se-Ed that label themselves as bilingual products. This is a great change in attitude and I hope that this will mean more English speakers in the future. As we all know, Thais are far behind others in this region and they need to do a lot of catching up.

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