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A Fortune teller told me


“An utterly charming and engaging travel book that offers vivid portraits of unusual corners of Asia, told by a skilled raconteur whose eyes were open wide.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review


Warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for an entire year, Tiziano Terzani a vastly experienced Asia correspondent—took what he called “the first step into an unknown world. . . . It turned out to be one of the most extraordinary years I have ever spent: I was marked for death, and instead I was reborn.”


Traveling by foot, boat, bus, car, and train, he visited Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Geography expanded under his feet. He consulted soothsayers, sorcerers, and shamans and received much advice—some wise, some otherwise—about his future. With time to think, he learned to understand, respect, and fear for older ways of life and beliefs now threatened by the crasser forms of Western modernity. He rediscovered a place he had been reporting on for decades. And reinvigorated himself in the process.


Letters from Burma.


In these unforgettable letters, Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world's most inspiring figures, reaches out beyond Burma's borders to paint a vivid and poignant picture of her native land. She celebrates the courageous army officers, academics, and everyday people who have supported the National League for Democracy, often at great risk to their own lives. She reveals how state oppression has adversely affected everything from the national diet to traditions of hospitality. She also evokes the beauty of the country's seasons and scenery, customs and fetivities, which remain-after everything-so close to her heart.


A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.


This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.


What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.


In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.


Longest Night, The: The Worst Night of the London Blitz.


The Blitz is one of the best known events of the Second World War. It affected more British people than any other 'battle': soldier or civilian, man or woman, adult or child -- the bombs made no distinction. Over 40,000 people were killed in the German air raids and many more injured. The scars on London took 50 years to repair and even now there are sealed up air raid shelters where the bodies remain entombed.

London's firemen and emergency services did their jobs under a rain of bombs night after night, for eight months. Whole crews sometimes died as buildings collapsed on them: some of these heroes are commemorated today by having streets in the East End named after them.

Gavin Mortimer concentrates on one night: the particularly savage raids of 10-11 May 1941 to reveal what it was like to experience The Blitz. Based on interviews with survivors, his gripping minute-by-minute account recaptures a time when the very survival of this country hung in the balance.


Professional Killers: Cold-Blooded Murderers Programmed to Kill.


Even before The Day of the Jackal created the archetypal image of a professional hit man there had been no shortage of them in real life. Governments, terrorists, corporations, criminal organisations like the Mafia as well as private individuals have employed others to make their enemies 'disappear'. This book features some of their stories. It features accounts of the lives and careers of some of the world's most infamous professional assassins including Carlos The Jackal, The Zetas, James Earl Ray, Charles Dion 'Deannie' O'Bannion, Jack 'Machine Gun' McGurn, Richard Cain and Anthony 'The Ant' Spilotro among many others.

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G/day Dave We have added the large sofa in the lounge and large armchair and recliner in the bedroom although the recliner can be moved anywhere, also a large Smart TV, its had a paint job a

I think the book reviews, lodging and restaurant posts are a welcome part of this forum.  Appreciation to Daveo for posting them. 

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Dean Barrett Books, famously one of Bangkok's characters.


See more about Dean here; http://www.thaioasis.com/literature/bkkbangkokfiction_barrett.php


Thailand, land of Beautiful Women.


For several years, Thai women have been well on their way to becoming international celebrities. The cheerful attitude, the graceful movement, the charming smile, the gentle nature, the lovely figure, the total lack of self-pity. All this and more seems to have combined into a Siamese bewitchment captivating men of almost every nationality. For many, the mention of Thai women conjures up the stereotype of unbridled sensuality in the lush Tropics. But in pictures and in text, Thailand: Land of Beautiful Women attempts to delve deeper into the reasons for their phenomenal popularity.

The author concludes that, from classical dancers to construction workers, from go-go dancers to rice farmers, their charm is far more than merely physical. Thai cultural values and the teachings of the Buddhist religion have endowed the women of Thailand with confidence, grace and intelligence.


Their attraction involves a vivaciousness, a well-developed sense of humor, and, perhaps, above all, the intelligence to deal with life’s problems while maintaining an almost childlike ability to delight in living. In other words, an attitude toward life which understands that life is meant to be enjoyed.


Skytrain to Murder.


Skytrain to Murder is a detective novel set in Bangkok. An American detective and scuba diving teacher chases a murderer through Bangkok's seedy underbelly incuding dangerous slums, high class gentlemen clubs and a house of domination. His Thai girlfriend is a martial arts expert (in muay-Thai) and assists him in rescuing a young girl from slum gangs even while the detective suspects she may in fact be the murderer. Cover will have praise from well known novelists in the mystery field.


Murder at the Horny Toad Bar: & Other Outrageous Tales of Thailand.


Among several exotic and erotic tales of Thailand, readers are introduced to Bangkok's sexiest, most daring and least principled detective, Harry Boroditsky, who solves not one but two bizarre cases including, Murder at the Horny Toad Bar. Hard Bones Haggerty makes his appearance in a haunting tale of the Vietnam War, and, in Obsession, a man obsessed with his Thai girlfriend seeks revenge. In the non-fiction section of the book, the author writes of searching Bangkok for his Vietnam War-era barracks; he describes his encounters with the Khmer Rouge in western Thailand including a meeting with a beautiful Cambodian woman searching a refugee camp for her mother, and his need to flee a Vietnamese Army; and what happens when a traveler boards the wrong train in southern Thailand.In the section, "Memoirs of an Oversexed Farang," the author writes of his several decades of encounters with the often enigmatic but, always lovely, ladies of Thailand.


Permanent Damage (Scott Sterling Detective Novel)


Scott Sterling is an American detective, ex-CIA Beijing and Bangkok, living over one of the bars in Bangkok frequented by American vets of various wars.

An American woman shows up at the bar; a woman who believes her father, a special forces team leader on highly classified missions into Laos, was murdered by a Thai woman in the early 70's, and she wishes to clear his name and bring the Thai woman to justice. Scott reluctantly takes on the case and agrees to search for the woman not knowing he is being set up.

The special forces team members have their own reasons for stopping Scott's investigation, and when Scott gets too close to the truth, he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a decades-old vendetta, unable to trust anyone, and in the sights of a highly trained hunter-killer.


Murder in China Red.

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Two professional killings in a posh Manhattan hotel arouse the interest of Chief of Detectives Joe Abrams and Liu Chiang-hsin, a private investigator known as "Chinaman." Abrams, formerly Chinaman's father-in-law, warns him away from the case because one of the victims, a high-priced call girl named Judy, caused the breakup of Chinaman's marriage. However, Chinaman vows to find out who killed his first love, Judy who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He soon runs after assorted hit men, thugs, and two-faced German "businessmen." A highly focused plot, classy prose, and a complicated protagonist merit wide readership.


The Go Go Dancer who Stole my Viagra & other Poetic Tragedies of Thailand.


This volume of poems and ballads on Thailand and other lands offers the reader insight into the Land of Smiles as well as a great deal of pure fun.The main section of the book, Poems on Thailand, includes "Lek, the Farmer's Dark-eyed Daughter," "The Silly Old Man with the young Thai Girl in the Texas Lone Star Saloon," "Noy of the Horny Toad," and "The Kid from Khao San Road."The second section of the book, Poems Beyond Thailand, includes the fall of the gangster "Michael Lee," a nostalgic and poignant remembrance of San Francisco State College during riots in the late 60's in "A Very Special Time," and the haunting ballad of a man doomed by the whims of fate, "The Man They Called 8-ball."The remarkable variety of subjects and styles and moods presented range from the spiritual "The Buddha's Golden Gleam," to the hilarious: "No, I am not in Love with the Maid so put the Knife down now," "The Night Bubba got it for Free," and "Buffalo, Him Die, Send Money."


Kingdom of Make-believe: A Novel of Thailand.

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A New York publisher who once served in Thailand during the Vietnam War recieves a plea for help from his late brother's Thai widow. When he returns to Thailand after 20 years he finds that the nostalgic portrait he carried of Thailand Past bears little resemblance to reality, and he begins to uncover deception, danger and death. Scenes in the novel range from Manhattan's Greenwich Village to a typhoon-ravaged Hong Kong to Thailand's notorious nightlife and warlord betrayals inside the Golden Triangle. A gripping mystery and exotic thriller, it is also the story of a man coming to terms with reality and himself.


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Hey Gobby, what type of story are you into, Erotica no doubt, see what I can do.

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Have it and the other 2 of the Trilogy, all 3 came in few days ago, had the singular 50 shades before but now have the full set, although saying that they may have gone already.

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Ross Kemp on Afghanistan.


He has played an East End hardman, an SAS soldier and investigated vicious world gangs. Now Ross Kemp is taking on perhaps his hardest assignment of all - the Taliban. In order to prepare for this life-threatening ordeal, Ross Kemp trains with the First Battalion Royal Anglians in England's subzero temperatures, practicing firing SA 80 rifles and .50 calibre machine guns, getting to know the soldiers and learning the tactics they use to stay alive. Sent with them to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province, he immerses himself fully: he endures the stifling heat, the constant threat of snipers, RPG attacks, suicide bombers and land mines. In short, he discovers first hand what it's like to fight on the frontline. It's the closest he's ever come to dying - bullets fizzing inches from his head as they hit the ground on either side of him. After two harrowing and arduous months Ross returns to England, but there is little relief to be had as he meets the mothers of soldiers killed in the conflict. Then in September 2008 he goes back to the war zone, to see how the men he grew so close to are faring, to check how many of them are still alive. It's a fascinating, horrifying and often moving insight into the brutal reality ordinary soldiers have to face in one of the world's most dangerous and volatile regions.


The Godfather of Kathmandu


Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is summoned to investigate the most shocking murder of his career. Solving it could mean a promotion but, still reeling from a personal tragedy, Sonchai is more interested in Tietsin, an exiled Tibetan lama living in Kathmandu.But there are obstacles in Sonchai's path to enlightenment. Police Colonel Vikorn and Army General Zinna are at war again for control over Bangkok's network of illegal enterprises – and Tietsin has forty million dollars' worth of heroin for sale.With his life in increasing danger, Sonchai is put to the extreme test in John Burdett's most inventive, darkly comic and wickedly entertaining novel yet.


Bangkok Haunts


Sonchai Jitpleecheep—the devout Buddhist Royal Thai Police detective who led us through the best sellers Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo—returns in this blistering new novel.


Sonchai has seen virtually everything on his beat in Bangkok’s District 8, but nothing like the video he’s just been sent anonymously: “Few crimes make us fear for the evolution of our species. I am watching one right now.”


He’s watching a snuff film. And the person dying before his disbelieving eyes is Damrong—a woman he once loved obsessively and, now it becomes clear, endlessly. And there is something more: something at the end of the film that leaves Sonchai both figuratively and literally haunted.


While his investigation will lead him through the office of the ever-scheming police captain, Vikorn (“Don’t spoil a great case with too much perfectionism,” he advises Sonchai); in and out of the influence of a perhaps psychotic wandering monk; and eventually into the gilded rooms of the most exclusive men’s club in Bangkok (whose members will do anything to protect their identities, and to explore their most secret fantasies), it also leads him to his own simple bedroom where he sleeps next to his pregnant wife while his dreams deliver him up to Damrong.

Ferociously smart and funny, furiously fast-paced, and laced through with an erotic ghost story that gives a new dark twist to the life of our hero, Bangkok Haunts does exactly that from first page to last.


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As I always say people are killed every day and nobody pays attention.


Maybe its time to stop writing and reading about killers and people who are trying to kill killers etc and sit and think about whole problem for a while.


Sounds like much more productive.


And maybe we will figure out some new and positive ways?

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As I always say people are killed every day and nobody pays attention.


Maybe its time to stop writing and reading about killers and people who are trying to kill killers etc and sit and think about whole problem for a while.


Sounds like much more productive.


And maybe we will figure out some new and positive ways?

Totally agree but unfortunately half the world wants to wipe out the other half, and the other half keeps doing things to make them want to do it even more.

If we could change the world......

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Some of the latest.


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Was in Daveo's Canterbury Tales Bookshop today... what a find. Scads of interesting books at good prices,,, and in an area where a little bit of culture is a definite contrast to the scads of bars and babes that surround it. The best of both worlds :GoldenSmile1:

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HI Fellow ex-pats, we have a bookshop here in Pattaya and are always looking to source more stock so we buy books for cash or trade books so if you have any unwanted books please drop me a line or pop in the Bookshop.


I will buy or trade in almost any books depending on age, condition, Author, we have over 35,000 books in stock in English, German, French, Dutch, Scandinavian, on most subjects, Fiction, non Fiction, Sport, Politics, History, Travel, War, True crime, human interest etc etc.


Any books purchased in the bookshop are subject to a 50% of the purchase price back in credit off the next book/s.


Cheers Dave

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Dave got some Manchester United Auto Biographys, Roy Keane, Paddy Crerand, David Beckham, Bobby Charlton, And himself the boss Sir Alex, you can have if you make sure they go to a good home, I have alot of faults Dave and on of them is Man u :GoldenSmile1: let me know and I will drop them off buddy
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Dave got some Manchester United Auto Biographys, Roy Keane, Paddy Crerand, David Beckham, Bobby Charlton, And himself the boss Sir Alex, you can have if you make sure they go to a good home, I have alot of faults Dave and on of them is Man u :GoldenSmile1: let me know and I will drop them off buddy


Hey mate, yes trade them in, we have many sport Bio's so maybe some you have not read, always looking for more to trade, drop some cards off while your in.

Cheers Dave

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Some of the latest books in.



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After being married for 7 years, my wife asked me to describe her.


I looked at her for a while...then said, "You're A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K."


She asks..... "What does that mean?"


I said, "Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Foxy, Gorgeous, Hot.


She smiled happily and said.. "Oh, that's so lovely.. What about I, J, K?"


I said, "I'm Just Kidding!"


The swelling in my eye is going down and the doctor is fairly optimistic about saving my testicles.

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Hey mate, yes trade them in, we have many sport Bio's so maybe some you have not read, always looking for more to trade, drop some cards off while your in.

Cheers Dave

Cheers Dave, will do mate and I think the way you show your books and your knowledge is great, I am not a good reader myself or speller as I have been informed :GoldenSmile1: but Will be good to see you, will come around this week mate,




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In stock now Even Thai girls cry by J F Gump;



J.F. Gump is one of the more compelling authors in the genre. Although much of the action in his novels takes place in Pattaya, many of the elements of classic Bangkok Fiction are present in his writing.


The author was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, about eighty miles south of Pittsburgh. After graduating from technical school he worked as a field engineer in various cities such as Boston, Washington DC, Raleigh, and Cincinnati. In the late 1960s, he served in Vietnam. In 1995 he had an opportunity to work on a large project in Thailand.


“During the ensuing years, I made more than twenty trips to Thailand. I spent more time there than I did at my home in the US. Part of my time was spent in Bangkok, but most of it was spent in the beach resort city of Pattaya. Long before my work assignment was finished, I'd fallen in love with the country.


“Like most visitors to another country I tried hard to learn about the people and their culture. When they talked, I listened. When they told me stories about themselves, I asked questions and shared stories of my own life. I'm sure I heard many lies and fantasies, but I know I heard many true stories as well. Some were happy and some were sad, but all struck emotional chords I could never forget. I decided to put their stories on paper. Some tales are just too good not to be told.”


We weren't prepared for the emotional and gut-wrenching roller coaster that J.F. Gump took us on during the final thirty or so pages of the fascinating Even Thai Girls Cry (2004, ISBN 974-619-212-7), but it represents damn good writing, and we re-read it twice. Although most of the action occurs in Pattaya and Chiang Mai, this novel contains most elements of the Bangkok Fiction genre, including an extremely strong Thai female protagonist, and a western man dealing with the challenges of life and love in Thailand. Much of the talent of this exceptional writer lies in his ability to infuse his characters with the complex strata of issues driving the emotions of Thai characters. Gump’s book is a must-read for anyone contemplating romantic involvement with a Thai, and desirous of getting a broader picture of the influences that family, death, and Buddhism may bring to bear on the relationship.


About “Thai Girls,” Gump writes: “When I decided to write ETGC, I made a conscious choice not to write about the "bad bar girls." A lot of the scenes in this book actually originated from the stories told to me for the price of a lady drink (sometimes several lady drinks). But it seemed to me that there was more to Thailand than the "entertainment industry." Because I was working in Thailand, I had become keenly aware that most Thais are real people with real emotions. They laugh, they cry, they hate, and they love. I was lucky enough to see two sides of Thailand and I had stories from both. I mixed the two together and ETGC was born.”


Following “Thai Girls,” Gump wrote two more books to complete a trilogy, utilizing many of the same characters. The Farang Affair (2006, ISBN 974-85123-6-3) is essentially a love story with Dickensian-like plot and more gut-wrenching emotional sequences. Happily, it doesn’t descend into the bathos that is all-too-often the stock and trade of writers addressing romantic themes, and his use of the concepts of unpredictability, coincidence, and chaos keeps the reader on one’s toes. Set in Phitsanulok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya, the book uses the bar scene dynamic as a matter of day-to-day life, where people and events ebb and flow as they would pretty much anywhere in the world where people play, work, love, and die. This normalization of life surrounding bars is refreshingly different from the “golly wow, I’m not in Kansas anymore!” perspective offered by many of the writers newer to the genre.


The writer provided us with an interesting background to the book: “Parts of this novel was originally in ETGC but it had become way too long and so I moved selected scenes to The Farang Affair. Some readers of ETGC asked if I could write a book with a happy ending and I decided to try. I never knew how hard it was to write a story with a happy ending. It took longer to finish than I ever imagined.”


It’s our opinion that One High Season (2006, ISBN 974-85129-3-2), the last book in the trilogy, places Gump not only in the company of the best writers in the genre, but may provide the launching pad that will propel him to some degree of international notoriety. Season is a continuation of the story of Mike Johnson and the friends, families, and lovers that weave in, out, and through his life. In a style reminiscent of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, Gump’s tales are never what they originally seem, and truth is only as absolute as the next iteration of the story, as told by yet another character. Again, Gump shows a superior understanding of Thai customs and philosophies as they relate to farang, and weaves them seamlessly into yet another intricate plot resplendent with what now may be considered his trademark emotional twists and turns. These books are powerful, compelling, and take a lot out of the reader. Gump’s a master of character development, and, once we finished the final page, we found it difficult to let his characters leave our lives as easy as we’re supposed to. We are now left to wonder if there’s a fourth book in the series coming up. If there isn’t, this trio of interrelated books remains among the finest bodies of work we’ve yet to read in the Bangkok Fiction milieu.

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Farang everywhere


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An English graphic designer in Bangkok loves his lovely if prim wife, but he finds models at the photography studio he owns too much to resist. On the wife finding that her marriage is under threat, in an attempt to cure her husbands habitual philandering she decides to be more sexy. Little did she know the effect it would have on her psyche.An expat Pattaya estate agency manager married in the UK believing that his former beauty queen wife would serve his social aspirations. He combines his photography hobby with his penchant for skirt-chasing. The wife attempts to jump-start her flagging marriage by reviving her former modelling career and signs onto the model register of a Bangkok photography studio.In a post-facto analysis of marital deceit and gender rivalry, each party involved relates the effect their partners infidelity and their own impacted the way they thought. A question raised is if Western precepts of morality create many of the very social ills they are supposed to avert.


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Imagine a man who needs to be taught a thing or two. Imagine a man who thinks he knows what the game is all about. Imagine a man who has to make some life changing decisions. Imagine Robert Church! An English teacher who needs to be taught that Shakespeare isnt the be all and end all when it comes to education!The hilarious account of a man searching to find something he doesnt know hes lost in a country that has never heard the expression: never a lender or a borrower be…


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Dr Iain Corness fell in love with Thailand on a holiday in 1975, and finally managed to move there permanently in 1997. As a settled farang, or foreigner, he enjoys a unique perspective on Thai life and all its eccentricities; looking in from the outside while also getting to see the things most foreigners don't. His stories and anecdotes are full of the joys of life, and celebrate this exotic and exciting land in all its glory with painfully funny observations. From a date with a fortune teller to tales of a reincarnated squid, Corness revels in the chaos and charm of the only country where you can be run over by a shop.This is a book to be enjoyed by tourists and Thais alike.

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From the age of 14, "My Name Lon...You Like Me?" was my greeting to over 1,000 sex-tourists. My impoverished culture and my mother were the impetus for the sale of my dignity, but my actions saved my sister from the same fate.

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The author served in the Royal Hong Kong Police from 1960 to 1993 and, after discovering Thailand in the late sixties, visited the “Land of Smiles” at least once each year. After leaving Hong Kong and returning to his native Wales he continued to visit for a month each Spring and Autumn. He consummated his love for Thailand by marrying a young Thai lady who unfortunately died, still young, from cancer.

In the course his visits he naturally became well acquainted with the night scene in Pattaya and, being an experienced observer, acquired the material that provides the basis for this book. The vignettes in this book capture a wide spectrum of Pattaya nightlife and provide the reader with an easy to read but interesting voyage into the pathos and the humour that exists behind the bright lights.

For anyone who has visited Pattaya it will bring back memories and for those yet to visit a taste of what is awaiting them.

The author has also published “ Reminiscences of a Hong Kong Chailo” about his life in the police force in Hong Kong.

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Phnom Penh is a city of beauty and degradation, tranquillity and violence, and tradition and transformation; a city of temples and brothels, music and gunfire, and festivals and coups.

But for many, it is simply an anarchic celebration of insanity and indulgence. Whether it is the $2 wooden shack brothels, the marijuana-pizza restaurants, the AK-47 fireworks displays, or the intricate brutality of Cambodian politics, Phnom Penh never ceases to amaze and amuse. For an individual coming from a modern Western society, it is a place where the immoral becomes acceptable and the insane becomes normal.


Amid this chaos lives an extraordinary group of foreign residents. Some are adventurers whose passion for life is given free rein in this unrestrained madhouse. Others are misfits who, unable to make it anywhere else, wallow in the decadent and inviting environment. This unparalleled first-hand account provides a fascinating, shocking, disturbing and often hilarious picture of contemporary Phnom Penh and the bizarre collection of expats who make it their home. As they search for love in the brothels or adventure on the firing range, Phnom Penh Journey follows them into the dark heart of guns, girls and ganja.

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Hello My Big Big Honey Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews

Veteran reporter Richard Ehrlich and Dave Walker unfold a tale of love and Lust in Bangkok's notorious red-light district. These interviews and correspondence with prostitutes and their patrons draw an intimate and touching portrait a midst the blaring lights and pounding music of Bangkok.



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Francois Bizot’s The Gate.


Both Khmers and foreigners have written eloquent memoirs about the years when Cambodia was under the brutal communist rule of the Khmer Rouge. Yet, Bizot’s The Gate stands out as one that combines devotion to the facts with literary craft.

The story can broadly be separated into two parts. The first recounts Bizot’s early years in Cambodia, starting in 1965, as a researcher of ancient Khmer art and religion in the vicinity of Angkor Wat and tells of the two occasions when he was imprisoned by revolutionary forces.

He was first captured by Vietnamese troops sympathetic to the Khmer Rouge while working in the field and kept for a short time before being released with a note granting him safe passage. He was later captured by the Khmer Rouge while working near Oudong, the old capital thirty kilometers northeast of Phnom Penh, and held in captivity for three months with two of his Khmer colleagues.

During this later period of confinement, he was interrogated by the school teacher turned revolutionary, Comrade Douch, who later became notorious as the head of Phnom Penh’s most brutal prison camp, Toul Sleng, code named S-21, where hundreds were tortured before being executed at Cambodia?s most infamous ‘killing field,’ Chhoung Ek.

The second part of the narrative describes how Bizot watched first hand as the corrupt government of General Lon Nol fell to the Khmer Rouge, all foreigners were expelled, and the country closed to foreign eyes to proceed with a program of ‘purification’ that would see the entire population forced out of the cities and into the rice fields and the deaths of millions from hunger, disease, overwork, and politically motivated executions.

The Gate, therefore, is a memoir of those years from the beginning of the war in 1970, after Bizot had lived peacefully in the country for five years, until the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. But it is unique in combining the author’s intense personal experiences in the country, his profound understanding of its culture and religion, and his extensive reading on the politics of the time with the artist’s devotion to the craft of storytelling.

There has been growing theoretical interest in literary circles in certain hybrid genres of writing based on meticulous research, or at least factual accuracy, and a creativity that brings it to life in structured scenes with dialogue, symbolism, and even thematisation. These forms of writing, broadly grouped under the rubric ‘creative nonfiction,’ encompass such celebrated literary movements as ‘new journalism’ or ‘gonzo journalism,’ as well as a range of sub-genres from memoir to travel writing to the personal essay, and locate their roots as far back as Defoe and trace them through Dickens, Orwell, and Capote to the modern day.

Reading The Gate, I was struck by the extent to which the author was able to adapt novelistic conventions and features of the personal essay to a memoir. Bizot is up-front with the reader as to how his book was written. He says that he ‘did not have to invent any of the events, characters, feelings, conversations, or landscapes.’ But he made ‘them come alive through writing and imagination and in doing so created an optical instrument.’ In its lyrical descriptions, structural organisation, symbolism, and use of dramatic scenes and imaginatively reconstructed dialogue, The Gate is an exemplar of creative nonfiction.

The book begins with an unnumbered chapter printed entirely in italics that functions as a frame for the main narrative. In this chapter, Bizot stands outside of the story to reflect on his earliest memories of Cambodia, when the country was still under peaceful French colonial rule, to gloss over the decades of internal conflict that would follow, and finally to ponder his own motivations for writing the memoir.

The chapter is structured much like Bizot’s overall experience of the country. He begins with wistful, idyllic memories: ‘The gibbons’ exasperated complaint would cut through the muffled hum of the villages every morning. Sunlight hovered on the still pools streaked with green and gold, dispersing the sleepy vapours of the night ? The land was rich and beautiful, enamelled with paddy fields, dotted with temples. This was a country of peace and simplicity.’

But after a break in the text, these poetic images are followed by sharply contrasting sections delving into the historical minutiae of the ensuing war and mass killings. At the end, the chapter returns to the author, exploring the feelings that motivated him to write the memoir, including ‘a bitterness that knows no limit,’ and he wonders aloud whether we will ‘never learn this lesson’ that utopianism has led to ‘the bloodiest exterminations in history.’

The next chapter, the fist one that is numbered, does not mark the beginning of the narrative proper. Instead, it introduces yet another frame. The author tells the story of his return to Phnom Penh in 1988, thirteen years after he was forced out by the Khmer Rouge, at a time when the Vietnamese forces that had liberated the country were in firm control.

This chapter explores the concrete experiences, like going to see the eponymous gate at the French embassy, which brought back all the bitter memories that inspired his memoir. The memories that he evokes, and the detail and vividness of the scenes, suck the reader into a world comprised of a single, focussed, intense mind urgently attempting to understand a colossal tragedy.

The chapter also introduces the book?s dominant symbol, the gate. Part of the book’s artfulness comes from the author’s poetic mind, which isolates details, not just for the sake of veracity, but to explore some deeper meaning. The gate represents beginnings and endings, the old French Indochina and the new Democratic Kampuchea, and, of course, the author’s own feeling, like a gate left open, that something was left unresolved when he was forced out of Cambodia.

It was this gate that separated the two worlds of the foreigners and the Khmers. It was this gate that protected the foreigners from the fate of the Khmers. But it also prevented innocent Khmers ‘ the colleagues, friends, lovers, wives, and husbands of foreigners ? from entering the safety of the embassy?s grounds.

This gate has special significance for Bizot because he was in a sense the gatekeeper to the last remaining holdout of the old, French Indochina after the country had laid down to the Khmer Rouge. Having lived for many years in rural villages, learning to speak fluent Khmer, becoming intimately familiar with Khmer customs, he became the foreign community?s translator and main intermediary between embassy officials and Khmer Rouge officers.

He was himself a gate, a barrier, turning away desperate refugees like Madame Long Boret and her tiny baby, forcing out terrified officials from the old regime like Prince Sirik Matak, who was part of the corrupt Lon Nol government that had overthrown King Norodom Sihanouk, but also keeping out the angry forces, full of hatred of all foreign influence, who were at that moment beginning the genocide of their own people.

But he was a gate, not only in the sense of a barrier, but also in the sense of a doorway to some other place. For, it was he who, almost more than anyone, helped to bring the foreign community out of the chaos. Only he was allowed to go outside the embassy to scavenge through the abandoned houses of the capital for supplies. He negotiated with the Khmer Rouge for food, water, and medicine. He brokered the escape that saw them, not airlifted by helicopter like those who fled at the beginning of the end, but by a convoy to the Thai border on hundreds of kilometres of Cambodia?s prehistoric roads.

The loss that Bizot suffered at that time was as heavy as that of any foreigner. He lost his home of ten years, all of his Khmer friends, and his Khmer wife. The gate was, therefore, also a doorway in Bizot?s life through which he could never return.

The Gate is such an artful book, not only because of the frame narratives used to introduce the story and the heavy symbolic overtones, but also because of the way the author structures the main narrative into scenes and uses carefully reconstructed dialogue.

While he employs summary narrative as a way to bridge gaps in the story, which spans the five years from the beginning of the war in 1970 to the fall of Phnom Penh and the evacuation of its few remaining foreign residents in 1975, the narrative is largely comprised of pages of dialogue supposedly remembered over decades.

The dialogue is particularly engaging because Bizot had the opportunity to speak fluently in Khmer with some of the big players in the Khmer Rouge. He talks politics, for example, with Comrade Douch, the future head of the Toul Sleng prison camp. He overhears conversations between Douch and Douch’s immediate superior, as Ta Mok, now known as ‘The Butcher,’ one of the highest ranking and the most cruel of the Khmer Rouge, ordered Bizot’s execution contrary to orders from on high.

Despite the way he reconstructs conversations and crafts events into long scenes, he is devoted to the factual accuracy of his work and carefully contextualises his personal ordeals in a larger historical perspective. Yet, he is careful to keep this second order analysis from pressing to strongly to the fore of his very immediate narrative, and he spurns the historian’s pose of cool objectivity in order to deliver searing criticism of Parisian intellectuals, American politicians, and the revolutionary forces of the Khmer Rouge. This is a book suffused with outrage at ignorance, shortsightedness, self-interest, and stupidity.

Bizot’s story is as relevant today as it was when it was written eighteen years ago. Comrade Douch, as well as such higher up cadres as Ta Mok, still awaits the Khmer Rouge trials in Phnom Penh. Other Khmer Rouge leaders live in luxurious freedom after brokering amnesty and semi-autonomy deals for their holdout regions in the 1990s. But for Bizot, the story is, in a sense, finished. In an epilogue from 2000, he writes of how he was compelled to ‘revisit the other side of the gate of my life’ and return to Cambodia, where his captor, Comrade Douch, was awaiting trial for crimes against humanity, and through delving into the memories from the other side of the gate, he was able to ‘close the gate behind’ him.

Edited by Daveo
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