Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Opium Sparrows

The title refers to those little birds in cages, Not a reference to the women who ply their trade in some seedy SM joint, Cages. The feathered birds be housed in wooden cages, that, for a price a tourist can release from the cage. Just open the door and watch them fly away....But dear readers, be aware these birds are addicted to smack, junk, horse, opium. They are on the gear. These little birds return to the cage for the next fix. As do the tourists. Although the tourists often return for a non-chemical bang. A drug all the same.

A better metaphor of the conditional expat or sexpat there cannot be. An invisible bungee cord springs them back to the country regardless of coups and  impossible immigration polices. The tourists keep returning to Thailand. For them it is a drug, a shot of freedom. Flying without wings.

They must come back for the world that they left behind is full of misery and pain. They come back for the food and the temples. They may come back to write a book, record an album. They may return to the Kingdom to escape a messy divorce, to pursue a dull time drinking career. To take time to pile the blocks of their lives and take a look at it. They may try to insert the wrong wooden block inside the wrong dry wooden crack,

Let's not be cynical.

That strange game we call life it all comes tumbling down. In Bangkok. In Patpong, Heaven turns to hell.They, those that do this sort of thing, may rent an apartment on the 13th floor. They may jump from the balcony leaving nothing behind but a gruesome history.

This novel has it all, death, pain, Sexual quirks and alcoholism. This novel explains why most men stay in Thailand and why many of us die here,

The author, Kevin Wood has been a nightclub owner, he is a regular musician at the Checkiin bar, He has done radio, he has acted in stage plays to much great response. He has also written a novel. A great one. He knows this city. He is qualified to write this novel

A great dirty one. A book that includes a woman addicted to drinking. The protagonist keeps it cooled in the refrigerator. Yes, this is a brave novel.

A novel that I challenge anybody to not find entertaining  Perhaps a little sickening at times but entertainment must turn the stomach as well as the mind.

We are lucky to have Kevin in Bangkok. We are lucky to have his art.

If Miller met Bukowski spoke about life in Bangkok at the corner bar near the kebab joint. 'Opium Sparrows' may have been born over that doner. Henry would have said "Write it." Kevin would had sad "Well, but,,,"

Miller would have said, "Give me a mention."

But there are no buts, This is a book that while being a serious study on the expat condition is also full of sexual content.

I won't spoil the plot. That would be silly. Somebody once told me it was banned. That was silly too.

I suggest you find the book and read it. I read it in a day.

A wonderful Day. A day the lizards bathed in glory and Newman ordered a pizza. Sparrows and a sprinkling of O. Black bread, no olives. That would be decadent. And as my readers know- Newman doesn't do decadence. I'll leave that to the sparrows.

The Beat Goes On..

Monday, February 23, 2015

101 - Bangkok Food.

Based near to the mouth of Soi 101/1 in the Udom Suk district of Bangkok sits a gem of a restaurant. It is simply called 101. The menu is not exhausting to read. My friends, know, and often belittle me about it. Yes, my fetish with menus. I read them. Study them. Examine them. Every word. Every price.

I do like to study menus and am often baffled at making a choice  A sign of old age perhaps, a chronic indecision brought about by the complexity of words.

Who knows?

Who cares?

Give me a simple menu.

Like pulp novels and fast women I read them quick and make the right choices.

Most of the time.

The French had it right. Sit down in a place of eating and get what you are given.

What you are served in 101 is superb. The owner, Dutch, runs a tight ship. And a tight menu.

A range of soups (the home-made tomato is wonderful) duck pate, garlic prawns, mussels.

Unafraid to add a touch of fusion to the menu there's a roasted duck served with Thai red curry sauce. An abuse of water fowl perhaps, but adventurous and different and certainly brave. Personally I feel duck is best served with a fruit based sauce. Strawberry, for instance.

Homemade burgers, marinated ribs, a prime cut of fillet steak. I was surprised when the restaurateur explained that this was his first venture into running an eatery outside of Europe. The tables are full with Europeans and Thais. We keep going back there, and hope you don't get there first and take our table. This is a word of mouth establishment and one which will surely grow in popularity once assholes like me start spreading it about on the web..

101 is a little known treasure. Take a trip to the East of the City. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Gruesome Playground Injuries.

"Gruesome Playground Injuries."

A review.

The title dragged my mind towards Luke Haines who wrote "Murder After Park," and "Unsolved Child Murder."

These songs were both brilliant. They asked questions and delayed answers which as every schoolboy knows is what the thing we call 'art' is all about. Haines was an artist, a musician and an author.

Thus far, he hasn't won any awards but has won my admiration and those of the few who still follow him.

He also once wrote a play.

Never got produced.

Like mine.

But we are not bitter.

Better to peel the next lemon than cry over the one you once sucked dry,

Peel the limelight.

Gruesome Playground Injuries by Ragiv Joseph.

I was won over by the cast and crew of this Bangkok performance. Especially during the questions and answers section. That's not to say I was glad it was over. I wasn't. I just enjoyed and envy the cast and crew. It was an extremely tough production executed professionally.

The story is about a stalker, an obsessive lover who follows his desire through the ages of his self-abuse and destruction. The woman of his dreams reluctant as she sees him for what he is.

A loser.

A meditation of the pain of love. Gruesome Playground Injuries. Remember. That which we cling to too strongly will eventually destroy us. This, I believe is the message of the play.

Try squeezing a glass of the finest wine too tightly. It will break. You will lose both your wine and your glass and quite possibly your best drinking joint, Your sanity might also break. Do not stalk women, even childhood friends.

Past lovers, real or imagined, are in your past for a reason.

Keep them there.

Do  not hold on too tightly to anyone because they will eventually let you down.

Trust me.

A cast of two, Siree Riewpaiboon and Jaime Zúñiga. both disturbed in their roles, both clueless in love, perhaps demonstrative of a society I left behind years ago. Both actors delivered the lines with passion and verve. Well crafted performances......The plot follows their relationship through the twists and turns and avenues of a troubled time... Hospital beds, walking sticks, love to the end.....

Why are they are both so dysfunctional, perhaps this is the point of this production. Why? We don't know. Perhaps the reason we are all dysfunctional, bad parenting and shitty religions.

Wonderful direction by Peter O'Neil, who was a real gentleman in person and a great man in every sense of the phrase. If anyone deserves to be producing plays it is Peter,

My only quibble is with Shakespeare. He started it. Everything you watch on HBO and the cinema screen began with Shakey.

He bloody started it.

Now lets get on with it.

Drama, death, murder, revenge.

We see this on the streets of Bangkok.

I demand more on the stage.

I demand a murder.


The Beat Goes On..

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fun City Blues...

“WE LIVE in a decadent age, Mr. Dylan,” the man-with-no-hands smiled like a shark. His eyes did not focus on Dylan or the child who sat to the other side of the room playing an electric keyboard. His eyes panned across the Penny Black room, the television, the print painting of the Hay Wain, the detective. A child aged ten or eleven, played Bach on an electric keyboard looked at Joe once and smiled before returning to the keys. He recognized her from somewhere, one of the street kids perhaps. She had that hard lived in look about her. She had the look of a child who had been robbed of a childhood. A child forced to make adult decision as soon as she could walk and talk. 
The man-with-no-hands continued: “An age where one feels the greatest love with a stranger. That first bloom of passion one feels before one knows their name, their age? Do you understand? I mean who wants to lay familiar? I for one do not want to lay a familiar person. It would be like sexual intercourse with my mother, don’t you think?
“I’ve never met your mother.” Dylan shrugged.
These people disgusted him.

A VDO of Newman shot by A. McLeaod and sounds by Keith Nolan can be seen HERE

Thursday, February 12, 2015



THE BLACK ROSE takes JOE DYLAN on his fourth adventure to London on a missing person case that tangles him up in a nest of crime, drugs and an evil club-footed gypsy with a beautiful wayward daughter determined to find her own path to Fun city. Enter a dark noir world that spans the streets of London and leafy Kent to the decadent Far Eastern city of Fun City. P.I Joe Dylan, an established character, flawed with drug and alcohol addictions negotiates the rescue and return of a boy, once thought dead and left to grow up a feral youth with gypsies. Joe must take him back to the decadent world of his natural father who resides in Fun City. Drugs, death, prostitution, torture, kidnap, ransom, love, humor and warped decadent sex all speed along like a runaway train with Newman's death defying writing technique.


"The action explodes in your face as soon as you open the book. The reader is then guided through a well-crafted series of high-contrast portraits of the characters whose stories tighten together like interwoven nooses to set the stage for the shocking finale. The crazed world of Fun City seems to spill out of its boundaries and spread to Europe like a burning oil slick. Joe Dylan sorts out business and barely breaks stride to indulge all his vices in full!
It’s a dark and menacing fairy tale of gypsies and drug-deals, exploring some of the ways in which separating from ones roots can change a person and their choices. The mind-sets of the tropics are cleverly contrasted with those of cooler climes and the story arcs between the two locales. The ways in which a person is changed by what they endure are shown to be just as interesting as the other aspects in which they stay exactly the same. The prose is jagged with sharp nuggets of perceptive insight, a real treasure trove.
Don’t expect to find traditional heroes to look up to – nearly every character you meet is so twisted up that you might start feeling like the only sane person in sight! Words fly with gusto and flair, and the authoritative presence of the author’s voice invites us to wonder how much of the story may be rooted in real events…" A. McLeod.

"I got hooked on Newman's descriptive powers in a previous Dylan novel. His female Thai character had a look like a "puzzled fox." If you've ever seen a Thai woman trying to wrestle with the foibles of a western male or the intricacies of the English language - that's it. Got it in two words. Newman does this on page after page - and has the gift of enabling the reader, not just to see what he's describing but to feel it... and I don't mean just emotionally. Noah is a traveler - his depiction in The Black Rose is vivid - and so compelling I wanted to grab a shower.
The characters are well drawn and convincing - I've read too many novels recently where the key players behave in a manner which just doesn't fit with their personality or what they might be in their best interests... I'm left screaming at the page - "but they'd never do that, that's just dumb." Newman delivers a depth to his characters - and a plot line that stacks up - his characters are driven, albeit rarely to a good place.
The Black Rose is a great read - the pace quickens as the story progresses and I was swept along - eager to see where we were being taken. White Flamingo was excellent - this may just top it. Looking out for Joe Dylan 5 already." -  M. Carrell

"THE BLACK ROSE is a page turner from the get-go, Newman doesn't waste any words or the readers time - he gets the ball in play straight away, usually headed toward the goal line, with a few stops for drugs and alcohol. Dylan accepts a missing person case that brings him back to a world he occupied long ago - insurance investigation in London - before the lure of all things exotic turned his head permanently east. You don't skip any words of James A. Newman because you never know when the gold nuggets will show up as you pan across the page. It could be in his observations between the sexes, the act of sex itself or the descriptions of the pull and power that brings in so many millions to Fun City every year, where the small fish are plentiful and always available for a fry. It's a story which includes gypsies, tramps and thieves plus your usual assortment of Beach Road tourists and expats, which you'll easily recognize but hopefully not in your own mirror. Fans of the series will be treated to more than a few returning characters, including The White Flamingo herself and my personal favorite, Hale, whom I am sure I have met at least once in the land of addictions.

For readers looking for another one of a kind Fun City romp with a twisted London twist, THE BLACK ROSE is sure to please fans of dark crime fiction." - K. Cummings

"Joe Dylan's at it again, this time down the mean streets of both Fun City, Southeast Asia, and the equally rotten lanes of the UK. There's a touch of Dickens in this, joining Newman's more obvious influences: William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski and Jim Thompson. It's dark stuff, but exciting to read, and funny at times. A couple of nicely-drawn female characters complement the hard loving, hard drinking, drug-addled, fight-prone men. A nice mix. Also a nice mix are the shocking surprises mixed within the familiar genre. If you enjoyed the other Joe Dylan books, you'll like this one. If you haven't read the others, you can't go wrong starting with this one." - B Hauser.