Wednesday, May 25, 2016

New Bangkok Noir Thriller

James and John are chilling in The Beach Hut slurping back Papa Dobles - An icy blend of white rum and fresh grapefruit and lime juices, sweetened with a splash of maraschino liqueur and sugar syrup. The sun is setting and the waves are rushing up the beach. Ebb and flow. Ebb and flow. Not unlike the writing process.

James gazes out into the pink sunset and takes a small sip of the cocktail.
New Book

JN: Like a Moth to a Flame” is a rollercoaster of a book, and I get the impression that you really enjoyed writing this one. What was the most enjoyable part of the process this time, dude?

JD: I live in a small town in a beautiful country and I have access to a wonderful walking track alongside a rushing river covered by a canopy of native trees. It takes one minute from my house to access this. While the most satisfying aspect of writing is always sitting back at the end of the night and reviewing what I've written, coming out of the zone and wondering how the hell it got there, the most enjoyable part was different. It was walking in nature, listening to music, separating myself from my real life and sinking my mind into the story as I walked and plotted. Every single scene was conceived while walking in nature. The words themselves, came out of those walks every night once I entered the writing zone. What happens in the zone is hard to explain. Writers will understand. Shit happens.

JN: That's beautiful. Often I speak with writers, published and unpublished, and their real purpose is to be recognized, to be admired, to be famous, or whatever, and I think to myself that the real reward from writing is the writing itself, or the thinking about the story, not any sort of end game, but the process of writing. Now that the book is finished is there a big gap in your life? Or are you straight into the next project?

JD: I'm straight into the next project which continues Nick Adamson's journey. I've found a process that works for me. The only hold up is finding time to have those regular walks. Summer time is easy. I'm a school teacher and a solo father. And it is winter here so time is much shorter. I can only guarantee two walks rather than five so the process is slower. Bring on summer.

The process is the most important thing and the most enjoyable. But the most satisfying is sitting down at my laptop after bedtime stories and pounding out a thousand words a night. Then those walks become incredibly rewarding and addictive. Without them I end up watching cooking shows on TV and waking up the next morning feeling unfulfilled.
Fuck you, Gordon Ramsey.

JN:  For me it is the bus journey in the morning. There is something about movement, solitary movement that allows a story to grow and flourish. The pages of Moth turn quickly, the reader has a sense of movement. Where do you see the story moving forward to? Who is Nick Adamson and how much of him is you?

JD:  Nick is a smart guy but hurt and vulnerable. He has experienced great emotional losses which he thinks makes him fearless. Because of this he is often reckless and exhibits maverick behaviours but always with his heart in the right place. Nothing of him is me but there is a great deal of me in him, if that makes sense. To quote you: "Every author is the sum of two things – the books he’s read and the life he has lived." Nick exemplifies this. He comes from me, from Hemingway, from Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Jean Paul Satre, but most of all he comes from the social setting of Thailand and specifically, Bangkok and what it does to men.

The story is moving to another chapter in Nick's life where he is caught tight in a web of corruption. 

It is provisionally titled "Escapology".

JN:  How much of a sequel is Like a Moth to a Flame to your first Nick Adamson novel," Cut Out The Middleman"? How closely are they connected?

Photo: Alasdair McLeod
JD:  They are only connected by the main character, Nick Adamson.  The stories stand alone and are quite different in purpose and style. Middleman is more of an action adventure backpacker story set on a beach while Moth is pure Bangkok Noir. Here is the blurb for Middleman: "Nick Adamson only planned on being in Thailand for a week. But a week later he is running a beach bar, selling drugs to tourists, falling out with the police, falling in love with a hot blonde, and dueling with an out-of-control, drug lord. Cut Out the Middle Man follows Nick’s descent into the illicit underworld of beach life and the dysfunctional characters who operate beneath the thin veneer of paradise islands."

Like a Moth to a Flame picks up on Nick's life some years later as a Bangkok expat and develops the character within a fresh conflict. They can be read independently of each other. Like a Moth to a Flame could easily sit alone without being referred to as "Book 2".  In fact I like to think of Middleman as a prequel rather than Moth as a sequel

JN:  You mentioned the city of Bangkok and what it does to foreign men, this is something we have spoken about before. What is it about Bangkok that sees so many visitors burn out like a moth to a flame?

JD: Good question. Probably more intriguing that the best question in film: "What is the Matrix?" And that is probably where the answer lies. Bangkok is escape, fantasy, deception.
Morpheus:"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill -- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill -- you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."
Living in Bangkok is like taking the red pill. You get to see what is real and what is fantasy once you get to experience it and live it over time.
Photo: Alasdair McLeod
Once you take the red pill you get sucked in to a different world where it is impossible to go back. The Flame could be anything; Bangkok itself, hot women, easy money, reinvention of self, false friendships and false promises, addictions. Just name your weakness; Bangkok will expose it. Expose and exploit it.

JN: I like the Ronny character in your novel, he seems to have made a life for himself in Bangkok. 

JD: He is a very cool character. A Bangkok old hand. Seen it all.

He exists in the corner of many a Bangkok haunt.

Photo: Stickman

The sort of guy who would have shed a tear when Washington Square was cruelly taken from us by those heartless buzzkilling developers who have yet to develop.

JN: Well, Washington Square is now a dinosaur theme park..

JD: At least Queens Park Plaza is still alive and well and features prominently in the novel. There were photos of a key setting, Crazy Girl Bar, in a recent Stickman photo essay.

I am proud to say that I played for the Crazy Girl Bar in the Bangkok Pool League for a few years.

JN: It is only a matter of time before places like Patpong and NEP will fall to developers. I feel that Cowboy will remain as a tourist attraction. It really is a beautiful neon spectacular and very much part of the tourist list of attractions.

Times change.

Bangkok is changing.

And Nick becomes wrapped up in the New Bangkok in the next book?

JD: Does he ever! Locked in tight with the Police against his will. If you impregnate a Police Chief's daughter then you take what you’re given and have to find a way out. Sounds like vintage Nick Adamson, right?


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