I first heard the term as a child when my parents took me to see the John Ford movie, The Informer. Victor McLaglen played Gypo Nolan who, for 50, betrays his fugitive friend to the British. McLaglen and hangers on soon drink down the reward and he regrets his act, but it's too late.
Shadow Dancer by Tom Bradby, 414 pp, 1999/2012 Corgi paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 395 baht
Informer, tout, grass, etc are pejoratives, the penalty is death in times of war and in some other circumstances. Its positive instance is when a whistle-blower exposes his company for manufacturing harmful products. Still, informing national security secrets to the enemy or organisations of mates to the authorities can't be condoned.
British ITV News political editor Tom Bradby pens thrillers in his spare time, Shadow Dancer among them. Initially on the book stands in 1999, it has been re-published in 2012. We are told that it is being adapted to the screen. The theme is touting during the peace process towards the end of the last century.
IRA, the terrorist arm of Sinn Fein, keeps blowing people and places up in London and elsewhere in the British Isles, the Protestants giving the Catholics as good as they get. Dublin has pretty much kept out of it, the fire stoked in Belfast. Her Majesty's troops on the scene protect Ulster and make life a living hell for the IRA.
Colette and her brothers Paddy and Gerry _ the McVeighs _ lost their father to the Brits and are dyed-in-the-wool IRA. On one of her missions to London, she's arrested before setting off a bomb at a train station. She is made an offer she can't refuse: Turn tout or face execution or death, never to see her two children again.
Colette accepts the onerous condition, MI5's David Ryan her handler. Can she be trusted? After all, the Brits had killed her husband as well. Hundreds of pages are about her having second thoughts and Ryan's superiors' misgivings about the arrangement. Ryan believes in her to the extent that they become lovers.
Mistakenly, IRA suspicions fall on Paddy. Will she tell Ryan that the next target is the Prime Minister in Parliament? Suspense mounts. The finish is contrived, but the author painted himself into a corner and had to take a leap.
This reviewer thought that Stephen Leather had nailed down this genre, but I guess there's always room for one more. It's difficult to sympathise with informers, yet impossible to have a warm spot for terrorists. As with Osama bin Loony, they have it coming.
Meetings With Remarkable Asian Women 183 pp, 2012 Quicksilver paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 375 baht
Change isn't progress
It is said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. To which I would add one more certainty: change. To be sure, change isn't synonymous with progress, but for better or worse it's inevitable. Good times change to bad times, bad times to good times. But when the good times in this cycle reoccur, they won't be the same as before. Ditto the bad times. Don't cry about what was. Everything changes with time.
Yes, you could walk in the countryside and pull fruit off the branches, vegetables from the ground, fish from the streams. Not now. Not for a while. Who's to blame? Nobody. Everybody. The population increased. There wasn't enough for everybody. Nobody cared about ecology. Farmers practised slash-and-burn agriculture for centuries. Waking up to find the forests gone, they became tree huggers.
As taking blame isn't human nature, foreigners are blamed. Americans are the favourites. They chainsawed all the trees to build brothels. Sex didn't exist until they came. They ended cottage industries by building factories. Worst of all, they introduced materialism, waking people to the fact that there's more to life than tending buffalos. Other foreigners did only marginally less.
UK teacher/writer Chris Ashton decided to look unto the loss of culture and values in these parts. In Meetings With Remarkable Asian Women he asks women from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Tibet about their lives and thoughts. All are well into middle age and several have moved to the West. He kicks off with a diatribe against radical feminists, who profess to hate men, yet imitate them.
If these interviews can be ranked, the best is from a Dutch woman forced into an Indonesian brothel for the Japanese military during the war. She notes that she and others like her were brutally raped and weren't "comfort women".
A Tibetan woman describes her family fleeing to India when invaded by China. She wants the world to note that her country is under a reign of terror.
The Vietnamese woman blames the Americans for the bombings and the communist government for trying to revise history by excluding its pre-war culture.
A Thai architect tells of the necessity of feng shui. A Thai doctor extols the effectiveness of acupuncture and herbal medicine. A Thai journalist wants to help the poor who are hard-working but poorly paid for their labour.
The Singapore woman spells out how rags-to-riches Chinese there and in Malaysia support their fellows who are striving to make good.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer