An old Thailand hand, I observed early on that just about every farang who has visited the Land of Smiles feels qualified to pen the definitive book about it. To them, Thailand is a quick read. But even wed into an extensive Thai family, I never thought so. Many of its mores elude me.
If You Can’t Stand the Fun, Stay Out of the Go-Go by William Peskett 197 pp, 2011 Bamboo Sinfonia paperback Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 395 baht
It took me a while to realise that the characteristic Thai smile is like a Greek play mask. That they bottled up their actual feelings behind it until they explode. Revenge is brought to mind, somewhere between the Sicilians' and Sardinians. Still, I read their books, interested in their experiences.
If You Can't Stand the Fun, Stay Out of the Go-Go is better than most because Northern Ireland born, English educated William Peskett describes more experiences than most. Retired, married to a village girl, they live in Jomtien. In 2009, he began writing a column in the fortnightly Pattaya Today.
Taking the pen name Khun Poban (Mr Househusband), "The View from the Hill" column lasted for several years describing life with his better half, the light of his life, in the most exciting city in the Realm. Fifty of those columns have been collected in this book's 197 pages.
Each tells a different experience, with his and her frequently differing reactions to them. On the whole, this reviewer prefers hers. But when they agree, so do I.
Arguably he's the stereotyped farang, she's the stereotyped Thai. She is superstitious, believing among other things that her dreams portend the future. She's jealous, certain that he'll leave her for a prettier woman. He can't abide eating fish heads, chicken and pig's feet, which she relishes.
Mixed feelings about bar girls _ dishonest, but if that's what it takes to earn a living, why judge her? Laws are made to be broken, if there are no cops around. Good service trumps good food. She loves Thailand so much that she is homesick after one day abroad. White is ideal. She's despondent over her cafe au lait colour.
His arguments are weak if not simplistic. Why does he shave? Habit. He looks at nude dancers, but doesn't stray. He makes the good point that Thailand is turning into a garbage dump. Plastic bags should be prohibited. And so on and so forth. A visit to the dentist, a massage parlour, Phuket, Albion, choosing DVDs, a table, a plant. A few insights. More than a little humour. Don't pass it by.
The Templar’s Quest by C.M. Palov 517 pp, 2011 Penguin paperback Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 350 baht
A sci-fi thriller
Military analysts agree that the Third Reich came closer to achieving total victory than many people realise. But Hitler, who didn't rise above corporal in World War I, demonstrated his ignorance of strategy in World War II. Among other decisions which were fatal mistakes was invading Russia.
Had he used those two million soldiers to attack the Middle East and capture the oil fields, he would have had the petrol to fuel his jets, secret weapons indeed. Alas, he refused to listen to the advice of competent generals like Von Runstedt and Kesselring. Zhukov, Montgomery and Patton hammered the final nails in his coffin.
At least until the fall of France, the vast majority of the German people supported the Fuhrer, but with Churchill and Stalin refusing to cry, Uncle Roosevelt's entry into the war, the defeat at Stalingrad, there was a drifting away. At the end, he could only rely on the SS.
Well over half of this 517-page novel, more science fiction than historical fiction, is about how brilliant scientist Ivo Uhlemann means to combine the electromagnetic energy of the Earth with that of the star Sirus to loop Einstein's time-space factor to make the journey back.
Providing additional energy is the Holy Grail, which he found. Chapters are devoted to the Knights Templar, who sought it unsuccessfully. Determined to stop the experiment are Delta Force Commando Finn McGuire, MI5 agent Caedmon Aisquith and US scholar Kate Bauer.
Between describing astral and telluric forces, the author throws in titbits about the occult, ruins, symbols, lasers and the film Back to the Future.
Did you know that though hailing from India, gypsies got their name from those who thought them Egyptians? Taking a leaf from James Patterson, this work has 90 chapters.
Virtually every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. How are three protagonists escape their succession of plights are unlikely one and all, raising smiles as well as eyebrows. Unless you are into sci-fi, you may be tempted to skip pages. This reviewer didn't, but I admit that more than a little was above my head.