Can you give us a summary of ‘Red Room’?
An elegant Thai woman in her final year as a law student disappears after meeting a handsome DEA agent. Fearing the worst, her wealthy Russian boyfriend pleads with Kenny Jones, private detective, to find her. Amidst a backdrop of voyeurism, violence and illicit sex, Kenny wades through the dark undercurrents of the Bangkok night to uncover much more than is openly on show in the red light zone.
What was your inspiration for the book?
When I retired from the private investigation business in Thailand (not a paricularly safe line of work for a then-new father, as I was at during that time), Confessions of a Bangkok Private Eye was co-written along with Stephen Leather.
The popularity of that book, and the chance to explain not only some pitfalls but a better understanding of Thai culture and epistemology in an entertaining book, all contributed to the inspiration for Red Room.
I tell the Red Room story through the eyes of fictional detective ‘Kenny Jones’ and this is the third in that series. All are based on people and places I encountered during my decade as a private detective. I also wrote the non-fiction book Thai Private Eye and an updated version The Private Detective, which will be released shortly detailing how investigations were carried out.
I released a textbook entitled Diversity-challenged Interviewing that has been used by Government agencies to instruct staff of the differences required when Western staff are dealing with those from the East.
Is the Red Room based on real events?
This book is totally based on fact. Some characters have been altered slightly of course, but at the time both the client and I received death threats. The only alteration is a drive-by shooting and a bombing. However, again, they are based on real events at the time: the bombing in Bali and the shooting of an Australian forensic accountant who was looking into a Thai company’s affairs.
When was it released?
The Red Room was released last month. A couple of friends have set up SPP, a publishing company that specialises in Thai-based books, so I was happy to help them plus take advantage of their editing expertise. Currently the book is only released as an E-book. It can be found on the SPP site (spankingpulppress.com) along with Amazon or Goodreads. And it costs US$3.99.
You’ve now been living in your home country, New Zealand, for how many years. What was it that made you decide to pen another Thailand book?
I returned to New Zealand primarily for my daughter’s benefit when she was three years old. As she is a school prefect and in the New Zealand under-12 girls soccer squad I’m sure that was a wise decision, but that’s nine years out of the Kingdom. Nonetheless, I keep very close contact with friends and family and will always retain a close affinity with all things Thai.
What’s feedback been like so far on the book? Are people surprised you are still writing Thailand-themed books?
According to some of my loyal readers, I am somewhat of a ‘Thai legend’ – although I doubt the validity of that. Nonetheless having lived so long in the Kingdom more or less as a ‘blue collar Thai’, who was able to drink ‘ha-sip degree’ whiskey and eat grasshoppers with the locals as well as chat to taxi drivers and bar girls in Thai or Khamen [Cambodian dialect], meant I was a rarity amongst investigators. Being able to draw on those experiences also gives me some great ideas and allows me to deviate from the usual Thai-based tales that are written by Westerners living in five-star accommodation.
Your life as a private investigator must seem worlds away from your life now as very much a family man. What’s the transition been like?
The main difference I found was not one of investigator to the student/father I became (I returned to university and completed a masters degree in Strategic Studies on my return to New Zealand), but of the transition from an Asian to a Western way of thinking.
I really did find New Zealanders to often appear rude, arrogant and outspoken when I first returned.
Furthermore, they didn’t leave shoes at the door or lower their heads when talking to people of higher credentials. I still often attend a local Thai temple and enjoy doing some errands for the monks if needed. Yes, I do miss Thailand at times, but I do think at least in the places I relaxed – huge Thai restaurants and night clubs such as Pow Goong Bow or Hollywood in Ratchada come to mind – that it is essentially a younger or at least unmarried man and woman’s place to some extent.
Besides, along with my wonderful memories I have brought my own special Thai jewel with me – my daughter is part Thai.