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garro

Has Anybody Read The New Andrew Hicks Book Yet?

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I've been a magazine writer and editor for the best part of twelve years and if I've learned anything it's that technically brilliant writing does not necessarily translate into compelling storytelling. Exceptional writers like John Burdett, who excell at both are just that: exceptional.

I read Thai Girl off the back of a Haruki Murakami book and, perhaps inevitably after this, found the writing so pedestrian I was tempted to stop reading it immediately. However, I was quickly drawn into the story and this is where the author's talent really lies: he has a natural gift for narrative. No matter that there's no strong plot; the dialogue, at times, is verging on the ludicrous (Andrew, I don't know where you did your research on 'yoof-speak' but it's pretty wide of the mark) and the characters mostly flat and in danger of degenerating into unsympathetic caracatures (although, in fairness, this is probably a more a consequence of the nature of the characters more than any defect in the ability of the writer). Despite these weaknesses, Hicks' raw talent for storytelling keeps the reader turning the pages and this is the prime directive in any kind of writing.

The real heart and soul of this book lies in the character of Fon (the 'Thai Girl'). Beautifully observed and drawn, a striking metaphor for Thai culture itself, it is through her that Hicks adeptly explores the central theme of most books of this genre: the difficulty, frustration, pain and, perhaps ultimately, the futilitly of the foreigner trying to come to terms with the mercurial nature of Thailand. It is to his credit - and I believe displays and reflects the respect he has for this country - that he chose not to use the hackneyed milieu of the Bangkok bar scene as a vehicle to achieve this.

One thing I particularly enjoyed (and Andrew, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure parody wasn't actually your intention and I hope you don't take this the wrong way) was the 'travellers' in this book came off as what I've always believed them to be - witless cretins. Their asinine discussion of world politics and their eagerness to spew forth ill-informed gibberish on any subject I found hilariously accurate, as I'm sure would anyone with half a brain who's spent more than five seconds on Khao San Road or any of the islands.

I also applaud your bravery in how you handled the ending of the story (although I'm not sure how this will affect your film rights - it's not very 'Hollywood' is it?), but, as I believe you have mentioned somewhere in this thread, to soft-soap the end the the story would have been a cop-out and negated the main point of the book.

As for the arguments made here that major publishers equal major quality, this is nonsense. A large proportion of books published by the majors fail and a large proportion of them that do succeed are literary and literally rubbish.

Anyway Andrew, if you happen to read this, well done for getting Thai Girl published. It's a good book and I'd recommend it to anyone. I'll certainly look out for your new book.

mk

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I've been a magazine writer and editor for the best part of twelve years and if I've learned anything it's that technically brilliant writing does not necessarily translate into compelling storytelling. Exceptional writers like John Burdett, who excell at both are just that: exceptional.

I read Thai Girl off the back of a Haruki Murakami book and, perhaps inevitably after this, found the writing so pedestrian I was tempted to stop reading it immediately. However, I was quickly drawn into the story and this is where the author's talent really lies: he has a natural gift for narrative. No matter that there's no strong plot; the dialogue, at times, is verging on the ludicrous (Andrew, I don't know where you did your research on 'yoof-speak' but it's pretty wide of the mark) and the characters mostly flat and in danger of degenerating into unsympathetic caracatures (although, in fairness, this is probably a more a consequence of the nature of the characters more than any defect in the ability of the writer). Despite these weaknesses, Hicks' raw talent for storytelling keeps the reader turning the pages and this is the prime directive in any kind of writing.

The real heart and soul of this book lies in the character of Fon (the 'Thai Girl'). Beautifully observed and drawn, a striking metaphor for Thai culture itself, it is through her that Hicks adeptly explores the central theme of most books of this genre: the difficulty, frustration, pain and, perhaps ultimately, the futilitly of the foreigner trying to come to terms with the mercurial nature of Thailand. It is to his credit - and I believe displays and reflects the respect he has for this country - that he chose not to use the hackneyed milieu of the Bangkok bar scene as a vehicle to achieve this.

One thing I particularly enjoyed (and Andrew, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure parody wasn't actually your intention and I hope you don't take this the wrong way) was the 'travellers' in this book came off as what I've always believed them to be - witless cretins. Their asinine discussion of world politics and their eagerness to spew forth ill-informed gibberish on any subject I found hilariously accurate, as I'm sure would anyone with half a brain who's spent more than five seconds on Khao San Road or any of the islands.

I also applaud your bravery in how you handled the ending of the story (although I'm not sure how this will affect your film rights - it's not very 'Hollywood' is it?), but, as I believe you have mentioned somewhere in this thread, to soft-soap the end the the story would have been a cop-out and negated the main point of the book.

As for the arguments made here that major publishers equal major quality, this is nonsense. A large proportion of books published by the majors fail and a large proportion of them that do succeed are literary and literally rubbish.

Anyway Andrew, if you happen to read this, well done for getting Thai Girl published. It's a good book and I'd recommend it to anyone. I'll certainly look out for your new book.

mk

Please forgive me for posting yet again but I just have to answer this one to say thanks, MKAsok for your very nice comments and to answer your questions, both pertinent and impertinent!

Your questions and the criticism are linked.... was I was sending-up my 'traveller' characters with the result that their 'yoof speak' was off the mark? And how had I reasearched their language?

Well I hope it was an accurate portrayal of them that was not unsympathetic but which did quietly poke fun. The idea that being a traveller is trendy is the product of immaturity and deserves gentle teasing. From Khao San Road onwards these young guys are posturing and cool and it always seems, annoyingly free of wrinkles.

So how did I research the dialogue for THAI GIRL?

Before writing my novel, I revisited many old haunts in SE Asia and fell in with many such travellers. Being always solitary, I kept notebooks in which I recorded details of conversations and language. In the book some of the booze fuelled dialogues on the beaches are thus almost verbatim.

From all this I picked up current idiom to back up my existing 'research', namely having two chilldren of that age, spending ten years as a lecturer at the University of Exeter, a similar southern university to the one that Ben and Emma attended and visits to Australia and to the web to find various dialect dictionaries. Finally my twenty year old son of heavily edited the manuscript for current idiom and deleted quite a bit that he though did not ring true.

So that's where I got my 'yoof speak' from.

Okay the action is now five years ago but even then what surprised me was how much hackneyed idiom like 'brilliant' and 'cool' were still in use. If it now jars, I'm glad it doesn't spoil the storytelling.

As to the ending, I have beside me a 17 page option contract with a Californian studio for the filming of THAI GIRL I queried the ending with them as to me it is the whole point of the story. They said they might be under pressure from their backers to make it more romantic but that they personally are keen to keep it as it is. As I've said before THAI GIRL is 'Romeo and Juliet without the coffins'.

At least with MY THAI GIRL AND I there's no such problem with yoof speak!

Andrew

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Thanks for your replies Andrew. I have to admit, I was always curious as to what your real feelings towards those characters were. And congratulations for being able to survive the interminable tedium of drunken conversations with such people for the purposes of research. You have truly suffered for your art. Best of luck with the new book.

mk

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Quote

"I'm just preparing the seventh printing and today am going through a long contract with a film company in California which wants to option it for a movie."

Dam that’s good news, now I don’t have to buy the book just wait until the movie comes out and get a pirate copy at Pantip Plaza.

besides reading hurts my lips

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What's next Andrew?

Another book?

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What's next Andrew?

Another book?

How about you, Garro? I hope there'll be another book from you too.

I can imagine you writing, 'Last Post, How I learned to survive without Thaivisa!'

No, My Thai Girl and I are taking it quietly here in Isaan. I'm doing my blog and going with the flow. But thanks for asking.

Yesterday I was posting on Thai Visa and I heard a scratching noise behind me. I looked round and there it was at last... a turtle with a moutache!

Choke dee.

Andrew

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