Not so long back, our friend Derek Sharron from Bamboo Sinfonia Books, sent me an e-mail asking whether or not I was interested in doing a review for one of his latest releases. Sure enough. And after looking at what he had on offer, I decided on this one…..Learning Curve.
Learning Curve, written by Mark Thomas, is the very simple story of an incredibly financially naïve British guy called Eric Dent. So plain stupid in fact, that I actually asked Mark, if he had ever seriously known any Farangs to be as dumb as Eric during his long-term stint in Pattaya. Mark promised me that he certainly had.
The story goes. Eric from England, a recent divorce statistic, is over the moon at having separated with his ex-wife – a gigantic woman, who has turned into the size of a German Battleship due to having consumed just a bit too much English grease. Eric despises her so much (Doreen) that she continues to getting a starring role in all of Eric’s dreams, or should I say nightmares. Anyway, after Eric has been shown the backdoor at his workplace, he has decided to pack his suitcase and voyage off to enjoy the beauties of Thailand (…..Pattaya!) and begin a new life. Unfortunately though, Eric isn’t exactly loaded with cash, and there is no way his 10,000 pound sterling is gonna last a lifetime (or as you shall read, due to his extra-ordinary generosity,……3 months?!)
Mark the author, a former comedy sketch writer, definitely has a hilarious sense of humour and some of the earlier scenarios told in this book, will even have your deaf budgie laughing. While on the plane from Heathrow, Eric almost gets zapped by an angry hostess and her taser gun, after she claims that he tried to molest her when attempting to get in the toilet. After that terrifying incident (check out the vids on YouTube, getting tasered isn’t a pleasing experience!) Eric decides to stay well clear of her. That is however, until when alighting the aircraft, he trips up, and with arms out-stretched accidentally gropes the furious air-hostess. Eric ends up on top of her like some retarded sexual psychopath.
Next up, poor-old Eric after having forgotten that there is a copy of a naughty razz mag in his bag, is pulled over by a corrupt custom’s officer who explains that the import of lewd pornographic material into the Kingdom is an imprisonable offense. However, due to the officer’s kind understanding nature, a quick under the table exchange involving a few thousand baht, will see him turn a blind eye. Other amusing scenarios about Eric include the time when he recalls getting both of his hands jammed in a toilet roll dispenser in a Bristol Railway Station and becomes the victim of a bunch of whipper-snapping dirty-minded hooligans. Another… after getting out of bed in England one morning still half-drunk scratching his manhood, realizes that not only did he forget to close the curtains and put on his pyjamas, it is a school holiday and there are a couple of pre-pubescent girls looking up in his direction. Oh…oh… There is some hefty explaining to be done!
Anyway, back to the story. After Eric finally arrives in Pattaya courtesy of some scamming taxi-driver, the first place he heads for, instead of a hotel, is an English pub (Cornish Arms) to sink a few well-needed alcoholic beverages. And, it is in that establishment that Eric ends up half his time for the next week or so. Some of the characters Eric is to meet here are so obnoxious that I asked the author whether Pattaya really did have that many idiots in such abundance. He answered “I think so, yes”. Beyond a doubt, the most horrid of all, is ironically the owner of the pub, a completely scamming English geezer who is out to rip anyone and everyone off. He goes on to take Eric for one huge ride and suckers the guy into buying every single drink consumed for the remainder of the book. Eric knows the guy is a leech but dumb as he is, still associates with the guy. Characters Eric is to meet, have an assortment of weird and wonderful nick-names (very English like….) There is Rambo (a tough man), Space (an idiot), C-PAC (another tough man), Sargeant-major (ex-soldier), The General (ex-soldier who does nothing but waffle on about ‘the war’), Trigger (has a marshmallow for a brain) and Terry’s wife (a husband beater) the elegantly named Nom Yai.
That said, the lovable Eric falls in ‘love’ (or is it lust) on his very first night at the Cornish Arms. His partner-to-be is the not so adorable ‘Pung’, who after satisfying Eric for a couple of naughty nights, is coaxing the geezer to ‘Go Big Shopping Clothes’ and of course ‘Darling…you buy me gold’. Eric the sucker, falling for all her guilt trip scenarios, is persuaded to go indulge himself at the ATM machine on more than one occasion. Being such a nice generous guy, Pung informs him “Darling…I lub you velly much”. Of course, our hero Eric, believes her.
In contrary to meeting Pung, Eric’s bad luck soon continues again, and the guy is gob-smacked when he sees a huge police sketch of himself on the TV news. Holding up the portrait is a police-spokesperson advising the nation that there is a crazy maniac prowling the streets, one who sexually molests flight attendants and imports wads of filthy magazines. Eric, not needing to be locked-up for the next five years in a Thai prison, disguises his himself by dying his hair pitch black… unfortunately though, the hairdresser is as daft as him and accidentally dies it bright orange. Eric is left to roam the streets of Pattaya bearing a striking resemblance to Ronald McDonald. Pretty funny stuff.
So, much of the story ends up to be about Eric and his new found love, Pung. I’ll refrain from telling too much about what happens, but he and her do end up sharing an apartment etc…. One part of the story I found pretty interesting was when Eric met a conman claiming to be CIA. I found it so, in that I too have personally known, for a long time, a geezer claiming to be CIA. He is of course…talking complete gibberish. And I’m not the only, I’ve known other guys in Thailand personally, who have informed me that they too have known fake CIA officers. In fact, I mentioned this to the author and he replied that he has met several guys in Pattaya claiming to be former Special Force when they were nothing of the sort. Interesting!
Mark the author promises that if the book sells well, then he plans on writing another couple of books on Eric’s life in Thailand.
I found the book to be decent enough and thought some of the sketches were more than comical, but from how Mark has portrayed so many freaky folk in this novel, readers new to Thailand may be encouraged to stay well clear from the likes of Pattaya! This novel is essential reading for ignorant Farangs coming here with plenty of cash to spend. Mark faces a hurdle though, in that the bookshelves are already quite saturated with novels based in the likes of Pattaya. This novel though, is in no way a book completely about bargirls and the sex-scene (if it were, I wouldn’t have written this review). It is about an array of misadventures and quack-wack characters. Worth reading. An impressive debut novel.
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