Category Archives: Book Reviews

Learning Curve

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.

If you would like us to consider writing a review of your book at, please contact either myself or Richard Barrow.

Broken Guts (Tong Sia!)

Well, if you are looking for originality in a book, here it is. Broken Guts (Tong Sia) is a ‘rough’ medical guide for foreign travelers in Thailand and S.E Asia, written by Anthony Aikman a bush doctor currently living with some Lahu hill-tribe in the north of Thailand. Anthony has certainly been around a bit in the wildest of places, so you can’t beat the guy when it comes to the ins and outs of getting sick.

The first thing that strikes you when you pick up the book is that it is completely handwritten with jolly humorous cartoons illustrating each page. Anthony’s handwriting and even spelling are not the greatest by a long means, but you’ll get what he’s on about, even if you’ll need to squint yer eyes and puzzle a bit.

Anthony gives us a run-down on the best self-prescription if the nearest doctor is 20 kilometers away. If it’s a bad cut you get or something like that, Anthony tells you, more that once, to ‘Just pish on it’. In fact, urine can be used for more than just cuts and grazes and the reader is reminded what Ghandi deliciously did with his. If urine isn’t yer cup of tea nevermind, the next time you are sailing out in the middle of the Andaman Ocean with no land in sight it’s all right to drink the sea water!

Besides just giving you the best home-made immediate remedies for basic illnesses such as bad guts, constipation, skin problems, leeches, heartburn and sprains, Anthony even teaches the reader how to survive the worse scenarios imaginary. If you ever wondered what to do when you are facing a huge snake, literally drowning, caught in a forest fire or half-choking to death, then the answers are here. So is a quick DIY guide to making your own splint, crutch, stitches (with super-glue even?!) and anti-biotic cream. By the way…forget about having a massage on the beach, those masseurs can be more dangerous than the scorpions!

As for more everyday problems while traveling in the middle of nowhere, Anthony writes up the wisest list of pharmaceutical drugs to take along and a thorough lowdown on self-administration. Even if you thought you had heard it all before, there is definitely a lot to be learnt by everyone from this book. Now, if you constantly suffer a lot mosquito bites, did you know that perhaps the friggin things are attracted to your smelly feet? Well I didn’t, so I’ll make sure I’ll give me feet a decent scrubbing the next time after I do a long day’s trek! And how about the best and quickest way to get that drug working on your system, just by popping it down yer throat? No, yer wrong there, Anthony teaches you about a far better place to stick that pill if you want it working on yer system quick! Bend over……..

I don’t know how many times I have heard Thai friends of mine go “Urghhh” every time they’ve seen me suck me own mozzie bites, as if I was being pretty disgusting. But shiver-me-timbers, my mum was right all along, ones own saliva is one of the best remedies for those darned itchy mozzie bites. So, the next time my wifey complains at me licking away, I’ll be sticking a copy of this book in her face. Anthony also gives you a great guide to the best natural medicines out there to either be bought in the local market or to be found in the woods, such as honey, garlic, papaya and mushrooms.

This book isn’t exactly the finest laid out publication you are gonna find on the bookshelf, they are quite a few printing errors like. But still, at around 250baht a copy, you are looking a bit of a bargain. All in all, I enjoyed it.

And don’t forget, before I finish this review – if you are ever being stalked by some head-hunting bandits, run into the middle of the forest. They won’t follow and kill you – they are afraid of ghosts!

Broken Guts is for sale on our affiliated site You will find it cheaper than as the price already includes international shipping.

If you are an author or publisher and are interested in doing a book review, please contact either myself or Richard Barrow.

Death In The Kingdom

Published by Monsoon Books

When I first picked this book up and browsed for some information on the author, I was surprised to read that he had zilch writing experience whatsoever. He had instead been a hunter, merchant seaman and a bodyguard who enjoyed shooting and photography in his free-time. It was only after a Google search did I find out that Andrew Grant had already written and published ten books prior (under two different names). Strange that this information was left out.

Death in the Kingdom by Andrew Grant is a James Bond style spy thriller involving the usual page-turning stuff of conspiracy, portrayal and of course the seedy underworld. And just like James Bond, the star of this book Daniel Swann, who is a secret British agent, is busy fooling around with as many ladies that he can possibly lay his hands on. As the author admits in a later interview, Daniel certainly has his characteristic flaws – besides being just a handsome womanizer, his idea of enjoying his free-time is drinking as much beer as possible before waking up late with a serious hangover.

Anyway, Daniel is back in Thailand by orders of his boss The Right Honourable Bernard Sinclair MBE who Daniel eloquently describes as being as ‘queer as a two-bob watch’. His job is to recover a small black box from the bottom of the Andaman Sea which has been missing since a Japanese ship was sunk there at the end of the Second World War. Not such an easy task to complete all alone and Daniel has to seek out the assistance of Mr Tuk Tuk, Thailand’s Top Mafia Boss (Strange name for a mafia boss). To complicate the matters though, it was Daniel who had once not only killed his son but also shot-off half the face of his ugly mean side-kick ‘Mr Cabbage’.

The book starts off on the island of Phuket where Daniel meets up with an old buddy of his Geezer. Any reader unfamiliar to the place will soon realize that the area is not just cheap and beautiful but it is also host to plenty of delicious food and short-time sex. The plot soon unravels and before Daniel is off to meet the dangerous Mafia Boss, we learn that besides the small black box hidden below the waters there is also 2 billion dollars worth of gold and a one metre high Buddha Image encrusted in 3,000 rubies.

According to Sir Bernard however, the British government don’t need the treasure whatsoever as it is all promised to be given as an award to Mr Tuk Tuk for his help in the salvage. The Mafia Boss is soon flabbergasted at his new-found potential wealth and shakes the hand of Daniel. The latter of whom isn’t so dumb though and knows that his new partner isn’t a man who forgets any past ill-deed so easily. And then, he also has to watch out for scar-face Mr Cabbage who also wants him dead…. as soon as the task is over.

All to plan and a sizable amount of the book is given to the recovery of the small black box, wad of gold and the priceless Ruby Buddha in Burmese Waters. Not being much of sea or diving expert, I kinda flicked through some of this adventure, but was soon back to enjoy a twist to the story when Daniel and his Prawn Boat crew are attacked by a weapons-loaded speedboat, which has appeared out of the blue. Mr Tuk Tuk, the meanest mafia boss in the land, hasn’t let his boys go out into foreign waters with no ammunition back-up and so the enemy speedboat and its crew are blasted out of the Andaman.

Safely back on the boat, the reader gets an idea to the contents of this top-secret box after some of it leaks out, but we don’t get the low-down until Daniel finally makes his way back to the British embassy. During the trip back to Bangkok, Daniel realizes that there is more to this adventure than meets the eye and his suspicions grow by the minute. Who were those guys in the speedboat, the CIA? How, during his zig-zag venture back to the capital are guys continually able to follow him?

Along the way, Daniel meets up again with the Mafia Boss and the reader once more learns of a new twist to the plot. Tuk Tuk never does get to keep the holy image and the Ruby Buddha is thankfully returned to its rightful owner Brother Thana of Wat Pha To. We also get a descriptive picture of Tuk-Tuk’s Japanese mistress Sukura who Daniel wouldn’t mind tasting for himself – in the confines of her palace.

From then on, the author takes us on an adventure which goes from Bangkok to Ayutthaya to the Golden Triangle. People lose their heads (literally), there are bloody slayings and loads new characters are added to the story…… And that’s as much as I will give away…

Altogether, this book is an enjoyable read which turns and twists at every opportunity. I would definitely recommend it as a decent read on a beach-hut hammock for those readers who like a bit of a thrilling page-turner. On the other-hand though, if it’s a decent read-up on Thailand or Thai ways you are after, then this book doesn’t quite offer that.

If you are an author or publisher and are interested in doing a book review, please contact either myself or Richard Barrow.

Male Bodies, Women’s Souls

A few weeks ago one of our readers, the co-author of this book, sent me a copy. Here is my review.

This book, was certainly not written by any old Dick and Harry from your local pub. LeeRay Costa, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Woman’s Studies in Virginia, while Andrew Matzner, MA, is an expert in cross-cultural transgenderism.

The book, using narrative methods, analyzes the experiences of the transgendered (Kathoey / Ladyboy) to challenge the stereotypes they face. In much of the book, the authors prefer to stick to the term ‘Sao Praphet Song’ (Second-type women). Personally though, I will keep with my own term ‘Ladyboy’ in this review, as it is that term which seals the majority of the readers coming to this blogsite via Google looking for information about the transgendered.

LeeRay and Andrew really delve into the definitions of ‘gay’ vs ‘kathoey’ etc. Absolutely, too much detail for me to go into today, but basically they say that Thai society itself often fails to comprehend and differentiate between the two words. And that is where a lot of the stereotype and discrimination originates from. The book explains that a ‘kathoey’ is used to refer to those born male, who have a feminine manner and identify themselves as woman. The ‘kathoeys’ view women as positive role-models and see themselves as having the same characteristics such as: faithful and gentle while believing that sex is only one part of ‘love’.

In stark contrast however, a lot of the ladyboys had little decent to say about gays and viewed them as ‘promiscuous’, ‘sexually active’, ‘insincere’ and had all the negative Thai masculine characteristics as ‘irresponsible’, abusive’, ‘lazy’ and ‘alcoholic’. According to the book, gays and even tom-boys, in general, didn’t view ladyboys in any brighter light too.

Half of the book concerns previous study of ladyboys and many of the quotes are those coming from author Peter A Jackson, PhD, who is a Senior Fellow in Thai History, Australia. Then, much of the latter of the book deals with an analysis of the ‘Sao Praphet Song’ narratives. All of the narratives were written anonymously by ladyboys at Chiang Mai University – members of the Transgender Club – ‘Rosepaper’.

Many of the narratives paint a clear picture of physical violence, family intolerance and social rejection. Unaccepted by their parents, some of the ladyboys were also victims of brutal physical abuse at the hands of their fathers. Unhappy at the sexuality of their biological sons, some parents tried to change their feelings by forcing them into different more manly environs such as playing masculine sports etc…. On other occasions however, the ladyboys explained that their parents were accepting, but only on a ‘superficial level’. Many of those who felt completely unaccepted had to try and hide their sexuality; they lived two different lives – they’d dress and act like men at home but go out at night as women.

What is interesting to note, was that Andrew realized that ladyboys in the US and those in Thailand both believed ‘The grass is greener on the other side’ and that their opposite societies were more tolerant of transgenderism. It can be inferred that perhaps the West would see a lot more ladyboys in public than there actually were, if society were more socially accepting.

Many of the narratives are touching and tell some horrific stories of rape and gang-rape of ladyboys at High School, which they believe is prevalent in Thailand’s schools. One ladyboy even claims that 70% of young male students have had some kind of gay/ladyboy experience at least once.

The book aims at challenging wide-spread belief, misinformation and misinterpretation that transgederism evolves from sociological environs such as this “A household in which the father is either permanently or frequently absent is seen as negatively impacting a boy’s psychosexual development” ( Jackson 1997). In fact, even some of the ladyboys in their narratives believe that such environs affected them in one way or another. Personally speaking, most of ladyboys in their stories tell very different backgrounds. Interestingly, in contrast to main-stream belief, the ladyboys were not happy at being born with a woman’s soul and would have preferred to have been born a real man. Some of them believed that this ‘bad luck’ occurred because of ‘bad karma’ created in a previous life.

The ladyboys on choosing to write their narratives, do so in an effort to to help change Thai society and challenge the many misconceptions about them. “We didn’t choose to be born this way”. According to society, ladyboys are only useful – working as beauticians, cabaret dancers, costume designers or make-up artists etc… And that Thai society viewed them negatively as being ‘loud-mouthed’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘over-acting’. Again, it is intersting to read that many ladyboys also complained of others who acted in this exact kind of way, thus putting a negative reflection on all of them.

As what could be a serious challenge, to even the title of this book – it was found certain aspects of a person’s identity may be open to change and in some cases individuals could change their identity from ‘kathoey’ to ‘gay’ and back again. That, I found personally to be true – and could argue that some ladyboys are only so, for a brief fashionable period of their young lives (I have witnessed this throughout my time in Thailand). It could be argued therefore, that a lot of ladyboys are not born with a woman’s soul after all.

The authors wrote this book as a stepping-stone for further study into transgenderism. I would personally say after reading this book, that more narrative study like this ought to be broadened and to not just include those born into middle-class families. How about further study into ladyboys born into poor rural families, those who have renounced their transgenderism, older middle-aged ones and those who have entered the world of ‘working for foreigners’etc….?

Anyway, this book ought to be compulsory reading for anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of ‘Thailand’s transgendered youth’.

You can buy this book at


If anyone has any books they want reviewed or new tourist attractions that need publicity then please contact either myself or Richard. At the moment we are looking for a Muay Thai Camp to write about.

‘Thai Girl’

Not so long ago, I received a mail from one of thai-blogs’ regular readers – Mr Andrew, concerning a blog/article I had written up about the one-and-only Thai Soap Opera. I spotted the name I realized that the guy was Andrew Hicks himself, the author of the best-selling novel – ‘Thai Girl’.

Soon after, Andrew wrote me a mail and said that he was off to post through a copy of his book. At first I was rather apprehensive as, what with the title of the book, I automatically preconceived it to be just another book about a Thai bar-girl. “A typically boring tale re-told in a market already saturated by such glorification.”

A couple of chapters however, into the book, I soon gathered that my preconceptions were completely misguided and thought “Now, this is novel truly worth reading”

Even though I found some parts of the book rather ‘unbelievable’ – that is not really the point. Andrew Hicks, with his 40 years experience in The Land of Smiles, affords the reader a topsy-turvy, back-seated roller coaster adventure into the dreaded Bangkok traffic jam; motorbike-taxi rides; Khao Sarn Road; fixed Thai boxing bouts; rangy go-go dancers; edible Isarn insects and rural life in the sticks. Most though, he manages to delve into the psyche of the average young village Thai girl, her Isarn culture and all the predicaments of cross-culture relationships and misunderstandings between her and the Western mentality.

First and foremost, the thing I liked most about this novel was that it was completely devoid of the usual hanky-panky, raunchy dribble which is found in most romantic novels set in Thailand. Andrew instead, doesn’t waste his space with intimate bedroom secrets but writes, with passion, the real goings-on of – Thailand.

The novel starts off with Ben and Emma a couple of typically naïve, young freshie backpacking graduates from England, tripping across to Thailand for their first Asian adventure. Just from the first few pages, the reader already knows their relationship is in severe jeopardy after Ben manages to coax Emma into a vacation, which she doesn’t want. At first, Ben reads like a spunky young sex-tourist wanna-be, who is just waiting for the opportunity to take a dive into the seedy-sultry sinful night-life. It turns out later however that he is, in stark contrast – a humanitarian out on a mormon-like mission, to rescue the poverty-ridden pitiful Thai girl from a life of suffering in a materialistic world.

After arriving and fighting in Bangkok, the young couple soon head for the island of Koh Samet. Ben with his head in heaven is applauding the Thais, but for Emma she is consistently bickering about all things Siamese and comparing ever fault to the perfection of mighty wonderful England. The reader will almost breathe a huge sigh of relief when the author writes Emma off – and she goes flouncing off in her own direction leaving Ben in a pool of remorse.

“He (Ben) sat and read a novel
about Thailand, ‘The Beach’ by
Alex Garland, hoping to learn
something about the country from
it. But it told him nothing.”

The novel really takes off when Ben meets Fon. Just simply a masseuse girl on a Koh Samet beach, she unintentionally sweeps Ben off his feet with her stories of the reality of rural life and the responsibilities and hardships involved. Quite obviously, Ben falls in puppy-love with the exoticness of a rural Thai girl. Naïve as he is, he continually compares her financial status, to that which is the norm back – in the green-green grass of home.

Throughout the book, I never really accepted Ben to be much of a ‘nice-guy’. He is too muddled-up and immature in the head to realize that any kind of relationship he should desire, would be only a chemical one, a one-night-stand leading to a near- future of tears – for the Thai girl. Falling in love with Fon, the first Thai girl he gets to befriend, he is head-over-heels in love with her beauty, charm and perhaps most importantly – her frankness. Ben may claim to Fon that he is a moral man of genetic wisdom, but the reader may feel instead that he is a youngster bloated with libido, just fantasizing about having it off with an Eastern exotic. Then, while he is promising the world to Fon, he is still secretly contacting Emma – planning to meet her, and even missing her. Ben reads like a bit of hypocrite.

I may not have loved Ben’s character, but he does have his positives and he is lovable. He also has quite a bitta sense too, he begins to see through the poverty and realize that the Thai smile, truly is quite a happy one – and that perhaps those down-and-out weather-beaten colored upcountry Thais are more content at heart than the average wealthy Kensington stock-trader.

While Ben pleads his love, fantasizing about her body – Fon is having absolutely nothing to do with such sudden Western intimacies. She continually resists all his advances and lets him know that she is just not a cheap lady-of-the-night, she is a traditional Thai girl. There, Andrew Hicks really manages to give the reader a great insight into the mentality of the traditional Thai girl and how she tries to explain the differences in culture and attitude to the naïve European.

We never really know whether Fon actually falls in love for Ben too, but she does have her feelings. She is smart. She knows about the way foreigners talk and talk and promise and promise to their newly-met Thai darlings about rescuing them from Asian poverty and carrying them off the beauty of the Western world.

Perhaps my fave part of the book is when Fon takes Ben to her home in Buriram province. This is when the author, with his experience of Isarn, manages to afford the reader a delightfully giddy adventure into the realities of everyday north-eastern life. Written well, you can almost hear for yourself the clackety-clack of the morning chickens, the quack-quack of the village ducks and the cries of the tokay-gecko. It is there that Ben witnesses for himself the true qualities of Thai village life.

The book also allows the reader an understanding of the social stigma facing Thai girls and any closeness with the white guy. Fon constantly tries to explain to Ben that many others will see her as prostitute – if the couple appear too close, outside of marriage. Again, Ben with his Western conditioning, never really accepts this and you can almost feel him whisper “So what, why care!”

Anyway, I guess that’s all I’ll say. If you want more details on this really decent novel, then check out Andrew’s website at:

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