November 15, 2007


John Burdett: Detective writer at work in a seedy Bangkok district (Thomas Fuller, October 24, 2007, IHT)

As John Burdett ambles down a street packed with girly bars he passes two women in skimpy outfits waving their hands excitedly and calling out, "John! John!"

There are plenty of johns around - this is Soi Cowboy after all, one of the better-attended red-light districts in Bangkok - but the bar girls are waving to John with a capital "J," their author-friend and confidant. Burdett waves back.

Burdett, a 56-year-old former lawyer, has spent the past seven years chatting up hundreds of bar girls - research! - as inspiration for his critically acclaimed trilogy, soon to be quartet, of gripping detective thrillers set in Bangkok's netherworld.

"Bangkok 8," published in 2003, has sold more than 100,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan, and foreign rights to the novel have been bought by publishers in 19 other countries. The sequel, "Bangkok Tattoo," was released in 2005 and "Bangkok Haunts" was published in the United States this year and made it onto best-seller lists on the West Coast.

The detective and the glimpse of the broader Thai culture are quite worthwhile, but at some point these stories make the reader feel like he's a participant in the exploitation of the sex trade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2007 10:40 AM
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