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Christopher Moore is a Canadian writer that lives in Bangkok.  He writes great stories about expats living in Thailand and around Asia.  Although these books are fiction, they include many real life stories hidden inside the novels.  For years, my first (daytime) stop in Bangkok was at Asia Books to see if there were any new C.G. Moore novels for sale.

My favorites are listed here, but there are many more available on his web page.  I recommend starting with the Calvino Series.

(Click on the book photo to go to C.G. Moore's website)

Title Comments

Spirit House

 

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Spirit House pulls you into a multinational demimonde that gets more real that the other half. Vincent ("Vinee") Calvino, ex-New Yorker, has a "Calvino's law" on tap for the ins and outs of the underbelly of life and sudden death. Calvino ranks in the grand tradition of private investigators, yet remains a winner. The riverboat shootout is a classic. Over the hard clip of action presides the mystic atmosphere of a Bangkok dotted with spirit houses.

Calvino searches for the killer of an English expat journalists. Lt. Col. "Pratt" of the Thai police department believes the killer is a teenage drug addict who has already confessed to the murder. But Calvino uncovers evidence of a larger network of crime -- drugs and murder -- spanning from Patpong, to the slums of Klong Toey, and reaching intoi the expat financial and business community.

As the death toll mounts, the reversals and twists take Calvino and Pratt deep into a world closed to outsiders; a place where the gods of envy and sex dance across a bridge connecting the East and West.

The Daily Yomiuri

Asia Hand

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Bangkok - the Year of the Monkey. Private investigator Vincent ("Vinee") Calvino's New Year celebration ends when Jerry Hutton, wearing a necklace of wooden penises, is pulled dead from Lumpini Park Lake. Cable TV shows dramatic footage of several Burmese soldiers on the Thai border executing students in cold blood. Hutton was the cameraman.

Calvino probes the truth behind Hutton's job with an LA film production company in Bangkok. They are shooting a feature titled Lucky Charms. When Calvino confronts the director about Hutton's role in the production he hits a wall of silence.

On the other side of that wall, Calvino and Lt. Col. Pratt discover an elite film unit of old Asia Hands with important Bangkok connections. They find themselves matched against a set of farangs conditioned for urban survival and willing to go for a knock-out punch.

Cut Out

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Phnom Penh - UNTAC peacekeeping forces maintain fragile peace in Cambodia. Gun running, smuggling, illegal logging, robbery, and prostitution, are all life. Corruption is everywhere, life is cheap. And the sound of gunfire erupts nightly from illegal checkpoints.

Bangkok private eye, Vincent ("Vinee") Calvino and Thai Police Lieutenant-Colonel Prachai Congwatana ("Pratt") are in Phnom Penh. Vinee has the knack of finding people who don't want to be found. And a Bangkok client has hired him to find a drifter who has gone underground in Cambodia. Lt.Col. Pratt has come along on a secret mission of his own. They end up searching for the same man.

Phnom Penh and the UNTAC Civ Pol operation form a dramatic backdrop to this fast-paced story in which Christopher Moore demonstrates his skill at creating a totally believable world in which horror, death, humor and tenderness can co-exist

Moore's work doesn't flinch from cultural detail or complex social analysis. He takes chances, lots of them."

- Andrew Ranard,
International Herald Tribune

Comfort Zone

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Saigon--twenty years after the end of the Vietnam War, the country is opening up to the outside world. There is the smell of fast money in the air and poverty in the streets. The American embargo is lifted. Business is booming in Vietnam and in austere Ho Chi Minh City a new generation of foreigners have come to make money and not war.

In Saigon, a young American lawyer Drew Markle uncovers corruption and fraud in the emerging business world in which his clients are dealing. He turns to his brother, Harry, an ex-special forces vet, for advice. Before Calvino leaves Bangkok on the assignment, there are two murders, one in Saigon and one in Bangkok. Thai Police Lieutenant Colonel Prachai Chongwatana ("Pratt") is under pressure from the Royal Thai Police Department to solve the Bangkok murder quickly. During the course of his investigation, Pratt discovers evidence to link the Bangkok and Saigon murders.

For private eye Vincent Calvino, the journey to Vietnam offers the chance to under the identity of the killers. Also there is a larger opportunity waiting for him in Saigon. While on the case, he discovers a way to break free of the ice-like grip of the Comfort Zone, that archipelago of bars and massage parlors of Bangkok, where feelings are forever frozen solid behind the smiles.

Against the backdrop of Vietnam's economic miracle, Christopher G. Moore tells a taut, compelling story of a divided people still not reconciled with their past and unsure of their future.

The Big Wierd

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The Year of the Rat. Private eye Vincent Calvino has been hired by Quentin Stuart, a dying Hollywood screenwriter. His assignment is to investigate the apparent suicide of Samantha McNeal, the daughter of Quentin's ex-agent. Sam died from a single bullet wound in the head. While working on the case, Calvino gains access to the inner circle of expats seeking the Hollywood dream in Bangkok. It is this world of writers, actors, producers, and wanna-be's, that Calvino seeks the truth of Sam's death.

As Calvino fits together the pieces of evidence, he is caught in the middle of an on-going war between American-Chinese feminist Pauline Cheng and Nathan "Slugo" Gold who has built a virtual reality Web site which promises to duplicate the playgrounds of Bangkok's night world in cyberspace.

The action is centered in the penthouses of Sukhumvit Road and inside the bars of Nana Plaza -- one of the hot night time playgrounds of the big weird. The trail of evidence leads to Calvino to the Plaza on opening night as the dancers go underwater in the Mermaidium.

A Killing Smile

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In 1957 Richard Mason's "The World of Suzie Wong" shocked the world with an exotic tale set in Hong Kong, then in 1973 Paul Theroux's Saint Jack followed with a powerful story set in Singapore, and in 1991 Christopher G. Moore's A Killing Smile has registered a tour de force with a haunting drama set in Bangkok.

A Killing Smile is a simple but deep story about the aftermath of events following the death of a successful Los Angeles attorney's wife. Lost, confused, and angry, Lawrence Baring, Esq. goes to Bangkok and confronts Tuttle--the man his wife, Sarah, had once loved.

The story follows the conflict and enveloping relationship of Baring and Tuttle in the underworld of Bangkok's Patpong, Soi Cowboy, and the late night meeting spot called HQ where spies, gangsters, diplomats, pimps, businessmen, writers, teachers, travellers gather along side the women they buy for the night. The novel is filled with twists and turns and atmosphere and absolutely fascinating characters shipwrecked in a society they vaguely understand.

Book Siam (1997) 315 pages

A Bewitching Smile

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A Bewitching Smile is reminiscent of A Passage to India in the creation of a kind of psychological DMZ,  another Shangri-la with its own ephipanies and perils. The tough-sensitive characterization, and the sharp, often aphoristic dialogue, and the irony, combine to create a powerful drama.

In this sequel to A Killing Smile, Richard Breach who is a magician, mystic and world-class card player teaches English in Bangkok. Crosby, his former student, has found an assignment for Breach's talents: a rescue mission. Snow is held hostage in a hill tribe village. Snow's plan to become Lahu godman has failed and his life is at risk. Breach has private reasons of his own -- a dying friend in England has requested a set of ritual shaman's.

As the journey progresses to the north of Thailand, another mission takes form: Breach is to play in a high stakes card game. The story is about magic, myth and the power to transform the self. A Bewitching Smile, the second A Land of Smiles trilogy -- confirms the novels of Christopher G. Moore are destined to become a Southeast Asia social chronicle of the 90s.

White Lotus (1992) 347 pages

A Haunting Smile

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Bullets are flying in Bangkok. Tuttle is upcountry when he hears Snow's BBC live report above the sound of M-16 fire direct from the urban battlefield near Sanam Luang. Tuttle, Snow, and Crosby return to HQ - the night-time meeting place on Sukhumvit Road where angels and devils, locals and foreigners, and the living and dead arrive after midnight to lease a few hours of pleasure, to offer up their dreams and desires, and to barter their souls for instant cash.

Through a collage of short stories, documentary films, radio reports, journals and letters, Christopher Moore reveals a host of ghosts, drifters, demimonde, arms dealers, journalists and the hardcore expats who have entered a world of massacres, wars, computer tank battles, and midnight secret executions. He creates a disturbing universe where neither the living nor the dead escape untouched or unmoved by the events of May 1992.

God of Darkness

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Moore's latest novel set in Bangkok follows a group of expats who work for a telecommunications company. As the economic Crisis mounts, the pressures to find and keep a job increases. The lead character is from Seattle and lives inside a Thai family compound. His girlfriend is pressing him for marriage. At the same time, the future father-in-law, is showing Hurley how power and influence, like dope and sex, can become addictive. And his future mother-in-law, introduces him to Rahu worship, or the God of Darkness.

The stories of other writers - locals and expats - may be likened to sketches or drawings, while those of Christopher G. Moore are paintings or murals. In his dozen novels to date he not only describes the Realm, but interprets it. Residents appreciate the insights, though Thais may well grumble that he knows them too well.


"God of Darkness" is certainly topical. It is set in the metropolis immediately before and after the current recession, which Moore calls the Crisis. He depicts the ups and downs of a powerful family, whose money can buy everything but love. Feared and respected when on top, it was cold-shouldered when its credit collapsed.


The plot is based on a phenomenon peculiar to this country - men from abroad coming here with the express intention of wedding local women. Obviously, the foreigners are beguiled by their enchanting smile. Yet the author makes clear, in this book as well as his earlier ones, the smile masks a complex rather than a simple character.


At 73, retired professor of communication Albert ("Bertie") Wallace is a widower after 43 years of happy wedlock. Contacting his former student Hurley Ransom Conover, living in Bangkok with his local girlfriend May, he flies over from the States with a lucrative proposition. He'll pay Hurley $150,000 to find him a suitable Thai wife.


As much as he needs the money, Hurley is hardly in a position to help. For one, he can't make up his mind about tying the knot with May. Becoming part of her close-knit family, with imperious Khun Paa and Khun Maa as in-laws, would deprive him of his independence. For another, his distaff acquaintances are demimondaines rather than respectable women.


An objection this reviewer had to his previous works no longer applies. This time around, Moore uses the actual names of night spots in virtually every instance. Thermae gets good play and bars on Soi Cowboy are singled out. But why make up the Heads and Tails at Nana Entertainment Plaza?


The author is at his best delineating how locals, strangers when they meet, quickly decide through basic questions and answers their relative positions on the social totem pole. "God of Darkness" was worth waiting for.

To order any of these books, to see extracts from these books, and to see the other books available, see the C.G. Moore website by clicking on any book photo.