By Mark Terry
Timothy Hallinan’s fourth novel to feature Bangkok resident and travel writer Poke Raffery, is titled The Queen of Patpong. Patpong Road is what Hallinan, who spends half his year in Asia and the other half in California, calls “the most famous and most garish of the Bangkok tourist-based red light districts.”
Poke Rafferty is a travel writer. Hallinan says, “Poke is short for Phillips. He got it when he was a little kid because he poked his nose in where it didn’t belong. He’s a rough travel writer. He writes about things that are sort of outside the tourist topiary they usually guide you to–exactly opposite of Frommer’s.” Poke has written two books, for instance,Looking For Trouble In The Phillipines and Looking For Trouble In Indonesia.
Hallinan says, “Poke landed in Bangkok to write Looking For Trouble In Thailand and the same thing happened to him that happened to me, which is he fell head over heels in love with Thailand. By which I mean the Thais, since Bangkok is not a lovable city on the face of it.” Hallinan eventually marries a Thai go-go dancer who goes by the name of Rose. Hallinan says The Queen of Patpong is Rose’s book. The couple also have adopted a street kid named Miaow.
The series, says Hallinan, “is a continuing story of a family. It’s a family that has come together across huge cultural and religious gulfs, and gulfs of expectations. They’ve all been damaged in one way or another: Poke by a father who abandoned him early in life; Rose by her experiences on Patpong Road; Miaow by being abandoned on the sidewalk. For each of them, the family, which is not easy for any of them, is a chance to put together something solid, something secure.”
In The Queen of Patpong, Poke and Rose and Miaow are living quietly in Bangkok when a man from Rose’s past named Howard Horner reappears, stalking Rose and everyone who is close to her. Hallinan uses this as an opportunity to explore Rose’s history as well as to write a riveting thriller.
In an effort to increase awareness of Hallinan’s books featuring Poke Rafferty, his publisher is offering the first in the series, A Nail Through the Heart, for free on the Amazon Kindle e-reader around the publication date of The Queen of Patpong. It will also include teaser chapters for the new book.
This sparks a long-ranging discussing of e-books and self-publishing for e-books. Hallinan notes that although he is a professional writer, “I write in order to make money, it’s nice to make money, and I like getting the big advance on books, but I write primarily because it’s what I like to do and I write to get better. The idea that there’s a model to write pretty much anything that comes to you and put it out there really appeals to me. It’s really interesting.”
At the same time, although he thinks he’s probably the ideal customer for an e-reader because he spends half his life on airplanes, when he’s ready to leave for Bangkong or Phnom Penh from Los Angeles, he “sends seventy pounds of books ahead by DSL.” He prefers paper to reading on the screen. He also notes, “There are some writers I respect too much to buy electronic. I want those books on my shelf.”
The author of ten novels, Hallinan is currently bringing out some of his earlier out-of-print novels out on the Kindle and other e-book formats and working on a strange mystery thriller featuring a former series character of his, P.I. Simeon Grist, calledPulped. “If it doesn’t sell, I’ll put it up on the Kindle. I’m experimenting. Why not?”