After road accidents, suicide is the leading cause of death for foreigners in Thailand… and many involve a fatal fall from a Bangkok balcony
Canadian-born author Christopher G. Moore has called Thailand his home for nearly 30 years. In 2011 his novel Asia Hand, part of the long-running Vincent Calvino Crime Series, won the Shamus Award—a literary prize given by the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) for the best detective fiction genre novels and short stories. This year the 16th novel in his popular Bangkok-based Calvino series was released. Entitled Jumpers, it tells the tale of a private investigator looking into the falling death of a friend. The medical examiner finds drugs in the man’s system and thus the police verdict of suicide seems justified. But in Bangkok appearances have a habit of deceiving, and sometimes “jumpers” are given a leg up in their leap to the next life. Unfortunately, when it comes to mysterious deaths, getting to the bottom of things in this town can be a risky business.
What are some of the themes conveyed in your latest novel?
Expats are from a long-line of dreamers. Ever since the title character in Miguel de Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote set out to explore the world, wanderers have been charging at windmills. And sometimes it doesn’t work out. They don’t “find themselves”, as it were. Quite the opposite—they lose themselves to bitterness, disappointment, and depression. In frustration, some expats turn to suicide as a way out. Jumpers takes you on the elevator ride to the basement where the “wild things” are. Where gamblers, hustlers, and gangsters mingle with the musicians, party-makers, ladies of the night, and their customers. Each of the characters has a dream (like the rest of us), but when you look closer, you see it is broken around the edges—smeared with tears, torn in frustration and rage. Raphael, a young artist from Canada, paints these people of the night, their faces filled with shattered dreams. But each of the models “commits” suicide, and their ashes are later collected. The novel becomes a story about ritual, art, power, and belief… all set in Bangkok.
So who exactly are these “jumpers” we sometimes read about in the grisly headlines of the daily papers?
Some of the people I write about in Jumpers you will recognize. You see them late at night on Sukhumvit Road. You smell the whiskey on their breath, you read from their faces that hopelessness was their last employer, and you learn they carry a submarine-sized grudge. They stare back at you from a periscope rising from a hole in their heart. That’s a noir lens they are looking through. That’s them looking through a crack wondering if you might be light. In many ways the book explores one of our greatest mysteries—when our dreams go missing, our ritual grows sterile, our distrust becomes too hot to touch, what is there left to live for?
You’ve been involved in Bangkok’s artistic scene for decades. How has it changed over the years?
There’s a line in a song by the late Leonard Cohen that perhaps best sums up the role of art: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. In my 30 years in Thailand that crack has grown in size. More light has been getting in. Film, books, plays, paintings, photography, poetry, dance and song—all these art forms have been seeping through the cracks and now many people are talking about the meaning of all this light amidst the darkness. But Thai artists struggle in ways that foreigners are largely spared. I’ve seen a new generation of creative Thai artists emerge, and they are filled with courage and determination. Governments can try and plaster over the cracks, but if you look closely the light is still seeping in.
Tell us about the London-based Christopher G. Moore foundation.
Daniel Vaver, the director of the foundation, has sent the submissions for the 2016 literary prize to the three-panel jury. The head of the panel is M.R. Narisa Chakrabongse, a Thai publisher, author, environmental activist and founder of The Bangkok Edge Festival. A short-list will be out early this year and the prize announced a month or so later. The literary prize is for the best non-fiction title, which advances a component of “human rights” as a central theme. It takes enormous courage to write a book that can—in some countries—land you in jail or worse. Such an author deserves our admiration, encouragement and support. I set up this award to precisely do that.
A Vincent Calvino crime novel | 362 pages
Available in eBook and print formats