Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Bangkok Tattoo

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Bangkok Tattoo

by John Burdett

Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2006, 320 pages

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At the age of 50 John Burdett gave up his life as a partner in a premier law firm with a luxury apartment on "The Peak" in Hong Kong, sold his worldly possessions and set out to try his hand at what he'd wanted to do all along - write books.  He is now about 55 and the author of four books including the two Bangkok thrillers starring Sonchai Jitpleecheep.  He was born in North London, his father was a policeman, his mother a seamstress - and writing was obviously in his blood from an early age - when he was about 8 his teacher asked him to write a few sentences about himself, he responded with a 20-page document! 

He read literature at the University of Warwick, on graduating in 1973 he considered trying to make his living as a writer but took a law degree instead.  He started as a barrister* in London, and then moved to Hong Kong where he worked as a government attorney, from there he moved into private practice.  He wrote his first two novels (A Personal History of Thirst and The Last Six Million Seconds) in his free time but they were rushed works and sold poorly.  So, eventually, he took the plunge, quit his job and started wandering the world looking for a venue in which to develop his series.  He finally settled on Thailand and began to frequent Bangkok's red-light district waiting for just the right cop to walk into a bar and inspire him.  He says, "The Bangkok novels are not the work of a young man ... I couldn't have done it without knowing how the world works."  He believes there is no better subject for a detective series than his adopted city, "There's no cushion of gentility here. Life is raw. The people don't lie. You tell me a better place to be a writer."

*The role of a lawyer in the UK is traditionally split into two parts - the solicitors, who essentially do the desk-work and the barristers who advocate for the litigants in court.

Thailand (about double the size of Wyoming) is situated in the heart of South-East Asia, bordered by Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. It's population of about 64 million is 95% Buddhist comprised of 75% ethnic Thais, about 14% Chinese (who mainly arrived during China's Cultural Revolution), and the remainder are mainly hill tribe people. It's key industries include tourism, textiles, agricultural processes, light manufacturing such as electrical appliances, computers etc.  About 10 million people live in Bangkok, known to the Thai as Krung Thep (City of Angels) which, like the country itself, is a place of many contrasts.  More about Bangkok.

This article is from the August 2, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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