Thursday, 22 October 2009
Andrew Hicks Is A Bastard! - Official.
My two modest books about Thailand have fared quite well at the hands of reviewers in the media but I do have some ‘issues’ about book reviews in general. Often, I think, they’re pretentious, ridiculous and corrupt.
Some time ago, I wrote a blog about the overblown extracts from media reviews printed inside the dust jackets of novels by the top selling 'Johns', Grisham and Irving. It wasn’t professional jealousy that got me onto this topic, just my observation that the obsequious quotes that get splattered all over ‘international bestsellers’ are often the utterest of utter crap!
[See ‘Dear John, I’m Confused’ on this blog at 17 October 2008.]
Before my very own book, “My Thai Girl and I” went to press, I thought of soliciting ringing endorsements from top authors such as J.K. Rowling (who was at my very own University of Exeter) or Dan Brown (who wasn’t, though he taught at Philips Exeter) and then I could stick them on the back cover. But frankly I couldn’t be bothered. Nobody would believe anything they said anyway so I decided to write my own glowing endorsements instead.
Thus “My Thai Girl and I’, according to the back cover, is, “One of the funniest books I’ve read all week”, “A feast for feminists”, and “Hicks at his best”.
No buyer will be swung either way by any of this, so why not make a spoof out of it! And as few book reviews are ever truly independent or free of an agenda of some sort, the majority of them come across as total rubbish.
Except that book reviews can occasionally be genuine!! And it’s a big exception!
The very best are independent reviews posted on the web and my favouite is one written by an Aussie fireman called Eric.
I don’t know him from Adam but he’s got a great blog at http://firemaneric.blogspot.com and I’d recommend it to you as a rattlingly good read.
You see fireman Eric came to Thailand and as Thai ladies like firemen and as Eric fell for a Thai lady, the rest is hysteria. In the strange way we Western males sometimes have, just like me, he felt compelled to write a blog about his utterly unique romantic experiences in the Land of Increasingly Foolish Smiles.
And, despite being kind of busy, he managed to read “My Thai Girl and I”, not once but several times. The story in my book rang bells for him and, it seems, he liked it quite a lot.
Then in an independent and uncorrupt way, he couldn’t restrain the urge to write a review about the book and to post it on his blog.
I am not dismayed by this, despite being a modest person who shuns the limelight, but I shall now paste in his review below in order to showcase the snappy and readable quality of Eric’s writing.
For me, this review is lit crit of a very special kind. The web can be cruel and anonymous but when I get an accolade like this, I value it very highly. That someone has enjoyed my book means a lot to me.
Thanks Eric, you Aussie bastard!
So here’s a fireman’s review of “My Thai Girl and I”.
Complete and unexpurgated!
03 September 2009
Andrew Hicks Is A Bastard! - a book review.
I’ve never done a book review before, so this is something very new for me, but this is one book that I cannot help but share with everyone.
The book in question is, of course, “My Thai Girl and I”, Andrew Hicks’ tale of woe, happiness, frustration and bewilderment as he goes from being a divorced sixty-something retiree to the husband of a ball of energy and “Thai logic” half his age – the enigmatic Cat.
I first heard about Andrew’s book on the ‘net’ – as one seems to hear about many things these days – and, after having a look at the website and reading Andrew’s blog, I decided that it was worth a read. I finally managed to pick up a copy from Asia Books’ at the airport in Bangkok at the end of my recent trip to Thailand. I only wish I’d found it earlier.
Despite my best intentions, and having promised myself I would only read one short chapter every evening, I read the book in three late-night sittings – I simply couldn’t put it down – before handing it to one of my mates to read. Now I’ve got it back (only a week later) I’m reading it again and finding it even more enjoyable the second time around.
This is Andrew's second book written about Thailand. His first book, "Thai Girl", a best-seller in its own right, is something altogether different, telling a fictional tale of a young traveller who meets, falls in love with and, ultimately, loses a Thai girl. You can find out all about "Thai Girl" on the same website, here, a little down the page.
We start our journey with Andrew as he takes a breather in Phuket, one of the more well-known tourist locations in Thailand, as he undertakes a journey of self-discovery following the end of his former life as a corporate Lawyer and Lecturer in Law, brought about by the twin barbs of early retirement and divorce.
As happens many times in life, a chance encounter becomes, in relatively short order, a life-changing experience of a kind that defies explanation – unless you’ve had the same happen to you. Andrew purchases what must go down in history as the most expensive piece of papaya in history – the first step towards the slippery slope leading to the insanity that is known as life in Thailand.
“My Thai Girl and I” chronicles not only that first encounter, but Andrew’s gradual introduction to life in a small village on the rice-growing plains of Isaan – Thailand’s poorest and most remote region. Throughout the book he details the storm that exists around him, as he tries to sit calmly in its eye and learn to “go with the flow”, meeting some of the most colourful characters on the face of this earth and, somehow managing not to go completely insane, slowly adapts his rigid western values and thinking to something closer to the Thai way.
The reader is drawn in to the exciting, illogical and heart-warming string of disasters, joys, projects, travels and events and, before long, is eagerly turning the page to see what happens next.
Some of the stories are amusing, others side-splittingly funny, whilst the occasional sadness of small-village life creeps in elsewhere. Throughout it all, the reader is left wondering what kind of world this is, does such a place truly exist, and where can I find it?
This is the story of the REAL Thailand, far away from the tourist traps and plasticised smiles and tacky façade that westerners think of as Thailand. This is the Thai’s Thailand, the one you won’t find in the glossy tourist brochures or on the TV adverts, the one that few people ever get to see, and we are fortunate to have this rare insight offered to us in the eloquent format which makes “My Thai Girl and I” mandatory reading for anyone who has an interest in Thailand as it really is.
If you’re thinking of travelling to Thailand for something more than bars, beaches and Bangkok, you simply can’t do so until you’ve read “My Thai Girl and I”, lest your brain explode as you try to process the world around you. Even if you’re not going there, “My Thai Girl and I” is a ripping yarn, bloody funny and written for the likes of you and me.
This is one of the few books I have read – one amongst thousands – which left me feeling that it had been written specifically for me. On each page I felt as though I was sitting across a table, cold drink in hand, as Andrew imparted his wisdom and experiences to me, sharing with me the emotional lows and manic highs of his new life. It became personal, poignant and answered many of the questions I had about life in the real Thailand. Written by a mate, for a mate.
Thanks, Andrew, for writing this book for me.
So how does this make Andrew Hicks a bastard?!!
There’s several reasons.
Firstly, Andrew is English – that makes him a bastard from birth. (Remember, I’m an Aussie)
Secondly, he’s living the life that I want. Andrew is laying out, in plain English, the blueprint for the life and lifestyle that I have been dreaming about, so I’m jealous. No matter how you dress it, he and I both know that he’s lucky, a “lucky bastard” as we say here, so there’s the second strike on the bastard count.
Thirdly, many of my friends have suggested that I eventually turn this blog into a book. I don't need to now - it has already been done and "My Thai Girl and I" is far to close to what anything I'd write would look like. Change the names and the town and I think it'd look identical.
Fourthly, did I mention that he’s English?
Finally, you can join the ongoing story of Andrew, Cat and their insane life by visiting Andrew's blog, "Thai Girl", 'The Exotic Adventures of a Literary Sexagenarian' (that means someone in their 60's). Add it to your favourites and you won't be sorry.”
The “Thai Girl” Blog September 2009