Author

Leonard H. Le Blanc III

Wood Horse Press, 597 pages, 2016. http:www.amazon.com

Leonard H. Le Blanc III

It is fascinating to note the eerie parallels between the current situation in the U.S. and Germany’s Weimar Republic during the 1920s. Overt racism, street thugs who brawl against opponents, law and order breakdown, the polarization of all political parties, financial turmoil, frequent social strife, the rise of demagogues, intolerance and intolerance and, in general, a whole society that is visibly disintegrating and rapidly sliding into chaos. That horrible situation allowed the rise of Adolph Hitler in the 1930s and Donald Trump, for four years, most recently. We know how Nazi Germany turned out.

Karen Schur-Narula has done us all a real, even important, service by revising Hitler’s Germany through the eyes of a young woman who was enraptured, even dazzled, by Adolph Hitler and blinded by her own unbreakable ambition. This grand literary effort is both a most impressive, sprawling historical tale and a close, intimate portrait of a very determined, extremely talented, headstrong young woman and her wrenching journey to enlightenment and truth. A very highly recommended read for all.

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by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

I have been asked by other aspiring writers, since I am doing a lot of book reviews again for Expat Life in Thailand, how can they become a writer? I am immediately reminded what Daniel Craig (James Bond movies) just told other aspiring actors who want to become thespians: “Don’t do it!” He explained it is too hard, the humiliations and rejections are constant, the odds of becoming a success in the business are impossibly long. And this advice is coming from one of the most successful, widely admired, enormously talented actors of his generation. Give up yet? OK, you asked for it! Here we go with my (poor) advice.

Before I ever put pen to paper back in 1988, I was a U.S. Navy Minority Officer Recruiter in El Paso, Texas, USA. I invited one of the U.S.’s best selling authors to come down to speak. He agreed to come. His name was Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr., author of the Naval classic Run Silent, Run Deep later made into a popular movie. I asked him: “What does it take to become a writer?” He replied: “You need three things. First – know what person you are speaking in. Second – know your audience. Third – know your subject.”

There was an old saying in Hollywood: “For every face you see on the screen there are a 1,000 failures.” When I occasionally moonlighted as an extra in Hollywood, when I was still in U.S. Navy Recruiting in 1988-1991, the common wisdom was there were 110,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Of that only 3,000 made more than $10,000USD a year. So the competition to succeed was intensely fierce. I did an interview with the prolific, best selling author, Colin Cotterill for Expat Life in Thailand. We spoke about what it takes to become a writer. He said that C.S. Lewis got over 800 rejection slips before someone saw the charms of The Chronicles of Narnia. (My first novel, Air Base, got slightly less rejection slips from book agents and publishers.) Colin said he got very lucky in having his enormously popular murder mystery books reach a market that was eager to read them.

However, I also spoke with the Executive Senior Editor of the U.S. official military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, Bob Reid, about writing. He explained it is all ‘rigged’. Publishing is all an insider’s game, closed to outsiders looking to break in be a successful writer. He said that a publisher will take a bad book from a famous author over a great book from an unknown author. This is definitely true, looking at some of the mangy, flea bitten, moth eaten works I have seen from some well known authors. Towards the end of his life, Mario Puzo (The Godfather) put out several critically panned books. But because he was “Mario Puzo”, these books all sold like free hot cakes since his third book was an international blockbusting best seller. I have seen other local great writers in my time including Steve Rosse, William Peskett, Robin Westley Martin, Stephen Leather, Tom Crowley, Collin Piprell, and others here craft as good, or better, as anything the bestselling authors have on the market. The problem – lack of audience for whatever reason, not skill or talent.

How did I get my five books into print? The first two books I had printed out of my own pocket. I sold them to friends, family and anyone who would buy them. I made a modest profit. The next two books went out as eBooks on Amazon. But it was said that perhaps one million other writers were also putting their self-published books up on Amazon annually. Only a few of them broke out of the herd and went on to be best sellers. On my last book, The Perfect U.S. “Deep State Operation!” I had a U.S.-based Pay-to-Print publisher do it for me. They were not cheap, but they put out a good product and are trying to get publicity for it. Writing was the easy part, getting the book into mainstream media has been (next-to-nigh on) impossible, but I am still trying to catch the right eye. I am still trying.

What else? You will need talent, luck, perseverance, stamina and patience to succeed as a writer. There are no guarantees. It is just like running around the Sahara desert trying to get struck by lightning. It can happen, but not very often. Break a leg!  

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by L. A. Naylor

Roots Books, 329 pages, 2019. https://lanaylor.com/

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

I had a troubled childhood. To escape, I buried my face in books. The page turners I liked most effortlessly whisked me away to places I’d never been to and plunked me into situations I had never been in. These books grabbed me and took me right along for the free ride to a whole other, fascinating, undiscovered world. The narratives riveted my attention and held it to the end. I loved the journey. My woes, if temporarily, melted.

A. Naylor’s ‘The Land of Trees’ most definitely qualifies as one of those thrilling rides of grand imagination and inventive creativity. You can feel yourself as part of the conversation, or at least as a willing bystander. The prose is razor sharp, shamelessly witty, and remarkably perceptive. At its heart, it is a gritty detective story. A grand tale of determination, perseverance, and resiliency. The plot pacing never flags. It is easy to see the author knows their subject, so the book rings with perfect authenticity.  Enjoy!

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by Steve Rosse

Independently published, 246 pages, 2020. https:amazon.com

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

When any writer reaches national, even international, stature they name a geographic area, genre or whole subject after them. Examples are sufficient. Southwestern U.S. Navajo Lands are simply known as “Tony Hillerman Country.” Parts of England are known as “Jane Austin County.” The Cold War spy genre has been called “John Le Carre Land” for decades. Len Deighton, Frederick Forsyth and Joseph Conrad all have their names tagged in showing ownership of something major in the print world.

Now we will have to call Phuket Island “Steve Rosse Land.” (Not sure how the Thai government will react to that redesignation, hopefully they won’t mind.) Steve has penned another classic page turner with his latest work of written art, “Leaving Thailand – A Memoir.” It is a wistfully nostalgic, heartfelt, hilariously funny, and deeply insightful take of Steve’s untimely departure from the LOS 24 years ago. However, as no good deed goes unpunished, Steve will grace us with his presence shortly. Welcome back Steve! (About darn time!) Break a leg!

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by Zhou Daguan, edited and translated by Michael Smithies.

Siam Society, 2001, (4th revised edition). www.siamsociety.com

The Khmer Empire and Angkor Wat still holds a remarkable fascination for many people even today. After almost a millennium of the height of its power and glory its retains its influence on our imaginations. Thais borrowed some of the Khmer Empire’s cultural artifacts that can still be seen today, like classical Thai dance, dress. and some of the Thai alphabet. This book is a fascinating look at the great empire and how it operated. The Customs of Cambodia is a book written by Zhou Daguan, the Yuan dynasty Chinese official, who resided in Angkor between 1296 and 1297. His account has great historical significance as it is the only surviving first person written record of daily life in the Khmer Empire. The only other available written information is from temple wall inscriptions. The Chinese author was part of a diplomatic mission sent by Timur Khan, grandson of Kublai Khan in 1297 to the court of Indravarman III (reigned 1295–1308). A very enjoyable read..

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Sumalee Books, 202 pages, 2021. https://sumaleeboxinggym.com/

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

There is an old U.S. saying about New York City, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” We can add Phuket to that pithy phrase. Lynne Miller has done the business equivalent here by starting a Muay Thai (MT) gym, the same as climbing up Mount Everest by crawling backwards, upside down, without any equipment or oxygen and finally succeeding against impossible odds. MT is easily the most male dominated business in Thailand.

‘Fighting for Success’ is a completely riveting, mesmerising, cannot-put-it-down, Arnold-the-Terminator-delivered gut-punch exposé on how to do (or not do) business in Thailand. The book (and doing business here) is not for the faint of heart or the most cowardly lion. She immediately brings the whole MT business down to bare metal from paragraph one. I am reminded what Daniel Craig just told prospective aspirants about becoming actors: “Don’t do it!” ‘Fighting for Success’ sends the same message (or lesson) for would be expat MT entrepreneurs. The book is must read. As the British always say, “Not bad.”

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We are here today speaking with Steven W. Palmer, a noted regional author and “bon vivant”. His literary output includes The Angkor Series (Angkor Away, Angkor Tears and Angkor Cloth, Angkor Gold). ‘Turning the Tables – A Love Story for the Chemical Generation,’ ‘The Electric Irn-Bru Acid Test (The Glas Vegas Chronicles Book 1)’ In My Sights; A Political Thriller (The Danny Cleland Adventures Book 1),’ ‘QUADTYCH: Four Very Different Stories’, and ‘Me! I Disconnect From You.’ He is a Scottish expat living in Cambodia.

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

What got you interested in writing?

An amazing English teacher at school called Miss Woods. She set us an exercise to write a short story and I basically plagiarised ‘Shane’ (unintentionally). While she told me off for copying the idea, she saw something in my style and encouraged me to write more. 

What has changed in SE Asia the most?

I have lived in Cambodia since 2013 and even in those eight years, you can see the modernisation of Phnom Penh as more and more soulless skyscrapers are added to the skyline. Siem Reap has very few monstrosities and is a very green city (dust from current roadworks apart). As for Thailand, I returned there in 2012 after eight years and felt that Bangkok had lost even more than it had since my first visit in 1994.

What has changed here the least?

It has to be the people. Though (in the cities at least) I sometimes feel that people have lost some of their openness and friendliness, for the most part, in both Cambodia and Thailand, it is the people who make the place. 

What are you working on now?

I have just finished my fifth novel, ‘The Riel Thing,’ which, unusually for an expat authored novel has its main character as both Asian and female. It launches officially at the Angkor Writers and Readers Festival – 2021, taking place in Siem Reap between the 10th and 12th December 2021.

I’m having a break from writing until the New Year, and will then jump back into ‘Bangkok Drowning,’ a dystopian novel that is set in mid-21st century Bangkok. I already have 25,000 words for it, so it is not starting from scratch. 

What do you do for fun?

I have a weekly radio show playing reggae, dub, ska, etc., and also DJ in Siem Reap. As well as music, I read (of course), and am a Netflix junkie (have around fifteen shows am currently watching).

What are your favorite foods?

From Thailand, my favourite is Khao Soi Gai. From Cambodia my favourite is Fish Amok or Saraman Curry and the rest of world is proper fish and chips or lasagna. 

Where are your favourite places to go?

Since I moved to Siem Reap, I plan to buy a one year pass and exploring the Angkor Park properly rather than as a tourist. In Thailand, I love Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. I also love Langkawi and hope to get there again in early 2022.

What writers inspired or inspire you?

Growing up, my favourite authors were Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. Then I sort of grew into Hemingway, Hunter S. Thomson, Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey. Iain Banks has to be in my top three writers of all time so has to be mentioned too.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to move to SE Asia?

Do not jump the gun and just move. Spend some time here and get a feel for the region and the different cities to see what is the best fit. Look at how you will fund yourself if you plan to live here long term. Also look at visas as Thailand is becoming more difficult while Cambodia is fairly easy. If you have health issues of any type, look at healthcare provision in the areas you like. You ain’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. 

What do you see is the future for yourself?

Ha, ha, ideally? Selling lots of books and seeing at least one made into a film. In reality, continuing my daytime gig of writing for corporations to make a living and churning out fiction in the hope that dreams come true one day. 

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Next Chapter, 2021, 200 pages.  www.amazon.com

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

I once read ‘Henderson the Rain King,’ a Pulitzer Prize nominated effort by Saul Bellow. The story’s protagonist was visiting my old hometown of Danbury, Connecticut, USA, so I could easily visualise his geographical movements. But I quickly discarded it. First, it was death-by-boring. Second, I wanted the bitch slap the protagonist for being a silly, empty headed, clueless ninny. Third, if this was selected as one of the best books of the 20th century then there was something extremely wrong with the damn selection committee. No bloody way. I can write a better book than this.

Then along comes ‘Angkor Away’ by Steven Palmer. It immediately straps you in for a wild triple corkscrew rollercoaster ride of pure fun, grand adventure and spirited high jinks. I loved the witty, inventive narrative, lightning quick plot pace and sheer readability. A perfect example of why people walk into a book store and want something entertaining to high dive right into. This is that book. Enjoy. Five stars. Cannot wait for the sequels. As the British blandly say: “Not bad.”

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by Steve Rosse

Kindle edition, 191 pages, 2020. https:www.amazon.com

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

Some people completely shun life. We call them hermits. Almost everyone else deals with life as best they can. But a few rare people are just like King Kong. They furiously beat their chests, loudly wailing about all the many indignities, injustices and incivilities that life afflicts upon them. That’s Steve Rosse. But just like King Kong, Steve frequently scales the literary Empire State Building for all to see, fighting off critics (or airplanes) and holding forth in print for his many fans on his take about (his) life.

Steve has done it once again. In climbing the Bangkok-based literary fictional heights with his latest effort, ‘Bangkok Buckaroo.’ A yippy-ki-yo-kai-yay, slap-leather-pard’ner-at-high-noon-on-main-street, rollicking detective noir page turner set in Bangkok’s famous Soi Cowboy with the usually attendant black hats, cattle rustlers, card sharps, faro dealers, stagecoach hold up desperadoes, pistoleros, and no-good-nicks. All done to his finely tuned ear for the richly endowed local expat dialogue with heavy doses of wit, simile and colour. Another winner here Steve. Now you can happily ride off into the sunset.

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From the curious and controversial to the heroic and hardy by Duncan Stern.

DCO Books, 2019, 179 pages. www.dco.co.th

For any serious expat who decides to stay long term, they quickly discover the country has an immensely rich history, a vibrant culture, diverse geography, delicious (if spicy) cuisine, an endless selection of social activities plus things to keep you constantly amused or engaged – from bar hopping, diving, hiking, parasailing, visiting ancient monuments and temples to tramping on jungle treks, riding an elephant, touring or just relaxing in serene tranquility. Thailand is a delight for most.

The late Duncan Stern, a noteworthy local prolific author and long time resident, had added to the reading enjoyment of those with an interesting recital of Thailand’s long history. Through a summary of interesting historical events both inside and outside the Kingdom, he has penned a book of historical vignettes that is sure to delight anyone interested in the fascinating history of Thailand. He draws on a wide variety of historical sources to glean the most interesting small slices of Thai history. A most fascinating read. 5 stars. 

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