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Book writer Stephen Leather, Bangkok

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Stephen Leather is a Book writer, who is living in Bangkok since years. 

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Stephen Leather is a well known Book writer, who is living in Bangkok. One of his Novels (Private Dancer) could be downloaded as PDF-File for free. Bombmaker, a Novel written by him for Sky-TV, could also be seen as TV-Movie on Sky-TV.

Norbert:
Since how many years do you live in BKK and in which district do you live?

Stephen:
I've been coming and going for the past fifteen years, but have been here consistently for the past five years. I live in Sukhumvit, not far from Soi Thonglor.

Stephen 1.jpg (85265 Byte)Norbert:
A lot of people hate BKK, because of the traffic-jam and the smog and so on. What is your kind of view about Bangkok: do you love, or do you hate BKK?

Stephen:
Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with the city. Yeah, the traffic can be horrendous and the smog is sometimes so bad that my eyes sting, but there are so many wonderful things about Bangkok, too. Great restaurants, great shops, friendly people. I feel more at home here than anywhere else in the world. Once you understand how the city, and the people, function, it's a very easy city to live in.

Norbert:
Bangkok has changed a lot in the past years. In your view: what have been the 3 most positive changes and what have been the 3 most negative changes?

Stephen:
Positive

a. The Skytrain. It makes getting about so much easier.

b. The weak baht. Everything is stupidly affordable.

c. Luxury cinemas. Okay, it costs 300 baht a ticket but you get a seat you can lie down on and waitress service. It's the only way to see a movie.

Negative

a. Mobile phones. No one here seems to be aware of correct mobile phone etiquette (ie don't shout and switch them off in cinemas and restaurants.)

b. Russian tourists. Loud, brash, no manners and their ugliest women insist on taking their clothes off on Thai beaches.

c. Tailor's shops. It seems I can't walk more than a hundred feet down Sukhumvit without being accosted by an Indian tailor trying to sell me a cheap suit. I haven't worn a suit since 1988.

Norbert:
Nightlife: there is a lot in Bangkok. Could you tell us your favorite places to be (Restaurants, Bars, "Entertainment Plazas")?pdancer.jpg (40781 Byte)

Stephen:
Favorite restaurants are "Bei Otto" in Sukhumvit Soi 20, "the Zen" Japanese Restaurant in Soi Thonglor and "the Seafood Market" in Sukhumvit Soi 24.

Favorite pubs are Jool's Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 4, Witch's Tavern in Soi Thonglor and Shenaningans in Pattaya.

Favorite go-go bars are Safari in Patpong, Long Gun in Soi Cowboy and G-Spot in Nana Plaza.

Norbert:
Do you prefer Thai or "non-Thai"-Food and what is your favorite meal? And which is your favorite drink?

Stephen:
I prefer Thai food, but my favorite meal is Berliner "Eisbein mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffelpuree" at "Bei Otto" though sadly I have to ration myself to once a month otherwise I put on too much weight. I've just given up drinking gin and tonic and switched to Black Label and soda.

Norbert:
After all the years living in BKK, do you still go out to Patpong, Nana, Soi Cowboy or do you avoid this places?

Stephen:
I still go to Nana Plaza, maybe a couple of times a week. It's a good place to meet friends if you don't want to talk too much. Just sit, watch and drink.

Norbert:
I like the "Skytrain" very much, but it seems, that the Thais don't accept the Skytrain as much as the owner wish. What could be the reasons for this behavior out of your view?

Stephen: 
The Skytrain is brilliant and the Thais deserve more credit for how good a system it is. The problem is, it's expensive in Thai terms. If two people or more are traveling together a taxi is almost always newcrocs.jpg (72347 Byte)cheaper.

Norbert:
Your books are real "Best-sellers". As you know, I am a German and a lot (about 10 percent) of the visitors of the Ibiza-Bangkok Web are Germans too. Will there be a translation in German language in the future?

Stephen:
Some of my earlier books were translated into German and sold quite well. I haven't had an agent for the last two years and so things have gone quiet on the translation front. If anyone knows of a German publisher who would be interested, put them in touch and I'll give you a ten per cent commission!

Norbert:
You have a special offer at your website and also here at the Ibiza-Bangkok-Web (take a look at the bottom of this Interview): It is possible to Download your novel "Private Dancer" for free. That's a real nice but unusual offer. Why do you do this? 

Stephen:
I write a particular type of book - international thrillers. But I also like to write in other genres. I have written a book called Once Bitten, about a psychologist who tracks down vampires, Dreamer's Cat, which is a science fiction murder mystery, The Basement, which is a police story with a twist, and Private Dancer, which is the story of a writer who falls in love with a Thai bargirl and the havoc that ensues.

They are all so different from the type of books that I normally write that my publisher is reluctant to put them out as books. So I thought that I would offer them to my readers free, through my website.

Private Dancer has been a big success on the internet - it gets downloaded more than twenty times a day and all the feedback has been favorable. It is especially welcomed by guys who are planning to visit Thailand for the first time because it warns them of the dangers of losing your heart - and your wallet - to a bargirl.

The books are all available as free downloads at www.stephenleather.com/unpub.html. They are PDF files and need Adobe Acrobat to be read - most computers these days have Adobe Acrobat, but the latest version is also available as a free download at www.stephenleather.com/unpub.html.

Norbert:
How many email you receive in one day? What are the most common questions?

Stephen:
Considering I get up to three hundred people a day visiting www.stephenleather.com, I get surprisingly few e-mails from readers. Maybe one or two a day. That's good for me because it means I can reply to them all. The most asked question is if Private Dancer is a true story or not. I usually say that it's a novel so it's a work of fiction, but based on events that have happened, if not to me then to people I know.

Norbert:
How could interested people buy your novels?

Stephen:
Most bookshops in the UK, Australia and South Africa have them, and they are generally on sale in South East Asia. Especially at airports. Outside of those areas the best place is through www.amazon.co.uk. There are links to Amazon on my website, www.stephenleather.com.

"The Fireman", "Hungry Ghost" and "The Vets" are based in Hong Kong, "The Solitary Man" is based in Thailand, and "The Tunnel Rats" is based in Bangkok and Vietnam.

I have four free downloadable books, including Private Dancer, at www.stephenleather.com/unpub.html.

Norbert:
I know, you are looking around different Websites, so we both also got in contact while you visited the Ibiza-Bangkok-Web. Could you tell us your favorite Websites?

Stephen:
My favorite search engine is www.google.com. For information about Thailand I go to www.soicowboy.net, www.nanapong.com (great bulletin board), www.pattayagogoguide.com, www.bangkokbob.net, www.baronbonk.com, and Stickman's excellent guide to Thailand at www.chopsticks.net/stickman/.

Norbert:
Could you please describe a typical day in your life in Bangkok? 

Stephen:
Pretty boring, really. I get up and go for breakfast at Jool's Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 4, just down from Nana Plaza. The bar in Private Dancer is called Fatso's and is based on Jool's, and the owner of Jool's, Big Dave, is Big Ron in the book. I try to write in the afternoon. Whenever possible I try to write a thousand words a day. In the evening I go out for dinner, or go watch a movie. Then maybe write some more.

Norbert:
Which of your novels is your personal favorite and which Novel from another Book writer is your favorite?

Stephen:
I love Private Dancer and am proud of the way it shows the same story from so many different viewpoints. All the viewpoints are slanted, but valid, and by getting inside the heads of all the characters you come to some understanding of why the situation developed in the way that it did. You can sympathize with everyone involved, and even when they do bad things you realize that they are often acting from the best of intentions or because they really had no choice. I think that it goes a long way to explaining why relations with bargirls often go so badly wrong.

The book I've read most often is "One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovitch" by Alexander Solzheinitsyn. I never tire of it. One man's struggle against adversity, taking small victories whenever he can.

Norbert:
While living in BKK always "strange" things are happening: What have been your funniest adventure in BKK???

Stephen:
One of the funniest things that happened to me taught me a lot about how to deal with Thais. It happened about eight years ago and I've included the story in my book Private Dancer:

I was on the outskirts of the city and it was close to rush hour and I couldn't get a taxi to take me back to Sukhumvit. All the drivers just shook their heads. I knew why: at rush hour it can lock up solid. Eventually I just climbed into the back of a taxi and told him in English where I wanted to go, then I sat looking out of the window, ignoring his protests.

Eventually he gave up complaining and started to drive. Half an hour later, the car juddered to a halt. He started up again, we drove a few hundred feet, and we stopped again. "Car no good," he said. I leaned forward and watched as he started the car again. The engine stalled - because he was deliberately slipping his foot off the clutch! He was faking it!

He got out of the car, muttering to himself, lifted up the bonnet and stood looking at the engine and shaking his head. He opened the passenger door for me. "Car no good," he said. "I get new taxi for you. Sorry."

So I got out of the taxi and he walked to the back and started trying to flag down another cab. I could see what his plan was. He was going to get another taxi to stop, then he would tell the driver to keep me talking while he drove off. Then taxi driver number two would refuse to take me, and he would drive off as well, leaving me stranded. I knew that was what he intended to do, but I didn't argue with him because I knew that wouldn't get me anywhere.

I just smiled and nodded, and then when he wasn't looking I climbed into the driver's seat. He had left the keys in the ignition and I started up the car, put it in gear and drove off. I drove off slowly, just above walking pace, watching him in the mirror. He saw what I was doing and ran after me, waving his arms and shouting. I let him run for a hundred yards or so, then I pulled up and wound down the window. I smiled and gave him a thumbs up. "Car okay," I said. "I car doctor. I fix."

He looked at me. He smiled. He knew that I knew he'd been lying. I knew that he knew that I knew. But there was no confrontation. "Car okay?" he said. "Oh yes. No problem now. I fix."

I got out of the driver's seat, and moved into the back. He got's into the driver's seat, put the car in gear and drove off. He smiled. "Okay now," he said, nodding approvingly.

We drove all the way in to Bangkok without any more trouble. The driver was right, of course: we hit traffic and it took us more than hour to cover three miles. But when he did finally drop me off, I gave him a huge tip. He smiled. I smiled. Face was saved on both sides. A situation that could have turned really nasty became an object lesson in how to get what you want in the Land of Smiles.

Norbert:
Did you ever get in real crime trouble/danger in BKK??

Stephen:
Never. Not once. It must be the safest city in the world and it puts London to shame.

Norbert:
Out of your view: which places should every visitor of BKK visit and which should he avoid???

Stephen:
I don't think there's anywhere a visitor should avoid. You should experience everything. Just keep out of the sun! Everyone should visit the Grand Palace, and take a long tail boat on the river and around the canals. And visit the weekend market. And eat food on the streets.

Norbert:
Because I think I never could learn it: could YOU speak / write / read the Thai-Language???

Stephen:
I can speak a little and am taking lessons in reading and writing.

Norbert:
and finally the last question ;-) - if YOU could change something in BKK, what would this be?

Stephen:
Bigger roads and more of them. Less pollution. Fewer mobile phones. Fewer Indian tailors. Fewer Russian tourists. If Russian tourists do come, make it compulsory for their women to keep their clothes on in public.

Stephen, I thank you very much for this nice interview and which you good luck for the future!

The Interview was made by Norbert in April 2001!

And here are the Links to Stephen Leathers Website and the link to the free copy of "Private Dancer" is also attached. It could be downloaded at Stephens Website or direct here at the Ibiza Bangkok Web.

http://www.StephenLeather.com

Download of free Books at www.stephenleather.com/unpub.html

Download of private Dance direct here at the Ibiza-Bangkok-Web:

PUSH THE BOOK!

 


Publishing of the Pictures with Permission of Stephen Leather.
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