Writing

Sex and the political thriller

Posted in Sex and the Political Thriller, The End of the Monsoon, Writing on March 1st, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

The character of Zainab in an (imaginary) scene from The End of the Monsoon

 

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How much is too much?

A few nights ago I watched ‘Chloe’, the latest Atom Egoyan film.  It’s a thriller about a wife who suspects her husband of infidelity, and who hires a prostitute to test his fidelity.  There’s a significant amount of sex in the film, most of it verbally described by the actress Amanda Seyfried.  Her acting is so good, the verbal description is more disturbing than a straightforward image.  Wanting to learn more about the film, I looked it up on Wikipedia.  There I discovered that it belongs to a previously unknown (to me) sub-genre, the erotic thriller.

Why, in the 21st century, do we have a sub-genre for a thriller with sex as a strong plot and character device?  My British publisher’s assistant editor, a young literary man recently down from Oxford or Cambridge, complained when reading the manuscript of my political thriller The End of the Monsoon that it contained too much sex.  My first reaction was: read more »

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Aung San Suu Kyi

Posted in Buddhism, The End of the Monsoon, Writing on December 14th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Photograph: Khin Maung

and karma as inspiration for The End of the Monsoon

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It was in a bookstore in the old Hong Kong airport in the mid ’90s that I picked up the first book I read by Aung San Suu Kyi.  I have it still.  It is called The Voice of Hope, and is a collection of conversations she had with Alan Clements. 

Suu Kyi has put Burma on the map, and when I needed a prisoner of conscience for the plot of The End of the Monsoon (I was living in Cambodia), I naturally thought of her.  read more »

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Music, spirituality, and the political thriller

Posted in Buddhism, Music, The End of the Monsoon, Writing on August 9th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Bach's instrument: the clavichord

Music in The End of the Monsoon

Can music and spirituality have a place in a political thriller?  I think they can, if they’re sub-themes illuminating character.  In The End of the Monsoon, Mrs Ambler, an idealistic lawyer, is also an amateur musician and practicing Buddhist.  Her guilt over her illicit affair strengthens her desire for at least a breath of transcendence.

In 1983 I thought I had such a breath in the wee small hours of the morning, while playing the clavichord in my third world luxury apartment in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In my novel I transferred this experience to the character of Dr White, a no-nonsense, middle-aged expatriate English doctor in Phnom Penh.  read more »

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Buddhism and Faith

Posted in Buddhism, The End of the Monsoon, Writing on July 20th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Somerset Maugham: wanting, but not quite able, to believe

In September of 2007 I flew to Phnom Penh to gather material for a new novel.  Two of the books I brought with me were by Maugham: a first edition (a gift from Susana Serna) of The Gentleman in the Parlour, a Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong (1930), which is as its title suggests a travel book, and a Penguin paperback edition of The Summing Up (1938), a collection of valedictory essays.

In both books Maugham devotes a section to the question of evil; that is, how to satisfactorily explain the existence of evil read more »

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Writing The End of the Monsoon

Posted in Buddhism, The End of the Monsoon, Writing on April 1st, 2010 by admin – 2 Comments

Buddhas at Bayon, Cambodia

In search of theme and setting

In March of 2007 I sold my first novel, The Desert Contract, in a two book deal, which meant I had to write another political thriller.  But about what, and set where?

That summer, while finishing the publisher’s suggested revisions, I read Karen Armstrong’s  A Short History of Myth.  The final pages held my attention.  She suggests that read more »

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