Author Interview: ‘The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu’ by Tom Vater

About the Book:

A TENSE, FAST PACED AND KALEIDOSCOPIC PULP THRILLER, FOLLOWING THE LIVES OF TWO GENERATIONS OF DRIFTERS EMBROILED IN A SAGA OF SEX, DRUGS AND MURDER ON THE ROAD BETWEEN LONDON AND THE ROOF OF THE WORLD.

In 1976, four friends, Dan, Fred, Tim and Thierry, drive a bus along the hippie trail from London to Kathmandu. En Route in Pakistan, a drug deal goes badly wrong, yet the boys escape with their lives and the narcotics. Thousands of kilometers, numerous acid trips, accidents, nightclubs and a pair of beautiful Siamese twins later, as they finally reach the counter-culture capital of the world, Kathmandu, Fred disappears with the drug money.

A quarter century later, after receiving mysterious emails inviting them to pick up their share of the money, Dan, Tim and Thierry are back in Kathmandu. The Nepalese capital is not the blissful mountain backwater they remember. Soon a trail of kidnapping and murder leads across the Roof of the World. With the help of Dan’s backpacking son, a tattooed lady and a Buddhist angel, the ageing hippies try to solve a 25-year old mystery that leads them amongst Himalayan peaks for a dramatic showdown with their past.

 

What people are saying:

“A better backpacker novel than The Beach.”

— Bangkok Post

 

” A gripping and clever tale of sex, crime, love, narcotics and greed, though not necessarily in that order.”

— Untamed Travel

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I have been a crime fiction writer and journalist for twenty-five years. I have published three crime novels, with a fourth out later this year. I am the author or co-author of several non-fiction books, a few documentaries and many articles, predominantly on Asian themes. As a journalist, I specialize in alternative culture, politics and tourism. My best-selling non-fiction book is Sacred Skin – Thailand’s spirit tattoos, with photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat (sacredskinthailand.com). I have written for outlets like the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and the Times, The Asia Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I write best in the small hours, when it’s quiet. I write anywhere, it does not matter much, just so long as it is quiet. I don’t listen to music while I write. I try not to look at social media either. I wrote much of The Man with the Golden Mind in a bungalow in Cambodia, by a beautiful river with almost zero distractions, in two months. Once or twice a week, I would cycle to a bar a few kilometers away. On my way back late at night, I’d be followed by hungry packs of dogs and I once witnessed a break-in of a house I was cycling past.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

Some come from my work as a journalist. My second Detective Maier Mystery, The Man with the Golden Mind (Exhibit A, 2014, republished with Crime Wave Press 2016) dissects the CIA’s secret war, a sideshow to the Vietnam War, in Laos in the 1960s. Others just come from fragments of overheard conversation or daily life. I live on the road for more than half the year, staying mostly in hotels, and a lot of what I see while I travel for assignments or to research books flows into my fiction.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

The method changes from project to project. For the first of my Detective Maier Mysteries, The Cambodian Book of the Dead, I meticulously planned and laid out the plot on countless sheets of paper. I made charts of all the characters, determined their ages, what they looked like and how they talked. Definitely helpful. For The Monsoon Ghost Image, the third in the series, I took up a much more free-wheeling approach. I was familiar with the main characters, I had a good idea where the story was going to go. I still made some systemic notes, but in a more modest, casual way.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

I write crime fiction. Sometimes it’s easier writing about larger truths in genre fiction than it is in journalism and non-fiction. Crime fiction comes with tropes and conventions that authors use to shape their narratives. That’s both restrictive and liberating and makes the chore of coming up with a compelling story less daunting than it would be in an attempt at literary fiction.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

My latest book is The Monsoon Ghost Image, published by Crime Wave Press in the autumn, a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

And here’s the blurb:

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph.

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

My dream cast would include Ryan Gosling as Detective Maier, Gérard Depardieu as his Russian sidekick Mikhail, Leonardo DiCaprio as photographer Martin Ritter, Léa Seydoux as his wife Emilie and Werner Herzog as the German bad guy.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

My house is full of books. I buy them everywhere I go, from street-stalls in Kolkata to charity shops in London. I co-own a small crime fiction imprint, Crime Wave Press, which has published 32 titles to date, so I get to read a never-ending stream of submissions.

My favorite authors include Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, Peter Matthiessen, Thomas McGuane, Raymond Chandler, Katherine Dunn, Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes, Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, Jim Thompson, Ross McDonald, Philip Kerr, and Andy Rausch whose collection of totally crazy short stories – Riding Shotgun and other American Cruelties – we published last year.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr, this one’s a bit hard going, but I highly recommend Kerr’s Berlin Noir.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

Hard to say, a toss-up between Treasure Island by Stevenson and Burmese Days by George Orwell?

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

It’s near impossible to make a living from it. But maybe that’s an encouragement of sorts. Bloody good job. If you’ve got something to say, are a hungry reader, and don’t mind spending months alone in a room, then write that novel.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?

Websites:

www.clippings.me/users/tomvater

www.tomvater.com

www.crimewavepress.com

Twitter: @tomvater

 

Also by Tom:

About the Book:

 

DIRTY PICTURES, SECRET WARS AND HUMAN BEASTS – DETECTIVE MAIER IS BACK TO INVESTIGATE THE POLITICS OF MURDER

The third Detective Maier mystery is a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph.

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

Review:

“It’s all comfortably noir until it becomes unimaginably evil on a global scale.” – Janet Brown

Purchase link:

Amazon: UK

 

About the Author:

Tom Vater has written non-fiction and fiction books, travel guides, documentary screenplays, and countless feature articles investigating cultural and political trends and oddities in Asia. His stories have appeared in publications such as The Asia Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Times, Marie Claire, Penthouse and The Daily Telegraph. He co-wrote The Most Secret Place on Earth, a feature documentary on the CIA’s secret war in Laos, which has been broadcast in 25 countries. His bestselling book Sacred Skin (www.sacredskinthailand.com), the first English language title on Thailand’s sacred tattoos, has received more than 30 reviews. Tom’s work has led him across the Himalayas, given him the opportunity to dive with hundreds of sharks in the Philippines, and to witness the Maha Khumb Mela, the largest gathering of people in the world. On assignments, he has joined sea gypsies and nomads, pilgrims, sex workers, serial killers, rebels and soldiers, politicians and secret agents, artists, pirates, hippies, gangsters, police men and prophets. Some of them have become close friends.

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