Saturday, June 20, 2015

TIME-RELEASE KARMA: A novel about Thailand in a time of trying change

(June 5, 2015)


John Joyce is back in Thailand trying to come to terms with missed chances, lost loves and make amends for things that happened last time around. As he ventures outside of his Bangkok comfort zone to reconnect with people from his past, to understand things better and set things right, nothing works out as he wants it to. Along the way he gets caught up in the colorful drama of a street corner political demonstration that alters the course of his life. Soon he finds himself volunteering at an unusual NGO dedicated to empowering the poor, including prostitutes. He continues to teach at a prestigious, buttoned down university by day but his free time is taken up visiting slums and offering his skills as an English teacher to bargirls in trouble.  Meanwhile, the government launches a vicious anti-drug campaign, bringing tragedy to the family of a slum-dwelling friend. A refugee from the brutal political violence, she leaves Bangkok for her home in Sisaket in the Isan countryside. John, who had come to be close with her as a friend and confidant, impulsively quits Bangkok to follow on her trail, thoroughly unprepared for what awaits him when he finds her.

Author's note:  The John Joyce "lost in Thailand" saga was first released in a small print run under the title Peacock Hotel, published by Marcel Barang and Chart Korbjit in Bangkok in 2004 for Blackberry Press. Japan-based writer and publisher Ken Rodgers, reviewing the story for the Kyoto Journal, came up with the name "Time-Release Karma" and I am indebted to him for the phrase. I like it so much I have chosen to use it for the title of the e-book as it succinctly sums up "Peacock's" narrative theme which posits that a wholesome present and promising future requires first coming to terms, slowly, surely and inexorably, with difficult elements of the past.    

-Phil Cunningham