Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Timothy Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan has lived off and on in Southeast Asia for more than twenty years. He is the author of eight published novels and one nonfiction work on Charles Dickens. The Fourth Watcher is the second book in the Poke Rafferty novels of Bangkok that began in 2007 with A Nail Through the Heart.

The opening of his interview with New Mystery Reader contributor Dana King:

DK: You clearly have a deep affection for Thailand and its people, yet are not bashful about exploring and describing the worst of it. You’ve also traveled extensively in that part of the world. How did you come to choose Thailand for the Poke Rafferty stories?

TH: Actually, Thailand came before Poke. I’d been living there off and on for about sixteen years, wishing I could write about it but nervous about two things: Not truly understanding the culture, and not speaking Thai well enough to know how (or whether) the Thais were different when there were no foreigners around. (It took me eight novels to get up the courage to write a scene between two women without a man present – the one in this book between Rose and Noi – for the same reason.)

And then I spent New Year’s Eve 1998 walking the city, from about 10 PM to 9 AM. I walked everywhere, but mostly off the main drags. And Poke came into my mind: a travel writer who writes about the places that are beyond the margins of the well-worn tourist paths. And I immediately realized that he’d already written a couple of books, Looking for Trouble in the Philippines and Looking for Trouble in Indonesia, and that he’d written them from an external, fairly superficial perspective. But when he got to Thailand, the place gobsmacked him, as it did me, and he suddenly found himself in a culture to which he actually wanted to belong.

But the important thing, from a writing standpoint, was that he didn’t belong And because he didn’t belong, he didn’t have to understand everything; he could make mistakes about the people and the lives they live. And he spoke only elementary Thai. Those things were very liberating for me. Suddenly, I didn’t have to be the guy who could write the Wikipedia entry on Thailand. My character was just another clown trying to find his way in. He was going to get things wrong from time to time.

Until he washed up in Thailand, he’d always looked at the places he wrote about as though they were department-store window displays, separated from him by a pane of glass, and now he had to find a way to the other side of the glass. And he was doing it out of love, which was very appealing to me: he loved the country, he loved the culture, and, inevitably, he came to love a couple of individual people. And the longterm health of his relationship with those two people depends largely on whether he can really get through that pane of glass.
Read the entire interview.

Learn more about the author and his work at Timothy Hallinan's website and his blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Nail Through the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Watcher.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.

--Marshal Zeringue