The Monsoon Ghost Image
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.
Continuing my renewed interested in spy novels, I was really excited to interview Tom Vater author of The Monsoon Ghost
Q1: What inspired you to write The Monsoon Ghost?
I live in Thailand, work in Southeast Asia as a journalist. Like The Monsoon Ghost Image, my previous two novels, The Cambodian Book of the Dead and The Man with the Golden Mind looked at stories in our recent history that connect us – Europeans, Americans – to Asia. The first book was about the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia in 70s and how a German detective deals with that in relation to his own country’s past. The second book was set in Laos where the CIA ran a secret army of 30.000 soldiers in the 60s to fight the communists. The Monsoon Ghost Image is an action detective story looking at the CIA’s renditions program (the kidnapping and torture of suspected terrorists) in the wake of 9 11. I am principally interested in what white people do in Asia and that lies at the heart of these three novels.
I also have my protagonists question the official narrative, the one we are all bound by, the one we are fed through the media by politicians and corporations. I try to offer some small but poignant counterviews to that incredibly seductive, powerful narrative.
Q2: Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?
As unlikely as that may be…. 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.
Q3: How many rejections did you get before you got a publishing deal?
I’ve published some 20 books. Some were guns for hire jobs, others I wrote and sold. Some sold thousands of copies and became bestsellers, others no more than a few hundred. But for those books published, I pitched many more to publishers, which were rejected.
Q4: How did you deal with them when you started out?
How did I deal with rejections? I ignored them.
Q5: Which authors inspired you to write?
Joseph Conrad, Ottfried Preußler, Peter Matthiessen, Raymond Chandler, Katherine Dunn, David Goodis, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, Charles Bukowski, Hubert Selby Jr, Mikhail Bulgakov, Philip Kerr, Ross McDonald, Massimo Carlotto
Q6: What are your writing routines?
I write every day. I write several feature articles a month, as well as bits and pieces for no-fiction books. Occasionally I write TV documentary screenplays. When I am at home, which is about six months of the year, I wake up in late morning, have breakfast, do some sports and/or go shopping for food. Then I start dealing with the usual mountain of admin – emails, social media etc. Then I start writing, usually around 4pm and work through to 10pm when I have dinner. Then I often work through to 2am. After that I wind down for an hour or two before calling it another glorious day. On the road I don’t write all that much except for the assignments I am traveling for.
Q7: If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself
Rob that bank instead. Only kidding. I would have been caught.
Q8: What would you say to someone who wants to write?
If someone needs to tell a story, they should tell it. As technology is cheap these days, there are many ways of telling a story. Anyone can make a film now. And anyone seems to write books as well, which is why there are so many self-published titles out there. So, if you have a good story and need to tell it, find the format that works best for you. Writing novels is going out of style and fewer and fewer good ones are published every year. Write a podcast, a short film, a TV series or a stage play instead.
Q9: If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?
Robbing banks. Sitting in a hut on a beach. I never thought about it since I sold my first story in 1997.
Q10: Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know?
I have walked across the Himalayas, had the opportunity to dive with hundreds of sharks in the Philippines, and witnessed the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest gathering of people in the world. I have travelled with 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.
Thank you Tom x
Tom Vater has published four crime novels and is the co-owner of Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based crime fiction imprint. He writes for many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Telegraph, CNN and The Nikkei Asian Review. He is a best-selling non-fiction writer and co-author of the highly acclaimed Sacred Skin www.sacredskinthailand.com.
Tom Vater @Tomvater
Buy The Monsoon Ghost Below