Second and last part of an interview with a new independent publisher who is trying to kick the corporate media world’s bum by releasing hard hitting, pulpy Noirs with Asian settings. I am talking about Crime Wave Press based in Hong Kong and brainchild of travel and Asian focused writer Tom Vater.
The obvious question: did you travel along the Hippy Trail? If so, how was it?
I traveled from Kathmandu to Istanbul overland in 1998 and did other sections of the overland trail at various times. The long trip took about three months – fantastic experience. Witnessing the US play Iran during the 1998 football world cup, in a hotel in Esfahan, was a highlight I later wrote about – and I ended up playing a match with a small team of other travelers against local security forces on the world’s largest square! I think we lost, national honour was at stake.
Pakistan was gloriously lawless at that time, long before becoming politicized by 9/11, and I had a great adventure up in the North West around Peshawar. We were welcome there then, but this has all changed because of the US war on terror. In fact so much of the Middle East and Western Asia has become less accessible because of US foreign policy, a great shame. But a lot of the material and characters in The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu were taken from that trip. I did meet people like the drug dealers Harun Rashid and Mr. Khan and I stayed for some time in the Swat Valley, now so infamous for its insecurity and violence. The nightclub in Iran, The Grey Parrot, was based on stories I had heard from original hippie trail travelers, combined with my own visit to a far out club in Egypt in the mid-90s.
“The Cambodian Book of the Dead” is your latest novel, another thriller set in a Southeast Asian country you know very well, as you will soon publish a guidebook to Angkor Wat and Sieam Reap for Moon Publishing. Why did you want to set your novel in Cambodia, and what can you tell about the process of writing about a place you have traveled so far and wide?
Someone else wrote that Cambodia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world: First you fall in love with it and then it breaks your heart. That is exactly what happened to me. The first work I did in Cambodia was the screenplay for a 2001 feature documentary on the future of tourism in Angkor. I was hooked and kept going back, several times a year to write articles and guidebooks. More recently I have written about the country’s burgeoning art scene and I have a guide to the Angkor temples coming out with Moon Books in November. Over the past decade and a half, Cambodian has risen from the ashes of genocide, cultural collapse, famine and economic non-existence, but it’s been anything but a smooth ride and whoever is in power there continues to exploit the people, so real progress for the majority of the population has taken place almost entirely due to the absence of war, not because of initiatives by politicians, civil society or NGOs. After spending so much time there, and having had many moving experiences in the country, it felt natural to assemble all this into a narrative. I was also looking for a country I knew well to start off a series of detective novels about a roaming private eye who has specialized in Asian locales. The next book in the series will be set in Laos.
Tell us about Crime Wave Press: what are its scopes, and why did you decide to start an independent publishing company in the current economical climate?
Crime Wave Press is a Hong Kong based fiction imprint that endeavors to publish the best new crime novels from Asia and about Asia to readers around the globe. I think it makes perfect sense to start this kind of publishing venture in the current economic climate. The large traditional book publishers, like the large record labels before them, are either on the way out or need to find new business models. Countless writers are putting out their own titles as eBooks these days but have no idea how to market them, how to get reviews, even how to package their work attractively. We step into the breach and feel that there are great opportunities for small companies with good know-how. We are exceedingly well positioned to succeed – my partner Hans Kemp has been running a successful publishing venture – Visionary World – from Hong Kong for many years and knows the ins and outs of putting books on the market intimately. I bring my long experience of writing about Asia, and I know a thing or two about crime fiction and how the media works. Beyond wanting to provide a platform for new talent in Asia, Crime Wave Press is also great fun. Finding talented writers is a hugely rewarding process. And we will be partying at UBUD Writers and Readers Festival in Bali in October and then move to the Frankfurt book fair to introduce Crime Wave Press to a larger audience.
Any writers out there who have a crime novel with an Asian focus or location, get in touch via www.crimewavepress.com