Chiang Mai Mail : Sukhumvit Road

by Lang Reid

David Young has written Sukhumvit Road, his fourth book based on life in Thailand (and in Sukhumvit Road in particular). Published this year in Bangkok (ISBN 974-92636-8-5, Hostage Press International), it is a larger and more weighty book than his previous three (The Scribe, Thailand Joy, Fast Eddies Lucky 7 A-go-go).

The book encompasses the lives of many people living (and working) in Bangkok over the period December 22 through to Xmas Day. Those people include three hit-men from the US, an ex-minister of religion, an alcoholic writer, a demented doctor complete with scheming henchmen and a determined daughter, a love-sick swain, a psychopath who doubles as the devil and the obligatory bar girl, Bami. There are also a few other characters thrown in for good measure, including the abducted daughter of a politician, a deserted ex-girlfriend cum-cured drug addict, and a junkie hanging from the overhead fan.

In the three days leading up to Xmas, author Young takes the reader on a guided tour of various bars, hotels and hangouts, including the legendary Thermae, a haunt decried loudly by all those who have never been there. (It is just as ‘sad’ as David Young portrays.)

The three hit-men are the more central characters in the thriller, and author David Young has done well to show their different characters. Even hit-men can have their softer sides. They have been brought over to assist a shady doctor who ostensibly wants his head-strong daughter to marry an American and go to the USA to study. The adage that there is no honour among thieves describes the interaction between the Americans and the Thai doctor and his henchmen.

The love-sick young man hooks up with the alcoholic writer, who takes him on another tour of even seedier (and sadder areas), ending up being a cathartic experience for both of them, with Bami being the one who gains from it.

The book was certainly not another about a prostitute in Bangkok, sent there by unfeeling parents from darkest Isaan, and attempting to define all the why’s and wherefores. This book was about a bunch of people who were all in Bangkok one weekend for the sake of money, not just Bami, the ‘professional’ used to string the disparate parts together to make the whole.

Having reviewed the previous three novels from David Young, Sukhumvit Road came across as somewhat of a melange of all three, but with a different slant. This author can write, which can sometimes be novel for those writing novels in this country! His description of being in Thermae going, “The night was one big dirty bedsheet.”

Being a thriller, rather than a filler, it is worth the read. The format is such that it is easy to pick up and put down, even if you have to turn backwards for a couple of pages, just to see where you are (generally Sukhumvit Road), and to re-acquaint yourself with who is doing what to whom.

At B. 395, for 400 plus pages, this is a good value read; however, I must admit that I preferred Fast Eddie to Frank Russo.