Projects Reviewed

I have started working as a document review attorney, which takes up much of my time and creative energy. I am editing a new book and preparing for another, at the same time I am contemplating the exact nature of the second Chris Hunter Adventure.

There is one thing that I will say, though. While Leak, Chris’s friend in Cambodia who was introduced in Kickback, will play a major role in the next episode. I am contemplating something far more serious for the characters than I had originally envisioned, and as such I am preparing major revisions.

I will talk more of the next book project, which is stand alone–for now–and is based in Haiti, during the 1987 Junta.

But that’s got another month of work. What needs to happen is a rewrite of War Crimes, the second Chris Hunter adventure.

As it stands, War Crimes examines some of the difficulties faced by the extraordinary chambers of the war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh. Tensions flare, however, when a surviving victim of one of the war criminals–one who got away from the tribunal–holds a Greater Dragon facility hostage until the war criminal is delivered to him, Chris and Leak must find the criminal and deliver him before shots are fired and a massacre ensues.

Some of that may change in my rewrite. We’ll see.

One thing I am experimenting with is a bit more patience between when I work on a first draft outline and when I start the first draft story. That is one thing that Patterson apparently does, something that I will try my best to imitate, the art of writing multiple drafts of the outline before beginning work on the substance of the thing.

Thats it for future details. What you need to do, in the meantime, is buy and read Noy and Her Ungrateful Husband Khamsouk, and Kickback. They are both available now for download on Amazon and can be read on any Kindle enabled device. And remember, the Kindle app is free to download and works on just about every platform except Linux.

Chris Hunter

Kickback returns.

and to review. . .

Kickback, a Chris Hunter Adventure, is the first of a series that I will be publishing as I finish each episode. I have countless story ideas based on my ten years in Asia. I’ve seen some questionable activity, and I’ve participated in some of the same.

In Kickback, Chris is up against a killer who is targeting Greater Dragon Vietnam, the fund’s Vietnam branch. Faced with an office full of suspects, Chris struggles to uncover the truth, before more people are killed.

Chris Hunter grew up in Orange County, his family torn apart when his grandmother and caretaker dies. Already in a gang, his grandmother’s death puts him in a position to take the next step. . .initiation.

It’s a long way from innocence, but it’s the beginning of Chris’s journey to life, violence and Asia.

Kickback Cover Image

August 1 is just around the corner and Kickback is soon to hit Kindle again, revised and improved. Going through the text seven times really makes for some picayune changes, but I think every one of them was for the better.

Above is the cover for the story. And the word length is approximately 32,000, which makes it a long novella. It will retail at $2.99 and may eventually have some sales involved.

We learn a lot more about Chris Hunter this time around, his early life taking a central role as he navigates the obstacles put before him by the scheming and corrupt.

Why an adventure?

I call this series the Chris Hunter Adventures because they are just that, adventures. I can’t call them mysteries because they will not be exclusively mysteries. Some of them will be shoot ’em ups, others will involve chases, some may not be thought of yet. But I have several ideas waiting in the wings.

As I said before in this blog, I want to be able to publish these adventures under my own name, which is why I withdrew the original incarnation from Kindle so I could revamp and rewrite. Now I have done it, and it is time to put this story into the world for good.

August 1. Check Amazon. The adventures are calling.

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Kickback Returns

Kickback: a payment made to someone who has facilitated a transaction or appointment, especially illicitly.

Chris Hunter has come a long way from his roots in Orange County. Though his life has changed dramatically since he fired his first shot, he still strives to be the best.

Promised on his grandmother’s deathbed, Chris must become the best at whatever it is he does, even if it’s to become a gangster. No Al Capone, he must travel a long journey, one that eventually brings him to Southeast Asia where he joins forces with one of the region’s largest investment funds as an enforcer, fixer, assassin.

Now he’s been called in to investigate the disappearance of an accountant only to discover that there are more layers to conspiracy than an onion skin.

Although released once, and briefly, under the pseudonym Chase Chance, Kickback has been substantially revised and edited to not only increase the suspense, but also the readability. It’s like a director’s cut, only good.

Kickback will be re-released under my real name: Steven Jacob, on August 1st. This will be a digital only release. If you haven’t already read Kickback, it’s soon time you do. This time Chris Hunter won’t be stopped, and remember, there’s never a paper trail.

Land Taking

I want to touch on the central problem of my novel: Noy and Her Ungrateful Husband Khamsouk. That central issue is that of land taking.

Land taking, better known in the United States as imminent domain, is very common in Southeast Asia. It is, in and of itself, a form of corruption. Officials will take land and deed it over to a wealthy sponsor who then pays out to the culpable official.

Often this practice results in the poor losing their equity in land that was given them back in the seventies as part of the land redistribution efforts of the Communist governments after the end of the Second Indochina War.

In my novel, this is the conflict that sets in motion an entire fmsily and causes their breakdown. The patriarch and matriarch of the family live alone in a village in Southern Laos. Several plots of land are taken by a rich son of a government official, one of those lots belonging to the old couple. They try to garner support from their lawyer nephew–who they raised–but he offers no realistic options. They are left to appeal to the powers that be without representatives.

In the meantime, the lawyer nephew is busy ingratiating himself in the political spectrum, trying to work his way up the Party structure until he can get into a position of corruption. When his wife, on whom he is cheating, begins to campaign for the return of their relatives land the rift between husband and wife is strained to the breaking point, and their standing in Laos society shattered.

I don’t want to give anymore away lest I spoil the plot, but needless to say, I think its a good read. When I wrote it, I thought of Milan Kundera and Ismail Kadare, two authors who survived Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and went on to garner international fame. Not that my novel is mimicry of theirs, simply along a similar frame. Only in Laos, a Communist country in East Asia, a country in which I lived for nearly four years.

Also, RIP Michael Vickery, a great scholar on the history of Cambodia.

 

Mishima and Me

So Lee Kuan Yew. . .

I didn’t finish volume two. It repeated a lot of the same ground as volume one and I just got bored, specifically as I’m not reading it for any particular purpose, other than to find ideas for a Chris Hunter episode.

Yes, Chris Hunter will go to Singapore. Chris Hunter is coming back soon. I’m just finishing a retool of the first episode on the advise of my expert reader (my mother). And yes, I live with my mother, at least for the moment.

I’m also just about finished on the first draft of my second stand alone project. It’s set in Haiti shortly after the junta took over control of the country from Baby Doc Duvalier. I did a bunch of reading on the longer history of the country, probably five or six anthropological pieces, and it took two pages in a reporter’s story about the Duvaliers for the idea to hit. So look for that.

I’m also resurrecting a character from college. I wrote her then as my second book, an action adventure. This time it will be a continuing series with several characters and side plots as things go along. I’m not ready to debut that yet, but soon. It’s in my top three projects to prepare for publication.

In other news, I’m reading Upron Sinclair’s novel Oil! I’m about a quarter of the way through and it’s good. I don’t know if it’s Pulitzer good, but maybe that was why we read the Jungle in high school instead.

As I’ve revisited authors I read in high school and read more of their oeuvre, I’ve become aware of why they are so highly regarded. Hemingway, Pearl S. Buck, Faulkner, Steinbeck. . .hell, Steinbeck has become my favorite author. . .well, maybe after Yukio Mishima.

now there’s an interesting story. A homosexual Japanese writer who finishes his masterwork and the name tries to mount a coup of the republican army, giving a speech to an assembled phalanx and then committing hard kari. But wow, what a revelation his books are. It was the beginning of my flirtation with serious, award winning literature.

When I started reading as a kid I think was mostly fantasy and science fiction. I remember my dad would bring back fantasy books from his business trips and I’d read them in a night or two. This lasted until I reached maybe the fourth or fifth grade when’s I started reading John Grisham and other bestsellers. This stage lasted the longest, probably taking me through to law school when I began reading some of the more literate style of books written by modern authors. Only in Laos did I really begin to ponder the need to read great books if I wanted to write great books.

I did. I read through just about every classic that our little bookstore carried, buying them up in bulk. And when I went to Bangkok or Singapore, where there were real bookstores, I would spend hundreds of dollars on books Andrew fill up two bags full. This I would carry on my flight and Surely amuse the flight attendants hewn my luggage shifted Andrew I had to restore the books in the bags before disembarking.

i think, too, part of Mishima’s attraction was my first exposure to him. I brought him on a vacation with me to Vietnam, Da Nang specifically. There I would wake up early and take a walk before breakfast. Eat the meal provided by the hotel, and then sit down in my room to write for a couple hours. Then I would take a nap and saunter off to a cafe close by to read the rest of the afternoon. And then, as evening approached, I would watch the storm coming into the coast from my room, on the sixth floor overlooking the East Sea. It was a magical two weeks, just living and writing and enjoying myself with good books.

all right. Stay tuned. There will be announcements about Chris Hunter’s return soon.

Face and the Fish

So I picked up the second volume of Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography: From Third World to First. What I read of it, nearly two hundred pages, was not nearly as interesting as his first volume. Instead of continuing in a chronological tone, he decided to cover his life thematically, and this led him to hitting a lot of ground again, ground which he’d traversed quite well in the first book.

There was one thing, though, that stuck with me, a Chinese proverb: Big fish eat little fish. Little fish eat shrimp.

It’s a simple proverb, intimating that there’s a hierarchy to the world. A very Confucian value. I forget the context, but the parable remains true taken out of it. And it’s a very large part of life in Asia, this hierarchy.

Son to parents, fathers to sons, fathers to officials, officials to emperor. Relationships predefined. Almost as distinct as the caste system in India, but different. When I served a mission for the LDS church–back when I was young and had faith–we frequently ran across people who wanted to convert, but didn’t because they respected their parents too much, and their parents were Confucian, or animistic, or even Vietnamese Buddhist.

I won’t go farther into my mission at this point, as it is a part of my life in which I was on the verge of insanity and not necessarily perceiving reality the way it actually occurred.

What I do know is that Face, that vicious concept, rules the region. Even though one part of the region is Theravada and the other Mahayana Buddhist, there are also overlays of Confucianism, Catholicism, Animism, Daoism, Islam, and half a dozen other religions. It’s important to retain Face, and it’s also important to allow those who one deals with to do the same. If a solution can be reached in which both sides benefit, both sides keep Face, then it is far more likely that both sides will agree, and furthermore, abide by the solution.

I saw this happen in Cambodia. A foreigner came to us with a claim for an employment bonus that went unpaid. My boss, a Cambodian native who had studied in France, suggested a Face sensitive approach. First, the foreigner should go to the boss and protest treatment on his own. If that didn’t work, then the lawyer should go. If that didn’t work, then file for arbitration–a very visible action in Cambodia–and then eventually, if all else failed, to court.

The lesson here, though, is that confrontation should be resolved at the lowest level possible, to allow for both sides to maintain their Face. I’m done for now, but anticipate more discussions of Face to come in the future.

 

 

Henry Kissinger and Alcohol

I just picked up the second volume of Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography and read the forward by Henry Kissinger. That’s enough to suggest that Lee is part of the autocratic world made by decolonization in the aftermath of the Second World War.

That is all on that point.

The other day I met with a friend who I worked with in Asia and who, for a brief period of time, lived in North Carolina. He’s moving away, unfortunately, but still, it was good to see him.

We talked about our experiences since SE Asia (I wanted to say “war”) and I talked about my struggles with alcoholism.

I’ve been back to Asia several times, trying to make things work between my brain and a job. Unfortunately, each time I went back I found some reason to drink. Usually beer, though when in Laos I did drink a lot of bourbon. But it’s Jim Beam’s fault. They came out with a honey flavored bourbon and a Devil’s Cut bourbon squeezed from the wooden barrels in which they age the liquor.

These were good things, and I and friends, would consume at least a bottle a night. So while I thoroughly enjoyed the nights, the mornings were lackluster and slow. For alcohol is my downfall. I have discovered, after a lengthy time of sobriety, that even one drink can affect my cognitive abilities for several days and thus leave me unable to perform at my job or sometimes even to not get up for my job.

This failed to please my superiors and I found myself quickly without a job. That’s why I’ve returned to the United States so many times and haven’t been in Asia for very much over the past couple years. The last time I went, I went to Vietnam and worked for a law firm there. I lasted two months before I went crazy (a different story) and left the position. I started drinking at the tenth anniversary celebration of the firm. It was a great celebration and I got really drunk. That was the end of sobriety in Vietnam.

When I was first in the hospital back in 2010 the doctor suggested I was dual diagnosis. This means that in addition to a certain mental illness, there are substance abuse issues. I went to dual diagnosis group sessions and even an AA meeting held in the hospital. This was not for me. But I agreed to a year of sobriety once I was out of the hospital. That didn’t last long (but again, another story).

And just to clarify, I did not mention Henry Kissinger for SEO purposes. It just happened to be the last thing I read before sitting down to write.

 

 

 

The Credibility Gap

I finished The Great Influenza, the other day. I think one of the major lessons I took away from the book was the way in which the public officials’ actions acted against the efforts of scientists and doctors in treating and limiting the epidemic.

Credibility Gap.

I first heard the term in college, in a class on the Vietnam War. It referred to the increasing discontent of the nation with the lies of its leaders. Johnson, in particular, was seen as a primary culprit of this. Per example, Hue, 1968.

Days before the Tet Offensive was launched against American positions, Johnson officials had proclaimed that the war was practically won and that the Viet Minh were co longer capable of mounting a major offensive.

This was all too obviously contradicted by the major fighting in Hue and throughout the south. Especially with pictures of the American embassy in Saigon under attack. It was the first truly televised war and the constant exaggerations by the Johnson administration of troop levels, of enemy killed, of ground taken led to a disillusioned populous.

This was considered the beginning of the credibility gap, though I would argue that it began much earlier. I don’t know when it began, but it was definitely present during the Spanish Influenza epidemic.

During the epidemic, government officials throughout the country refused to believe the scientists who told them that contact with those already sick could easily make others sick. The officials, instead of imposing strict quarantines, simply told their people that the influenza was at its peak and that there was nothing to worry about.

This attitude, taken not only by public officials towards civilians, but by military personnel towards soldiers in spite of warnings from some of the brightest medical scientists in the world, caused incalculable suffering.

Troops transferred between camps, carrying the disease on what became death trains. Voyages across the Atlantic to carry troops from American camps to Brest or St. Nazaire, became floating sick wards, many of the soldiers dying from the gruesome disease. I touched upon this topic in a previous post, but I didn’t fully discuss the idea of a credibility gap.

After weeks of lies from officials telling the public that all was in hand and that the disease had peaked, the public stopped believing them. They ignored what the mayors and the legislators and the executive officials said. They simply tried to survive. The leaders be damned.

Thus my argument that the credibility gap extended far before the Vietnam War. And if you want some humor, there’s also a comic troupe that performed during the majority of the war and beyond called the Credibility Gap.

 

 

 

 

Influenza Major

I’m currently readingĀ the Great Influenza by John M. Barry. It is a book about the epidemic Spanish Influenza that killed nearly twenty-five million worldwide during and after the Great War. One thing that strikes me as poignant is the overriding hubris of the government in censoring news about the disease.

It was war time, yes, but that does not justify an executive branch to infringe on a first amendment right as granted by fiat of the legislative and by popular accord of the people. Wilson took other measures in hand, securing an almost autocratic control of the homefront in service to the battle front. Intimidation to ensure sales of the Liberty Bonds, censorship put in place to ensure that no news would be released if it might affect the morale of the people or the troops.

Most relevantly, this last, led to a serious failure of leadership during the fall and winter of 1918, when the Influenza was at its worst. Newspapers reported that nothing was wrong. Look at the reassurances of public health officials. It’s going to be all right, the government will protect us. Others simply remained silent, saying nothing about the influenza virus.

This censorship proved to cause more problems than it solved. As Barry points out, and as is relevant today, it created a breach of trust between the people and the government. The lies bandied about by Wilson’s appointed health officers was evidenced by a simple walk in the street. Bodies lay on porches and in hallways. Morgues and cold stores overflowed with bodies. How could this much death lead to so little concern on the part of the government? It must be a farce.

This wouldn’t be the first time the government lost the trust of the people, and it wouldn’t be the last by any means.