Vinee Calvino

Created by Christopher G. Moore
(1946–)

Dubbed the “The Hemingway of Bangkok,” expatriate Christopher G. Moore is one of Canada’s most successful novelists. Yet, perhaps typically, he’s almost unknown in Canada (or North America, for that matter). But in Thailand and Southeast Asia he’s become something of a sensation, especially among foreign workers and travelers. His English language novels regularly hit the bestseller lists there, able to easily sell 20,000 copies in Bangkok alone, and he’s eagerly and quickly translated into German, Japanese, Chinese and Thai. It seems to be only Canadians and Americans who are missing out.

And his detective novels, featuring Bangkok-based private eye VINCENT “VINEE” CALVINO, the embedded ex-pat, are the most popular of all, able to hold their own against the likes of heavyweights like Michael Connelly and Stephen King.

“Vinee” is an ex-New Yorker, living in Bangkok. It’s his home, but he’s always very aware of being an outsider, as well. So he walks that fine line, doing what must be done, trying to live by a seemingly endless set of personal rules he’s cobbled together (eg. “only marry an orphan”). He’s aided–and sometimes hampered–n his investigations by his friend, Thai Police Lieutenant-Colonel Prachai “Pratt” Congwatana.

A big part of Moore’s charm is his unerring eye for the intricacies of not just the noirish possibilities of Thai culture, but also the Thai psyche, and the curious demimonde of the expat community, caught forever in the tug-of-war between East and West. Calvino’s world is one of foreign correspondents, diplomats, business executives, English language teachers, adventurers, drunks, con artists, whores and hustlers, all unwilling, unable or uninterested in going home. Moore captures the sights and sounds and the lights of Bangkok’s fervent nightlife particularly well, but as the series progressed, so did Moore’s vision. There are few writers who have ever painted the ever-evolving cultural and political landscape of Southeast Asia so well.

But, after sixteen acclaimed, award-winning, novels, Moore decided to pull the plug on Vinee with the seventeenth and final book in the series, going out not with a whimper, but a decided bang. Published in January 2020, Dance Me to the End of Time (the title nicked from a song by Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen), is perhaps Moore’s most ballsy and audacious book yet, as the author not only allows Vinee to narrate in the first person for the first time. He’s on the hunt for a missing “water boy,” but the author ups the ante, daring to set the story not in the here-and-now, or even the past, but in a near-future that sees people caught between virtual reality and a global pandemic that may have started in Bangkok, even as the country itself is being swallowed slowly by the rising sea. Not that that has stopped “hordes of desperate climate migrants, fanatic religious guilds and a new breed of supersmart scientists,” from pouring into the beleaguered city, desperate to survive.

As series finales go, it’s a doozy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher G. Moore was born in 1946, trained in law at Oxford University, and was a professor of law at University of British Columbia. He lived for a while in New York City, but currently lives in Bangkok. His first novel, His Lordship’s Arsenal, was published in 1985, and proved to be an instant success, both commercially and critically, and he has since written close to twenty more books. The third in the Calvino series, Cut Out (aka “Zero Hour in Phnom Penh“), was awarded the 2004 Deutsche Krimi Preis (the German Critics Award for Crime Fiction).

He’s also the editor of two noir collections set in southeast Asia, Bangkok Noir (2011) and Phnom Penh Noir (2012), as well as The Cultural Detective (2011), a fascinating collection of Moore’s thoughts on Thailand, crime fiction, writing & politics.

THE EVIDENCE

  • “Thais have a saying about a frog living inside a coconut shell. The frog believes that the world inside the shell is the whole universe. In the private investigation business, Vincent Calvino had clients who were like the frog. What they saw from inside their shell blinded them, made them unable to solve a problem. So they hired Calvino. He knew the drill. Shells offered comfort and security. Leaving a shell could be a dangerous business. Calvino’s froglike clients paid him to venture into a larger existence and to find out and report on the wiring of relationships and places and events, how they were linked and fit together in networks.”
    the opening paragraph of The Risk of Infidelity Index

UNDER OATH

  • “Think Dashiell Hammett in Bangkok.”
    — The San Francisco Chronicle
  • “[Moore’s] Vincent Calvino series belongs on every Asian crime list.”
    — Booklist
  • “Moore is without doubt a real writer and one to watch.”
    — Publisher’s Weekly
  • “Moore’s flashy style successfully captures the dizzying contradictions in [Bangkok’s] vertiginous landscape”
    — The New York Times Book Review 
  • “Moore’s work doesn’t flinch from cultural detail or complex social analysis. He takes chances, lots of them.”
    — International Herald Tribune
  • Dance Me To The End Of Time is a brilliantly conceived finale to [the] wonderful Vincent Calvino series of novels set in one of the world’s most important cities — Bangkok…Christopher Moore transforms his classic noir sensibility with a thrilling warp drive vision of our tomorrow with the timelessness of today. What a great creative work of fiction — and perhaps fact.”
    — James Grady
  • “The Vincent Calvino series is both a wonderful feat of storytelling and a window into ‘Thainess’ and ‘Otherness’. In Vincent Calvino, Christopher G. Moore has created a sympathetic detective as memorable as Philip Marlowe … a subtle reflection on our difficult times…. I will miss Vincent Calvino!”
    — Narisa Chakrabongse

NOVELS

ALSO OF INTEREST

  • The Cultural Detective (2011; by Christopher Moore) Buy this book Kindle it!
    Moore muses on Thailand, crime fiction, writing & politics. Fascinating.
  • Bangkok Noir (2011; edited by Christopher G. Moore) Buy this book Kindle it!
    First-ever anthology of Bangkok crime fiction, edited by Moore and featuring original noir stories by John Burdett, Pico Iyer, Timothy Hallinan and Dean Barrett, among others.
  • Phnom Penh Noir (2012; edited by Christopher G. Moore) Buy this book Kindle it!
    Featuring original noir stories by James Grady, John Burdett, Roland Joffé (the director of The Killing Fields), Kosal Khiev, Prabda Yoon, Bopha Phorn, Giancarlo Narciso, Richard Rubenstein, Suong Mak, Andrew Nette, Bob Bergin, Neil Wilford and several writers named Christopher.
  • Vincent Calvino’s World: A Noir Guide to Southeast Asia (2015; by Chad Evans) Kindle it!
    A long overdue appreciation of Moore’s Shamus-winning P.I. series. Go Global!

THE DICK OF THE DAY

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. And thanks to Big Phil for having my back.

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