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Review: The Phantom Lover

Updated on July 19, 2016
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Thailand — an exotic destination that relies heavily upon visiting tourists and travelers — has long and often been referred to as The Land of Smiles. But a more realistic assessment of the country would acknowledge that it should perhaps also be known as a land of dark and dismissive attitudes towards excesses of the wealthy, violence upon women, urban crime, thriving sex trade, and continual friction between natives and tourists. That often-seamy and always-intriguing underbelly of the country is on parade throughout The Phantom Lover.

This collection of bleakly exotic and sometimes erotic tales of Thailand could probably have been written by none other than Jim Algie. Having coursed through the varied careers of college DJ, intrepid traveler, lunatic asylum guard, punk rocker, wildlife conservator, cable TV host, and sharp-eyed journalist, the author is particularly well positioned to train an understanding, empathetic and broad-minded consciousness on the often mysterious and edgy urban chaos of Bangkok and its sister cities. Residing in Thailand for over a dozen years, Algie speaks with immersive clarity and authority about his adopted land.

The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand is a collection of nine short tales — from the very brief to the extended — that range from the natural to the supernatural, and from the realistic to the fantastic. The shortest tales are vivid vignettes, the longest thoughtful probings of Thai psche and society. Along the way, the stories provide a kaleidoscopic view of the bar girls, pimps, expats, traffickers and tourists that make up this roiling Southeast Asian gumbo. Occasionally Mr. Angie fictionalizes certain infamous true-life headline-grabbing Thais into his tales. Desperation and fatalism seem to run through each character’s actions, much as they pervade the surrounding culture they inhabit. Populated by ghosts and demons, monks and sinners, child-women and jaded men, brutal honesty and equally brutal horror, surrealism has never quite so enticingly been made real.

This book makes a welcome addition to the library of armchair travelers, especially those attuned to or drawn by the unusual, the exotic and the bizarre A dashing and hard-to-put-down read, this volume is not for the faint of heart, however, for among its characters lie cannibals, dead children, brutal killers, and the continuing embodiment of fickle, cruel and unavoidable fate.

Positively received by reviewers and fellow authors alike, Mr. Algie’s work is thrilling, vibrant and temptingly entertaining. The reader is carried along on the author’s vivid and moody prose.

The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand is a softcover book in portrait format, 5” x 8”, consisting of 319 pages, with brief author biography. The author has also produced a non-fiction collection, titled Bizarre Thailand: Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic.

The book is published by Tuttle Publishing, an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd., of Clarendon, VT and Singapore, and is available in North America, Latin America, Europe, Pacific Asia and Japan from Tuttle Publishing and its affiliates.

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