Wickham’s marriage had dissolved and so had his cushy
job as a writer and academic at an Australian university. These two losses were
irretrievable, but he was determined to recover title to the condominium
that he had lost to a British crook in Phuket, Thailand.
At the urging of his friend, Steve, he went to Angeles
in the Philippines, the so-called sex capital of the archipelago, to join the
band of ex-pats, seen by locals and outsiders as “white trash” drifting among
the fleshpots of Asia.
But there was a price to be paid. Wickham had to pen a
feature story about the Yank, an American who had crossed the line and turned
Angeles into a paedophile paradise. “Sin city” was provocatively
raunchy before but now, thanks to the Yank, it was criminally
nauseating, and their ex-patriot lifestyle was under threat.
Set in Thailand, the Philippines and Australia this
fast-paced novel is erotic, gripping and provocative. The book deliberately
takes issue with the essentially negative stereotypes that surround Caucasians
living in Asia and challenges the reader to do the same.
In Store Price: $AU26.95
Online Price: $AU25.95
Number of pages:
Cover: Robbie Swan
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2011
was a pleasure to read
It sucked me in, big time. It hooked me in and I finished it in a couple of
nights. Gutsy stuff.’
Scott Gardner, Australian author of books for adolescents
‘Criminologist Paul Wilson’s
is an intriguing and vivid true crime portrait of foreign drifters hatching
schemes guaranteed to realize illicit profits in two of the best known spots in
Southeast Asia — Angeles City and Phuket.’
Christopher G Moore, Canadian writer based in Thailand
‘I didn’t find much to enjoy in this novel. I found it didn’t contain any
sympathetic characters, the dialogue was
clunky and unrealistic, and the subject matter is
Cate Paterson, Head of Fiction and Children’s Publishing, Pan Macmillan
‘It’s a ripping yarn very well told.’
Martin Buzacott, Director, Queensland Writers’ Centre
Paul Wilson is author or co-author of 30 books on crime and social issues
including Black Death White Hands
(Allen & Unwin), Jean Lee: The Last Woman Hanged in Australia (Random
House), Murder in Tandem: When Two People Kill (Harper Collins)
Who Killed Leanne Holland (New Holland) and Who Killed Leanne
He was a regular columnist for five years for Brisbane’s
Courier Mail and before that for six years with the Herald Sun in
has been Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at two Australian universities
and has been a Professor of Criminology at several Australian and American
universities. In 2003 he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his
public and academic contributions to criminology.
knows Thailand and the Philippines intimately having
travelled widely in both these countries for thirty years. He has written about
crime, social issues and terrorism in both places for academic journals as well
as for newspapers and popular magazines.
first went to the Philippines
in 1972 when the then Australian Federal Attorney-General sent him to study
organised crime. Since then he has been back many times. His specific knowledge
and the holiday destination of Phuket in particular, is based on numerous trips
to the Kingdom.
Angeles in the Philippines and Phuket in Thailand are two of South
East Asia’s most famous tourist destinations and both are known for
their red light districts and what are politely described in the West as “adult
industries”. But this is not all they are known for. Phuket is a beautiful
island with some of the finest beaches in the world and Angeles, once the site
of America’s largest air-base
outside the United States, is
celebrated for its breathtaking but frightening volcano,
Mount Pinatubo, and its place in the archipelago’s often violent and
I first visited Angeles to renew contact with a good friend of mine — a Vietnam veteran who, for a variety of personal
reasons, had decided to live in the Philippines city. My first trip to
Phuket was part of a holiday with my partner and we both fell in love with the
island, eventually deciding to buy a small condominium in a high rise building
in Patong — the largest tourist centre on the island. That purchase turned out
to be a disaster not only for us but also for hundreds of other Australian,
American and Japanese citizens who invested in the building.
Despite these personal experiences, this book is a heavily fictionalised
account of what happened to me during the saga of buying the apartment in Phuket
and of the events that unfolded throughout my time in Angeles when I visited my
ex-Vietnam Vet friend. As all novelists have done since time immemorial, I have
drawn on some of my personal experiences in constructing the story that unfolds.
The fact that this book reflects only part of the reality of the people and
events portrayed is the inevitable result of deciding to fictionalise the tale.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the descriptions of the behaviour of
the police forces and the government officials in Angeles and Phuket. Personally
I have never encountered rudeness let alone corruption among the law enforcement
personnel I have met in both these places. And coming from
Queensland, a state in
where a Royal Commission found that police corruption was staggeringly
widespread, I am hardly in a position to suggest that Southeast Asian police
forces are any more dysfunctional than their Western counterparts. In addition,
from what I have observed every mayor of Angeles City has served his
constituency well especially given the problems of trying to balance a tourist
area with a large and thriving urban community. The same applies to the Governor
of Phuket Province in
and other officials who have generally served their communities well.
So, I hope the reader, as well as police and government officials in the
two countries, will see the portrayal of officialdom in this book as a metaphor
or warning of what can happen if pervasive corruption occurs. In short, this is
entertainment and not a reflection of police or government culture in the Philippines and Thailand.
Many of the people who encouraged me to write the book deserve to have
their privacy preserved so I will only mention their first names. These include
Jack, Rick, Tony and Mahar in the Philippines;
Wolfgang, Christopher and Tom in Thailand; and in Australia Chris,
Arthur and Scot, as well as dear but now absent friends, Doug and Jim.
Most of all I would like to thank Robyn, who as always encouraged me to complete
the book despite knowing in advance that, like so much of my writing, it will
undoubtedly attract a great deal of criticism. I am the fortunate beneficiary of
not only her constructive suggestions but also her love and support.
Paul Wilson -
Underneath the Ash
Angeles, 9 March 2010, 12.15pm
The dust swirled
like a mini-tornado from underneath the wheels of the bus and coated everything
in the cramped cabin. The cracked, peeling windows were open because the air
conditioning in the mini-van had broken down fifteen minutes into our journey.
We turned into Macarthur Avenue
and I saw ash spewing from Mount Pinatubo. It
blanked out the world outside but at the same time shimmered in the strong,
orange midday sun. Inside the bus, my head felt as though it too was coated in
the dust and ash. It was as if it had seeped in, fragmenting my thoughts and
creating jumbled patterns of nightmarish flashbacks.
Forcing myself to escape from these coagulating thoughts, I turned my attention
to the world outside. From the windows of the mini-van, through the dust and
ash, I could just see the torn mesh of the wire fence the Americans built to
protect the huge Clark Air Base from intruders. The largest American air force
base outside the United
was built here, in this environment, which could only be described as a
Clark was the airfield that symbolised US Air Force military history, especially
those glory days following the victory of World War II and before the disastrous
defeat in Vietnam.
Generals Pershing, Eisenhower and Macarthur all spent time behind its fenced
perimeter. The Japanese bombed it the same day as Pearl
Harbour and eventually overran it when
they invaded the Philippines.
The Bataan death march traversed Clark. And,
while the authorities in the Philippines
never granted permission for the B-52s to take off from Clark, they used the
base in their bombing raids on
Vietnam. In a strange irony, hundreds of
Vietnamese children orphaned by that American-inspired war were brought to Clark
fell in 1975. A final ignominy, was that the great dictator, Ferdinand Marcos,
left from Clark for Hawaii when the Philippines
people exiled him.
It was Angeles I was coming to, a place steeped in history with its air base,
now tattered and dirty, stripped of its former glory, grotesquely symbolising
that history. Parched earth and ragged, ripped buildings filled with jagged
holes dotted the previously manicured runways and fields. Mass vandalism, driven
by abject poverty, was one skill the Filipinos possessed in abundance and after
the Americans handed over the base to the Philippine military they honed their
technique to perfection.
I had read that more than 116,000 items of removable property were left at the
base on the day the Americans departed. These items included medical equipment
at the hospital, office and household furniture, appliances, recreational and
industrial machines, aircraft support equipment and a large number of vehicles.
Not long after the handover ceremony, US officials reported that looters were
swarming all over the base. In an orgiastic frenzy of what a cynic might see as
reverse colonialism the pillaging reached its height at the hospital, a
five-storey building ranked as one of the best-equipped in Southeast Asia.
In the aftermath of the looting one news report said that the only clue that
this was ever a hospital were the shattered bottles of medicine and glucose
water scattered on the roof and the smell of ether that permeated the building.
Filipinos were not amused by the rampage. “The rape of
must stand as one of the blackest spots on the already spotty record of this
administration in general,” a local Philippine politician had said. Max Soliven,
a famous Manila newspaper columnist,
half-jokingly proposed that the Philippine flag be replaced with the skull and
crossbones of pirates. “This insanity humiliates us all,” he wrote.
That was then. From what I could see, now in 2010, the present was not much
better. I glimpsed a few greyish-white, newly painted but already brown-stained
structures rising awkwardly among the desolation, the only sign of an economic
miracle the government had promised. But Clark,
now in Filipino and not American hands, had become a new kind of symbol of
Filipino nationalism. Symbolism is never to be ignored in the Philippines. It
reflects the people’s destiny and their history. But symbols can also be a
mirror to one’s own destiny. The past power and grandeur of the base contrasting
with the new but fading buildings of a promised future seemed to me to be a
metaphor for my own journey.
I too was coming from strength to weakness, from the relative wealth and comfort
of Brisbane in Australia to
this place, Angeles in the
Philippines, devoid of both wealth and comfort.
Was this a last resort, a final attempt on my part, to come to grips with the
demons within me? Here I was, a man who had lost almost everything
— money, wife, job, and most of all, self-respect. It had begun
with an investment that had gone sour, continued with a separation and ended
with the loss of my job back in
Australia. A trifecta, as they say in racing
terms, but one unlikely to ever pay a dividend. I still had my health so I
suppose I was better off than some.
Self-obsession, however, tends to follow personal disaster. In any event, I was
low in confidence and even lower in libido. My attempts to start a new
relationship had failed miserably. Bars, internet chat rooms, dating clubs and
all the other methods my few remaining friends suggested I try to meet women
ended in failure.
Middle-aged men I decided,
especially those without a job and money, were singularly unattractive to women
of my age let alone to younger women. At forty I could have got away with it
women, even women in their late twenties and thirties still found you
attractive, even if their motivation was often to mother you, to build you up
and mould you into their ideal image of what an ideal man should be. But at
fifty, women saw no such challenge. And, as I found out to my cost, neither did
most men, especially when it came to considering you for a job. Sure, I had been
short-listed for a couple of positions but each time I had failed. Though it was
never said directly I could tell from the way the interviews had gone that my
age was a big, black mark against me.
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