A good friend of mine is fixin’, as we say in Texas, to embark on a grand tour of Asia. One stop on the trip is Bangkok, Thailand, a place as mysterious and unknowable as the muddy klongs or canals that snake and sinuate through this steamy, pulsating city.
I haven’t been to Bangkok since the mid-eighties, but I still love the sibilant sounds of words like Surawong, samlor, and Siam.
I need to remember to ask my friend to look up a couple of places for me.
One place is the Oriental Hotel, located on the Chao Phraya, the “River of Kings,” an evocative body of water with a vast network of river taxis, of floating markets of produce and flowers and, yes, of floating bodies of dead animals. The city and its river offer many contradictions, to be sure. While its banks are lined with ornate Buddhist temples or Wats that offer peaceful repose to all who enter, its people are drinking and bathing and disposing of their wastes in this water source that serves as the lifeblood of the Thai people.
But the Oriental is a magnificent hotel where many a famous author has stayed, giving name to its original lobby known appropriately as the Authors’ Lounge, its ambience of white wicker beneath potted bamboo and palm recalling more glamorous and literary ages gone by.
Sometime in the eighties, I spent three days and nights in that hotel by myself. Back in those days, I tended to visualize mysteries in almost every place or situation in which I found myself—a good way to see the world for a novelist but not so great a way for a housewife and mother. It was a curse and a boon. I managed to write and publish a bunch of books because of that curse and, thus, also the boon. But one always pays the price in lost opportunities as a parent or a spouse. I hope my children forgive me if I devoted too much time to my craft and my career, and I hope they understand that I, too, was seeking to find my way in this world of ours.
And so, this mysterious city of Bangkok, with its unique sights and scents and sounds, along with the steam that rose from its muddy river, stirred inside my somewhat overactive imagination, and I spent many hours in the Authors’ Lounge, sipping Darjeeling tea while I plotted out the last romantic suspense novel I wrote and published.
There used to be a bar on Pat Pong Road, in the seamier side of Bangkok, called Lucy’s Tiger Den. Owned and run by legendary iron-worker, drinker, and hell-raiser Tiger Rydberg since 1971 and frequented by Vietnam vets, oil patch expats, and assorted soldiers of fortune, it was a raucous place, to be sure. And Tiger Rydberg was as colorful a proprietor as one could come by.
I doubt if the bar is still there, but perhaps my friend will run across someone who might know.
The suspense novel I wrote there was titled, The Tiger’s Den. Bangkok and that bar provided the book’s stage and milieu.
Last year, my husband and I met some friends at the estate sale of famed oil-well-fire-fighter Red Adair. The sale was held at his ranch, and you could buy anything from his firefighting suits to his bedroom suite to one of his many tractors. Our friends bid on and won quite a few snazzy items. Of course, they’ve been building a huge party house on their property, and they planned to decorate with genuine Red Adair collectibles. We’re attending the grand opening of “The Party House” this coming weekend, so I’ll get to see how they’ve incorporated all of Red’s accoutrements and furnishings into the decor.
There was only one item at the Adair sale that I really wanted. But, before I could bid on it, Red’s daughter decided she wasn’t getting enough money for Daddy’s Doodads, so she pulled the plug on the whole estate sale.
The item that I wanted was a book. Tiger of Bangkok, the autobiography of A. J. “Tiger” Rydberg. There was a personal notation on the title page from Tiger to Red Adair.
I wanted that book. Coveted it is a more accurate verb for what I felt. I’ve found one or two other copies online for about $160—A bit out of my price range, to be sure. And, of course, neither of the books I found included an inscription from Tiger Rydberg to Red Adair. That one was special, and I hope whoever ends up with it will appreciate just how special it is.
Writing novels can take one to interesting places—sometimes physical locales and sometimes places in the mind.
My agent got all my copyrights reverted to me, so I’ve decided to republish a few of my old titles as eBooks. There’s a bit of work involved in this process—what with changing the HTML coding to fit the various eReaders, and all that. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know what HTML coding was. But, I assume my re-education will simply be a new adventure on the journey.
The first book I will republish as an eBook will be The Tiger’s Den. And as I reformat the manuscript, I’ll think of that Once Upon A Time. . .those three days along the Chao Phraya River, drinking tea in the legendary Authors’ Lounge. . .