May 5th, 2008

Kirkus Reviews — the most feared of the publishing trades — just reviewed The Fourth Watcher, and by their standards, it’s a rave. (Writers always hold their breath about Kirkus, so the sound you may have just heard was me exhaling for the first time in three weeks.)

Here’s what they had to say:

Hallinan, Timothy

THE FOURTH WATCHER: A Novel of Bangkok

Hallinan (A Nail Through the Heart, 2007, etc.) returns with another thriller featuring the Bangkok-based ex-pat with a penchant for landing himself on the business end of a gun.

Poke Rafferty lives in Bangkok—a haven for retired spies and others with questionable pasts. He makes his home with the statuesque Rose and Miaow, a street urchin turned adopted daughter. As Rafferty, a writer, gathers material for his latest book, he comes face-to-face with a strikingly beautiful, oddly familiar woman. That fateful meeting will soon turn Rafferty’s life into a nightmare. He has just successfully proposed marriage to Rose when the happy occasion is violently interrupted. Soon an acquaintance dies and a mysterious, unwelcome man enters Rafferty’s world, bringing with him an emotional conundrum and a bevy of killers. Rafferty wants to ignore the intruder but needs help to save Rose and Miaow, as well as the wife of close friend Arthit, a police official. With Arthit’s help, Rafferty concocts a risky scheme, but the pair’s efforts are complicated by an odd mix of former bar girls turned maids, Chinese criminals, ex-spies and crooked cops. Hallinan offers a taut story line enhanced by an insider’s look at Thai culture.

The book features an unlikely but likable hero and provides readers with an informed glimpse into a world they are not likely to otherwise experience.

So one down, forty or fifty to go. This is the part of being published I hate most — I’ve labored to bring the baby into being, and now I have to send it out into the world and see whether people think it’s ugly. But I’ll very happily thank my lucky stars for Kirkus being so benevolent.

8 Responses to “First ‘FOURTH WATCHER’ Review”

  1. Stefan Says:

    Good skills, Tim. It’s always good to get a shiny wrapped present from the sort who are better known for doling out lumps of coal.

    Your analogy of laboring over a book as though it’s a baby to be brought into the world strikes chords with me. It’s one I’ve used many times: of course it’s not childbirth, but it is the better part of a year, has moments of joy AND pain…and then the little fella gets up on its own two feet and toddles off into the world.

    I was in San Francisco last week and spotted a copy of my first book at a used bookstore on Valencia Street. I asked if there was an author discount, they said no, but one clerk asked: “would you sign it for us?” Well of course! Then again, I’ll sign anything for anybody.

    One thing I really liked about the review, Tim, is this line: “an insider’s look at Thai culture.” To me, that’s a coup. Kirkus may not know squat about Thai culture beyond their local takeout eatery, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that’s a major plus.

    In any case, congrats!


  2. Mitch Says:

    Congratulations Tim. May all future reviews be just as positive.

    I honestly can’t even imagine how good it must feel to not only finish a novel, but get it published and watch as people in the real world actually buy it and read it.

    I’m sure the novelty wears off, but damn…someday…

  3. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    I think that the only thing funnier than a man using childbirth as an analogy for a difficult endeavor, is a childless woman (such as myself) calling them on it!

    Congrats, Tim, on your well-deserved kudos. I never had a doubt that this one would be a winner. You’re baby is officially “lovely.”

  4. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. I especially love the insider view to Thai culture. Although this isn’t my normal fiction fare, I am hooked on the Bangkok series and I feel a real affection for this cast of characters. Congratulations Tim!

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks to all of you. I can’t tell you how agonizing this period is. Every morning when I check my e-mail, my pulse accelerates — is today the day the really terrible review will land? The critic who has seen through all the smoke and mirrors and recognized that I have no talent whatsoever? The review that will result in all the world’s publishers agreeing secretly never to issue another book I write?

    I know that’s over the top, but I think every writer (maybe every artist) secretly feels like he or she manipulates a lesser skill set — glibness, slickness, whatever — to simulate talent.

    Or maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

  6. Greg Says:

    Great news about Kirkus. May they set the tone for those to follow.
    I personally am grateful for your willingness to divulge your creative process with such candor. It’s surprising to hear that even someone with your skillset still has those self doubts.
    On the other hand,I once heard Robin Williams admit that he was never sure his next audience would find him funny.
    I guess it’s all relative so for now I’ll continue to aspire to glib slickness.

  7. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Greg —

    It’s not so much willingness as it is obsessive/compulsive behavior at its zenith. When I’m in a book, it’s pretty much the whole world (doubts and all), so when I sit down to blog, it’s not likely to be about the geopolitical situation, George W. Bushleague, or How About Those Mets?

    This — the book — is sort of where I’m stuck. But I didn’t mean to denigrate glib slickness. It’ll get story down on the page for future revision, when and if my talent decides to come out of its hiding place.

  8. Sphinx Ink Says:

    Congrats, Tim. Very fine words from Kirkus, which is the hardest to please, so any other reviews should be even more positive.

    As for your secret fears–you’re a novelist, you have an imagination, and you create a suspenseful story for everything. Which of us doesn’t? And which of us doesn’t have the same fears? I have close friends who have had more than a dozen novels published, and they have the same fears. I look upon it as superstitious worrying, to ward off bad vibes and evil spirits. I do it, too!

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