Falling off a Blog, Day 106: Bangkok Noir

January 14th, 2011

So I had never written a short story before.

And I got a letter from Christopher G. Moore, the godfather of the Bangkok thriller, and one of the nicest people on earth.  He wanted to know whether I’d like to contribute to a collection called Bangkok Noir, in the company of some really good writers — just look at the names on that cover.

Noir is the perfect genre for Bangkok, which is (as Maugham said of Monaco) a sunny place for shady people. There are lots of dark spots for cave-dwellers, and God knows the city has attracted more than its share.  If it hadn’t, Chris and I would both be out of story ideas.

So the city is there, the noir characters are there.  The problem was that I’d never written a short story.

I know this must be hard to believe for those of you who read “Spirit House,” my immortal Halloween story, but this is not my natural form.  It takes me 15,000 words to figure out what I’m talking about.  By 30,000, I have most of my characters in place.  I forget what the word limit was for the stories in Bangkok Noir — maybe 3,000 words but it normally takes me that long to get to the first verb.

Anyway, I had a story thread in mind for a Poke novel, about an aging expat, partly lost in dementia, who disappears into the Bangkok of the 1960s, now buried under hotels and office towers. It was going to be a sad-comic sub-plot with Poke leading a posse of duffer sexpats through the traces of the vanished city, and it was going to have a real tear-jerker of an ending, in the sense of happy tears.  I’d tried to use it a bunch of times but other elements kept crowding it out.  When I tried to come up with a story for Chris, that old guy was the first character who popped up.

But the title of this collection is Bangkok Noir, and noir isn’t thick with tearfully happy endings.  So I took the whole thing as a double challenge: first, to work in a form completely unfamiliar to me, and second to write a really dark story with nothing jokey whatsoever in the tone.  And boy, is it dark.

So I wrote it, doubted it, put it away, rewrote it, doubted it some more, and sent it off to Chris, who was very complimentary about it.  But what’s he going to say if he hates it?  Anyway, he accepted it and went to work on his end of things, and five or six months later, it’s coming out (in February) with that extremely cool cover.  Paperback in Thailand, and (I think) paperback, hard cover, and e-book online.

And there will be a big Bangkok launch for it in March, but I won’t be there, unless something unforeseen happens.  I’ll be here, sulking about not being there.

13 Responses to “Falling off a Blog, Day 106: Bangkok Noir”

  1. EverettK Says:

    Re-read this old (Aug 8, 2007) blog entry of yours, Tim:

    Who ARE These People?

    and then tell me, what did Munyin think of Hansum Man. Just curious…

  2. Gary Says:

    Great news, Tim!

    And all publicity has to be good publicity. Hopefully this will increase your visibility and boost your sales.

    Who needs HarperCollins anyway? (I haf ze finger snap in your face. Pah. Like zat!)

  3. Christopher G. Moore Says:


    You’ve written a terrific story for Bangkok Noir. You are one of the most modest authors on the planet. But your fans know how very talented you are. And I am a fan. Your contribution to the collection is both insightful and moving. It is a short that I am proud to be associated with as editor.


  4. Laren Bright Says:

    I’m expecting a winner. (Haven’t been disappointed yet.)

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Everett — I didn’t read it to her. She likes knowing that my stories end well and I told her this one — well, no point in giving the game away.

    Hey, Gary, and welcome back. One hope that all publicity is good publicity, but as someone who was once in publicity, I have my doubts. And the one thing about HarperCollins is money. Large sums of money. You can argue about how well they do this and that, but the check clears every time.

    Hi, Chris — Typically generous reaction from a guy who’s so modest he didn’t even include one of his own stories in the collection. Talk about self-control.

    Hey, Laren, thanks. This one’s a bit, umm, different. But there are all those other writers.

  6. EverettK Says:

    Laren: Other than it being ‘short’, you won’t be disappointed by this one either. But like Tim said, it IS a bit different. ’nuff said.

  7. Sylvia Says:

    I forget what the word limit was for the stories in Bangkok Noir — maybe 3,000 words – but it normally takes me that long to get to the first verb.

    This made me laugh out loud. The anthology looks fascinating and I’ll be sure to pick it up.

  8. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I’m in. I really the “Noir’ collections-they are one way I travel, and I’m sure this will be a good one. After all, your story is in it.

  9. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Ouch-that is,”I really like the “Noir” collections.

  10. Debbi Says:

    This is part of the Akashic Noir series, right? Awesome! I’ve read a few. They’re great.

    Funny. Short stories are hard to write. I’ve done a few, though. I’ve even got a short ebook anthology of them, I managed to cobble together.

    They’re good to tackle now and then. Kind of a way to flex a different set of writing muscles, so to speak. 🙂

  11. Philip Coggan Says:

    Pico Iyer? And Colin Cotterill does noir? This is a book I have to buy. Oh yeah, it’s got Tim Hallinan in it too…

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Sorry to have let these note go unanswered for so long, but I’m drowning under writing one book, proofing another, and reading three novels for blurbing. And life, of course. But I’m grateful to hear from all of you, and would hate for you not to know that.

    Lil and Debbi, this isn’t Akashic but Heaven Lake Press, an Asian firm. But that’s quite a lineup of writers, and I think the stories will be great.

    Hi, Philip — Yes, Iyer, Cotterill, Stephen Leather, Burdett, Stone, Barrett, and Moore, plus some others whose work I haven’t read but whose talent I don’t doubt. Sounds good to me.

  13. Stefan Hammond Says:

    Congratulations Tim…WOW, what a collection of authors! nice cover design too, but…Pico Iyer?! Color me impressed. Not to mention about ten other names. Congrats to you and CGM

    Wrote you on the excellence of “Breathing Water,” but having finished the book, I think you’ve hit your stride in an area few enter. This is ACE fiction: grabs you by the arm and drags you along for the ride. I’m lending my precious copy to my co-worker who’s married to a Thai woman with a couple of teenage kids: they go back to Chumphon (her hometown) every year so the kids get some of their own culture–and he’s up on the political scene so he will appreciate it…assuming he reads it over CNY.

    Great yr having a book-launch in March, but I won’t be there either…no travel plans at present outside southern China, which is pathetically chilly at the moment.


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