Panorama: The Missing Chapter is a heartfelt memoir of your journey working and living in South Korea. What inspired you to share your experiences in a book?
In 2019, I wrote and published my first book, Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son. The residual effect of publishing the book made me feel at peace with myself and the relationship I had with my father. Readers have also told me that Views from the Cockpit inspired them to take a different approach with their father or become more interested in forgiveness.
As I wrote my first book, I began to comb through my background of relationships. The story of Panorama bubbled up, and the time I spent living abroad in Seoul. I felt that if I shared it, someone could relate and benefit. Perhaps they could relate to escaping from problems, having secret relationships, or figuring out where they belong in the world. Not only was it interesting to reflect on these moments from my life, but in the real-world, a lot of stories surrounding bisexuality are not featured or appropriately categorized.
I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to share in the book?
The hardest thing to share would be my social-political opinions about identity politics in America and how they’ve made me feel. Everyone can criticize anyone for anything, so I knew that I was opening myself up. When it comes to relationships and how people exist outside of heteronormativity – sometimes people just can’t understand anything else outside of that. Panorama not only exists outside of mainstream heteronormativity but also mainstream LGBT culture, which typically spotlights gay male voices. I was terrified to share a story from a minority group and criticize larger socio-political structures and members of those groups.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your story?
There are a few things – Bi people are real – we exist and not only in a suggestive, explicit connotation. Bi people are a whole demographic of people, mostly invisible, in mainstream media and day-to-day social discourse.
Additionally, I hope people take away the importance of building bridges between communities. At the end of the book, I write about thought islands. We all want to feel safe and protected where we are. We all want to be seen and heard, and have our views get the most clicks and attention.
My goal is to build bridges, lift others, and make sure there are seats at the table for others who share in building. I also hope that people realize that the way people live, think, and behave does not put each of our identities and beliefs at risk. Somehow, if we can all get to a point to coexist, be slow to judge, we will have achieved something. I know that this is very optimistic, but I think bisexuality, in and of itself, focuses on people (men and women) and the things that make them unique.
You have another book, Views from the Cockpit. What can readers expect in that book?
Views from the Cockpit is a book born from pain. Father-son memories of plane watching at LAX quickly morph into familial dysfunction that ranges from divorce, resentment, to elder abuse. Views from the Cockpit uses airplane metaphors to tell a boy’s coming of age story into a man by reflecting on the living memory of my father – Claude B. Victory. Panorama is “the missing chapter” of Views from the Cockpit. However, both books can be read separately.
Everywhere But Home: Life Overseas as told by travel blogger Phil Rosen is a collection of various essay-style travelogues about the author’s life living abroad. Rosen graduated college in 2018 and immediately thought he would go onto to become a graduate student, but had a swift change of heart. We follow him through his time teaching English to kids in Hong Kong, and his travels through other surrounding countries. Throughout the book, Rosen asks himself and his readers many of life’s unanswered questions on being human and finding life’s meaning.
Phil Rosen’s descriptive prose has a way of taking you around the world with him and tingling the senses while doing it. His ability to describe his surroundings makes you feel as if you were right there with him. You feel what he feels. You see what he sees. His creative writing skills provide an extra layer of character to this travel memoir of Asia.
Rosen’s realistic approach to his experiences is what sets this travel memoir apart from any other on the market. He is honest about what is occurring around him, sharing his thoughts on the good and the bad. You can see this depicted when he discusses his thoughts on the strenuous Hong Kong education system. His accounts strip back the pretty Instagram filter that many travel bloggers use to manipulate reality.
One of my favorite aspects of the book was the way Rosen proposed life questions. Sometimes when authors attempt to offer wisdom of any kind, they can come off as condemning. Almost as if the author is saying, “How did you not already know this?”. Rosen takes the same questions we all ask ourselves and walks through them with us, offering what he’s learned from his travels.
Rosen’s discussion of what a country’s culture truly is, I can only describe as eye-opening. There is a difference between tourist towns and attraction and cultural practices. He breaks this down in a beautifully understated way and reminds us of the simple pleasures in life.
This review would not be complete without mention the short story included in the book, The Man From India. To keep this short and spoiler-free, Phil Rosen’s fiction writing is as terrific as his non-fiction, and a huge part of what makes this a must read.
Pages: 189 | ASIN: B08DF3PVJB
Montagnard follows an ex-Navy Seal into the seedy underbelly of Ho Chi Minh City to rescue his mother. What was the inspiration for the setup of this exciting novel?
From my standpoint, going back to find her lost Montagnard brother is simply something that a strong woman like Mai Cordell would feel she had to do. First, she would feel she owed her adopted brother a considerable debt. And second, after losing her husband to cancer, she would be looking to regain a purpose in her life. Anytime you have an internal struggle in a country such as the war in Vietnam, there are bound to be unsettled scores and hatreds. Look at our own Civil War in the US. If her Montagnard brother were the fierce warrior and ally to the American Special Forces serving in Vietnam described in the first book in the series, an old feud such as the one in this story would likely exist. Then, what kind of Navy SEAL, retired or not, would not attempt to rescue his mother in such a situation, where diplomatic channels would be all but useless.
JD Cordell is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Okay, so I have to admit that JD is a composite character made up of some of the character traits I have that I am proud of, and some of the character traits I admire in others and wish I possessed. While not a Navy SEAL, I am a combat arms US Army veteran and served with the 101st Air Assault Division. I have 35 plus years of martial arts training and graduated from the top private bodyguard school in the US. I have good friends who were Vietnam Veterans, and I have met a few former Navy SEALs. This background gave me a broad framework from which to develop the character of JD Cordell. I mostly pulled the best from all of these resources to mold the kind of man I wanted my main character to be.
The book takes place in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City. Why did you pick this location for the setting of your novel?
Well, much of the story takes place in the area north and west of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), and I need a location that readers could identify with and visualize. It had to be a city with a thriving travel and tourism industry, and it had to be modern enough to have a seedy underbelly; bars, night clubs, brothels, and corrupt officials. It also had to be a large enough city that people from the persecuted Montagnard tribes could go there to hide and eke out a living. Ho Chi Minh City was the obvious choice.
This book is the second in your JD Cordell Action Series. What can readers expect in book three?
In the third installment, we will see more of Hana Hahn, who played a massive role in helping JD rescue his mother. Hana’s character is the redemption thread through the Montagnard story, and by the end of the tale, she has a new purpose in life. That purpose is going to run afoul of a human trafficking ring operating between South East Asia and the US, probably via the Philippines. JD Cordell, with a few other returning characters (and perhaps one new one), is going to have to step in to rescue some of their victims. These will be young women that Hana Hahn is working with. Pallie and Vivas will both return, and we might see a little more of Rick Hahn, Hana’s father. Of course, there will be the requisite “relentless” action, martial arts, and perhaps just a touch of romance. Again, it is really about having a sense of honor and loyalty and doing the right thing even when nobody is looking.
Odysseus: On the River of Time is an epic piece of literature that not only shows the importance of literature but also enables the reader to appreciate the art of story-telling. This book expands on Odysseus’s adventures, told in engaging poetic verse that is much like the Homeric epics this story builds from. Carl Hare’s style of narration encourages one to read more. Every line is great and the verses supremely crafted. In between the lines are rich texts and literary stylistic features that make the poem even more fascinating. Reading the book was an amazing experience. The author’s expressive nature and the excellence shown in writing are some of the things that make Carl Hare an outstanding author.
Odysseus: On the River of Time is the perfect book for you if you enjoyed Homer’s Odyssey. The author does not strain with words as everything flows naturally. In this book, Carl Hare writes about Odysseus’ last voyage to propitiate the god Poseidon. Odysseus’ journey is not to come without a challenge. It is evident that no matter what, he has to appease the god. He goes through several cities having a wooden oar with him. His journey comes with instructions. He is to travel to a land with no salt to offer the sacrifice. I enjoyed following Odysseus through his journey, going through exotic locations, meeting captivating characters, and absorbing conflicts.
One of the many great things about this book is how the author plays with his words. Reading Odysseus: On the River of Time will increase your urge to read more epic poems because of how incredible the author is. Every Canto has a unique touch. The best thing of all is the presentation of characters. I appreciate how superior characters like Apollo were presented and how Helen fit into this unique narrative. A good story has the reader pause and reflect. This is the exact feeling I had after reading every few cantos in the book.
Pages: 550 | ASIN: B0852R27DK
A Literary Smorgasbord is a collection of your literary works which reflect on many aspects of your life. What was the inspiration that made you want to publish your work?
The ‘inspiration’ for this book was merely a telephone call ‘out of the blue’ by a chap from Xlibris. He offered to publish any manuscript of mine at a relatively small cost. Although I did not have a completed MS like a novel, I knew I had enough short stories and poems, which I had entered into various competitions, but without much success, that would make up enough pages for a book. I also had autobiographical sketches which could be included as memoir.
I was pleasantly surprised when I sent these to get a very positive response. My work was very readable, and needed no editing. I then had to decide on the cover page, and my wife helped with a photograph of the front of our house. That was acceptable too.
However, the minus side of all this was the increasing cost at various stages of the publishing process. I was not consulted about the pricing of the book either. In the end, I had parted with a small fortune, but the end product was very professional. I hope now, with good reviews like the one from you, the book would become a ‘best seller’. In e-book form as well.
I enjoyed the poetry in this book. When do you write most of your poems?
I did not attempt writing poems seriously until after my move to southern Spain on retirement. Sitting on the terrace of my sun-drenched abode, I read quite a few books including poetry. If I remember right, all the poems in this book and others self-published as ‘One Year in Spain’ (2011) and ‘Solace in Verse’ (2013) were written between 2007 and 2014. Most of these poems were published in the local freebie weekly newspaper then under the title, ‘The Coast Rider’. Now ‘Costa Blanca People’.
Your short stories were entertaining and interesting. What was your favorite story from the collection?
‘The Reunion’ is my favorite story. It is based mostly on fact. The protagonist, ‘Colvin’ died of Covid – 19 in Luton last month aged just 76, eight years my junior. Couldn’t attend the funeral, but watched online.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I hope to write a dystopian futuristic novel on the lines of George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
There was no question that this author looked up to the United Kingdom as his mother country, where he emigrated to, at the age of 26. Although Ceylon, his actual birthplace gained independence from the British Empire when he was just 12 years old (1948).
At secondary school he regularly won the class prize for English and contributed stories and essays not only to the college magazine, but also to the children’s pages of local daily newspapers.
Under the title ‘Rudderless Living’ the author paints a succinct autobiographical picture of the main events of his nomadic life. ‘Overland’ describes not only a trio’s trip by car to Mumbai, India, starting from Cambridge, UK, but also refers to important background events in the author’s life. Over the years he had been writing short stories merely as a hobby, and the reader can expect a wide variety of real life events, as well as futuristic fables, in this collection. His poems were mostly written after he retired to Spain, and reflects his daily life there. A few of his poems won recognition as ‘Honorable Mentions’ at various competitions.
‘A Literary Smorgasbord’ is the product of his literary heritage exhibiting an undoubted mastery of the English language. Although he did not succeed in attending the then one and only University of Ceylon, he later gained academic qualifications from the University of London, and worked as an occupational psychologist until retirement age.
As assessed by British Mensa he has an IQ falling within the top 3% of the population. There is no question that this is reflected in the essays, stories and poems so uniquely presented in this volume, ‘A Literary Smorgasbord’. A worthy read.
The Fortieth Thief follows young Henry as he sets out to become a thief and learns a lot about life along the way. How did you uncover this fascinating story?
Well, like my other stories it just sprang up from my unconscious, or somewhere. So your ‘uncover’ is exactly right.
I now also see that, again like my other stories, it actually fits with my preconceptions and personality. I always like to think about the life of the underdogs – in a way the thieves were that, else why would they have been forced into that life? Like many people, alas, they probably had few if any choices open to them.
As an anthropologist too, I like to explore the lives of those (like taxi drivers, my next nonfiction project) that are not much noticed, possibly looked down on, and at any rate about whom we mostly know little. Since we can’t in practice do it for everyone in any particular category, we often focus down on a specific case or cases. Just like in this story.
So it happened that I started to wonder what those legendary thieves were like. We don’t know – where did they come from, what backgrounds, how recruited? were they all the same?
I went to sleep with those questions in my mind – and when I woke the story was just there. I can’t help feeling that in some other age or universe it did indeed happen just like this.
How did you set about bringing this story to life for modern readers?
I have to confess that at first I partly misremembered the story and thought that Ali Baba had been with the thieves all along. So I had to the change the start a little so as to explain that. I was happy to do so as it’s a familiar thing that power can go to your head – part of the moral (it happened to the thief leader too, can happen to us all).
All right the setting is in the long long ago – but what can be more contemporary than the bullying of powerless little Henry by the mighty gang or, all around us, the corruption of power?
I think the story was a morality tale, but also one of the natural world. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your story?
You’re quite right.
Well I suppose two, no three, main things.
First, at the start the idea that ‘power corrupts’. Yes, all around us.
Second, it takes me back to my core (not exclusive) discipline of anthropology, one that is now taking fiction seriously. Maybe it’s a case of the old saying that ‘fiction can be truer than truth’ – at least in a metaphorical or transferred kind of way.
From the story we can see, symbolically, that it is good to think with compassion and (same thing isn’t it?) understanding of those who, in a different way from ourselves seem to have gone wrong, even the biggily-yelling Thief Leader, let alone little loving Henry. And not just ‘thieves’ either.
And yes, nature. We are left with Henry’s gesture at the end of not keeping the jewels to himself or even his adored little sister but giving them (back?) to the sweetly flowing river, where (just to prove it’s true) we can see the signs of them still, glinting in the sun on the rocks. Like Henry, we need to recognise that the world’s riches are not for ourselves or for hiding uselessly away or for squandering but for returning to the earth from whence they came. Then heaven will look down, or the moon, or whatever, and keep our planet green and living and lovely. Quite a ‘green’, maybe even religious, message in fact, one with which, once a little barefoot Irish girl wandering with wonder through the trees, I wholeheartedly agree.
A Literary Smorgasbord: Memoir, Fiction, and Poetry, by Migel Jayasinghe, is a unique collection of largely autobiographical shorts juxtaposed with fictional short stories, poetry, and a drama. Jayasinghe, well-traveled and a virtual genius in his own right, provides readers with a smattering of brief excerpts from his own life while also offering a nice selection of stories of varying genres. To read Jayasinghe’s work is to take a peek inside his mind.
Jayasinghe’s autobiographical excerpts, presented throughout the book in no certain order, allow readers to venture alongside him through trips abroad, on a special visit to see one of his former teachers, to meeting and marrying his wife. We, as readers, are not often afforded the opportunity to truly get to know the author as we pore over his/her work. Jayasinghe is changing all of that for us. Interspersed throughout this short read, we get to visit with him and his family before being dropped quickly back into one of his short stories and glimpsing his imagination at work.
I am not an avid fan of poetry, but there is something different and captivating about Jayasinghe’s poems. Having the generally more serious tone of the fiction short stories, some of the poems included in Jayasinghe’s book do venture a bit away from the somber side. Not one to chuckle aloud when reading, I have to admit that Jayasinghe’s “Halloween Day” gave me cause to laugh out loud. Each poem brings something new to the table and shines a light on a different aspect of the author’s life in Spain.
Readers will easily relate to the play, “Market Forces: A One Act Play.” Timeshares are a thorn in the side for far too many people. Following along as the main characters are subjected to a wordy presentation while they want nothing more than to claim their promised prize, readers will shake their heads knowingly, groan along with them, and cringe at the pressure they experience. The drama is an overall fun read and different from any of the author’s other writing.
I enjoyed guessing where each of the author’s shorts would take me. Jayasinghe, without a doubt, is comfortable with all genres and hands readers a wonderful mixture of texts. Readers will appreciate the personal peek into the author’s life as they absorb the uniqueness of his writing.
Pages: 156 | ASIN: B07QY7L1TJ
Humphrey Hawksley’s journalistic career, when paired with his fiction-writing expertise, make for excellent non-fiction writing. Asian Waters is a really comprehensive and digestible read, despite its extremely weighty content. Hawksley’s tone and choice of language remains simple yet informative throughout, despite becoming increasingly complex in terms of content matter. Hawksley also manages to maintain a sense of pace and excitement with his writing, as if it were a novel rather than a non-fiction guide, especially when delving into and combing through actual history, geography and social science.
Though there is a hefty scope to cover when it comes to the Asia-Pacific conflict, the South China Sea, Chinese expansion and the territory dispute associated, Asian Waters covers everything you would want to know about the topic without it feeling as if you are being overloaded with information.
You may be tempted to read it as an almanac for the specialist topic it covers, or perhaps as an academic accompaniment, but it also doubles up as a travel book and is arguably best consumed in this way. Asian Waters was fascinating in itself, just for my own interest’s sake, so I imagine that it would be particularly enlightening to consume whilst travelling the very area it covers.
The focus on political tension between the countries of the Asia-Pacific is unpacked with great skill and tastefulness, but without wavering on the hardy facts. This is where Hawksley’s experience as a BBC foreign correspondent is most prominent – his understanding of the dynamics at play remains at the forefront of his writing.
Asian Waters is not simply a retelling of the history and politics which have been at play for years, or solely the facts and information which led to the current situation. There is also vital contextualisation that allows the reader to understand where these issues sit at the time of reading, understanding how a Trumpian government impacts the conflicts, or how the relationship between Moscow and Beijing influence the rest of the world.
Asian Waters connects all the branches of knowledge and intellect to give a clear retelling of the reality, including social influence, historical action which has taken place, and the geographical layout that facilitates as much. As well as clarifying the past and contextualising the present, it focuses on the future. The book predicts how the implications of what has happened and is happening will affect what is to come for Asia.
Pages: 304 | ASIN: B07MXDFQK1
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