‘ON THE NIGHT JOEY RAMONE DIED: TALES OF ROCK AND PUNK FROM BANGKOK, NEW YORK, CAMBODIA AND NORWAY’ BY JIM ALGIE
Originally from Canada, Jim Algie has been living and working in Thailand for 25 years, as a correspondent for publications like Sawasdee and Travel + Leisure, as well as writing books, and documentary film scripts. Recently, he has been working in the communications department of an NGO that combats human and wildlife trafficking.
This isn’t your first book. What else have you written before this book?
I’ve written travel guides like Tuttle Travel Pack Thailand, a non-fiction collection called “Bizarre Thailand: Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic”, which deals with many of the country’s strangest museums, attractions, legends and destinations, from the infamous Fertility Shrine and Forensic Museum and Bang Kwang Central Prison in Bangkok, to the cowboy towns of northeast Thailand, and other off-the-beaten-track places like the Tortoise Village and Cobra Town.
The book which followed that one, “The Phantom Lover and Other Thrilling Tales of Thailand”, utilises a lot of those settings, ghost stories and serial-killer tales in a collection of short horror stories. I’ve also helped write and edit the history book “Americans in Thailand” and timely “Thailand’s Sustainable Development Sourcebook”.
So, what prompted you to write this new book?
The Ramones were my first favourite punk band, and the first songs I learned how to play on bass and guitar were by them. When Lek, the falling rock ‘n’ punk star who is the bad boy protagonist of the two interconnected novellas reflects on his past, growing up on an American military base during the Vietnam War, he remembers the older GIs telling him that they always remembered where they were when John F Kennedy was assassinated and how it was the end of an era. For punk rockers of his and my generation, the night Joey Ramone died marked a similar turning point. So it was written as a tribute to the good old days long gone and as a requiem for Joey Ramone.
What can we expect inside the book?
When we first meet Lek on the night that his favourite singer passed away, his music career is in freefall, he’s producing boy bands, and dealing with his mid-life crisis through a poisonous divorce, estrangement from his teenage musician son and coming off a stint in rehab. But he’s not defeated. He’s still trying to revive his music career and stage a comeback. These two novellas are a combination of family dramas, black comedy, love and loss stories, and an insider’s look at the music business. They’re different than most of the expat books about private detectives and bar girls, or spicy food and glittering temples.
Which particular moments in the book are most memorable for you?
In the new paperback edition of the book, I added a 130-page nonfiction bonus section called “Rock Writings and Musical Memoirs” about my 10-year career as an indie rock musician touring the world. But when I first came to Bangkok and started working as a music writer and reviewer for The Nation I had the opportunity to interview Radiohead in the back of a tuk-tuk after their first show here. I met the godfather of gangsta rap, Ice-T, and write about his performance in Q Bar, and also another story about my favourite bytes of Bangkok music history, from shows by Guns N’ Roses to Michael Jackson and Bjork, to songs about Thailand written by the Pogues, Alex Chilton and Rush. I suppose the most meaningful story for me in the new nonfiction section deals with the premature demise of my oldest Thai friend, Wasit “Ooh” Mukdavijitr, the lead singer of Daytripper, one of the country’s most influential indie bands.
This was the first time I’ve self-published a book through my venture, Magic Bullet Press, and believe me; the learning curve was like mountaineering. These days writers have to wear so many hats, doing marketing and social media, producing blogs and podcasts, posting on Instagram. It’s a very tough slog.
But one of the most rewarding parts of doing the first ebook was receiving an email from one of my favourite writers, Timothy Hallinan, who has written a whole thriller series set in Bangkok and starring an expat travel writer and part-time sleuth named Poke Rafferty. Tim reviewed the book for Amazon and generously offered to write the front cover blurb for the first paperback edition: “The funniest sad book and the saddest funny book I’ve read in a long time.”
I’m working on a first-of-its-kind thriller/mystery series set in Thailand and other parts of Asia. Later this year I will finish the first book and start sending it out to agents in New York. Now that I’ve gotten book reviews in newspapers and magazines all over Asia and America, and received front cover blurbs from John Burdett (author of Bangkok 8) and Tim Hallinan, I hope that will help to cut through the glut of competition.
“On the Night Joey Ramone Died: Tales of Rock and Punk from Bangkok, New York, Cambodia and Norway” is available from Amazon as an ebook for US$2.99 and a paperback for US$12.99.