Pulp Ink 2
Before I left for Asia in 1998, where I would live for the next decade, I read a lot of Somerset Maugham. He's not much in vogue anymore, stuffy Mr. Maugham, and for good reason; but in his prime he wrote a shit ton of short stories romanticizing early 20th century British colonial life. Tell you the truth, I don't distinctly remember a single one. Debonair white folks in linens and pith hats drinking gin under swaying palms as the devious dark locals plotted and schemed, were recurring set pieces, if memory serves. I doubt those stories were particularly accurate even at the time, but to me, a Nebraska farm boy who'd never been outside the US before I got on that plane, they seemed fraught with exotic wonder.
The real Asia of the present day, of course, has zero in common with those hoary old stories. But reading them at such an impressionable time, they remained with me even as actual Asia made mincemeat of that old racist’s little fables.
Maugham may be a dead letter on this side of the pond, but several publishing houses in Thailand and Singapore continue in his vein, publishing tales of Western good ole boys on the loose in the dirty alleys and empty beaches of erotically exotic Southeast Asia. I've got a couple lying around somewhere; they have titles like Rough Karma and The Burmese Fixer and Bangkok Baby and inevitably, one or more of the characters finds himself, tie ajar, shirtfront stained with sweat, in a go-go bar swigging a Singha and smoking a Krong Thip cigarette.
"Glinty-Eyed Robert" is my attempt at a send-up of the whole genre. I tried to maintain a gentile, Maugham-esque air. It would never do to be uncouth, after all, even in a girly bar. The setting is real enough, I suppose, but the characters - pure caricature. The grizzled foreign correspondent, the stiff Southern wife, the sentimental professor, the cynical cabbie, the lithe and ruthless bar girl (who probably has a heart of gold, though we never get to find out): they're all there.
I strove to gift these stock characters some emotional resonance. Even cardboard cutouts need someone to love them, right? Chris & Nigel gave the thumbs up to the effort, and I couldn’t be happier that this slaphappy little pastiche made into Pulp Ink 2.