I remember when this book came out 18 years ago. I was too broke to buy it. And another expat was too cheap to loan it to me. The cover looked just cool, no pretense about it.
There have been a slew of books on Asia… but none of them struck a cord like The Big Mango. For some reason, a crappy written book called The Beach became a bestseller and a motion picture.
The literary landscape in Thailand has been traditionally dominated by a few good men. The first was Jack Reynolds, A Woman of Bangkok, then there was Jake Needham. I’m being kind not to name the other authors who are big fish in their little pond but are unknown outside Thailand.
Everyone and their dog is a writer in Bangkok. There’s been some hideous books, and even more hideous covers.
Not with the The Big Mango. It is as fresh as the day that it was published. On second read, it’s really a devil of a book. Jake is having a lot of fun with his characters. He can poke fun at anything if it’s going to keep the reader amused. His ribald descriptions of places are saturated with real life experience. If Jake’s describing a bar, you can be damn sure he’s drank at it.
The Big Mango is also an encyclopedia of the inner workings of Bangkok. From the preferred gun of hit men, their rates, and when they aren’t available to bump off foreigners ( during elections), Needham knows what he’s talking about.
The book has a lasting quality and staying power to it. Jake’s script writing experience makes the book even more frugal, and lighter (think lean) , and hence it’s easy to bolt in places you wouldn’t expect.
One of the main characters based in Bangkok appears to be a spoof of Bernard Trink, but he’s a far cooler character. Characters, in their truest sense, will creep out of the pages of The Big Mango.
Also keep an eye on Eddie Dare and Winnebago as they track down their army buddy who is the missing link to the loot that disappeared after the fall of Saigon. They joined the party long before The Hangover’s movies made Bangkok popular.