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Book starts out in San Francisco. Atmosphere hits you hardest, you can feel the fog rising over the bay, almost choke on the smoke-filled bars, and the conversations are something from a lucid dream of failure and a yearning to reinvent yourself.

Then flash forward to Planet Bangkok, unrelenting sun, and white light that contrasts with the blinding neon lights of the shadow world.

If you don’t believe me how good this book is, then read this passage on One Night in Bangkok, according to Jake. I tried to write a similar passage in  Valium Daze, and I fell a bit short. But we can only aim higher, right? :

“Eddie and Winnebago were swimming in a sea of people: street-hardened touts, school children in blue uniforms, sweating tourists, office workers in suits, saggy-faced drunks, chubby Chinese housewives, and farangs with embarrassed grins and half-naked teenage girls hanging from their arms. It was a loud, smelly, sweaty mess, but here was something about it that cast a spell over Eddie. The sounds, the odors, and the heat all combined to brew up a kind of magic potion, one that left him feeling a little drunk, nearly overwhelmed, and staggering in a swirl of possibilities. In some way he didn’t really understand, it all came together to make him feel strangely innocent and young again. It even, he had to honestly admit, gave him something like half a hard-on. But then everyone got wised up in Bangkok eventually, he figured, even when they were half hard; and he doubted that anyone stayed young there for very long.”

Meet Bar Philip and other Bangkok shadowy figures as Eddie Dare, with the help of Winnebago, an American Indian and owner of a bookstore,   try their damn best to uncover the lost loot from the Vietnam war. Fast paced, this book defined both the Inspector Tay and Jack Shephard series. This book has history, and to think that Eddie Dare has a cameo role in Killing Plato ( or his wife does).

As an interesting fact, Winnebago gets a few guest appearances in Sweet Smelling Water by Vanya Vetto. Looks like he’s got fan fiction.  Last I heard, the American Indian was working in a travel agent in Perth called ‘Mango Travel Agency.’

But if you ask Jake, he’ll tell you  Singapore is a  more likely place where the travel agent might be, lost in time and dust but still a big part of the plot in A Girl in the Window.

 According to the acclaimed writer of Harry’s Rules,  Michael R. Davidson,  he says The Big Mango is ‘still my favorite Jake Needham novel. Ingenious plot and unforgettable characters.’

I pronounce The Big Mango cult status. Not even the Rum Diaries by the great HST comes close. But you knew that already, right?

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