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The Bangkok Blues

Larry C. Watkins

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher :, Inc.

Published : 2001

Copyright : Larry C. Watkins 2001

ISBN-10 : PB 0-595-18416-2
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-595-18416-3

Publisher's Write-Up

The Bangkok Blues is a taut, face-paced adventure/thriller set in exotic Thailand at the height of the Vietnam War. Robert Patrick Merlyn thought he had it made. Easy duty in a tropical paradise, the love of a beautiful woman and a trim sailboat to explore the myriad offshore islands, then one night, on a golden sand beach, bathed in the silver light of a full moon, it exploded into betrayal, grief and sudden, violent death.

The Bangkok Blues is the first title in the R.P. Merlyn Boating Adventure series of novels. In a future title, The Puerto Vallarta Blues, Bob Merlyn voyages to Mexico in search of a missing sailor, where he becomes entangled in the Mexican underworld, caught between smugglers and crooked cops.

Seriously injured, he is nursed back to health by the alluring Aurora Santiago, and together they escape to sea in an old schooner, one step ahead of a deranged federale. The next title in the series, The Maui Blues, finds Bob and Aurora in Hawaii where they battle white slavers while at the same time trying to secure creative funding for a homeless veterans outreach program in Seattle.

Future titles will take Bob and sundry companions to the Caribbean and beyond.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (290103) Rating (7/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 7/10
This is described as an R.P. Merlyn boating adventure novel; R.P. Merlyn at this point in his life (I understand that there is another story featuring him) is a young American engineer working in Thailand, at the time of the Vietnam War. Merlyn is on his first posting and, having been around boats all his life, he has been assigned to work on this tugboat in a small harbour town.

It would seem that the soldiers in the war were told about the dangers of becoming involved with the local women, and yet the charm of the forbidden is ever yet stronger under those circumstances. It cannot be easy to be that far away from home and surrounded only by the men with whom you work, so it would seem that many of the soldiers had girlfriends among the local population.

The tugboat regularly travels along the coast to Bangkok, and the time spent there is divided up so that everyone gets an amount of free time in the city. Here, Merlyn meets Pen, a young woman who works as an escort in a bar. The bars allow women to use them provided that they have the men buy drinks for them. After returning to their base port the captain of his tug tells the crew that the boat is too crowded and that some of them should seek lodgings in the town.

Merlyn’s friend has a home in the town and his girlfriend is a young lady who he met working as an escort, he says that Merlyn should ask a woman to live with him, and Merlyn decides to ask Pen. She agrees and we see their relationship develop. Pen always describes herself as a businesswoman, and although Merlyn accepts what she does he is not entirely happy about it. Merlyn meets a blond green-eyed man who says that Pen owes him money, and to pay this debt Merlyn agrees to drive a boat for a clandestine smuggling operation run by one of the men on his tugboat.

Merlyn sincerely loves Pen and asks her to return to America with him when he finishes his tour of duty. This mars their relationship, as she is aware that people would not accept her in America and feels unable to accept his proposal. Merlyn is quite upset by this but then considers staying in Thailand and getting a job with an Australian company there, which would allow them to stay together. This all comes to a rather abrupt end when he comes home to find Pen dead, having been stabbed with her own knife.

Merlyn at this point is unsure quite why Pen has been murdered, and sets out to find out who and why she was killed. This leads him back to Bangkok to see friends of Pen’s, who try to help him. He discovers that his relationship with Pen was not all it seemed, and that she did not reciprocate his feelings at first but later came to love him deeply. It was this love which was the cause of her unhappiness toward the end... an unhappiness that baffled Merlyn.

I know that novels at the beginning of series have to set the scenes and introduce the characters, and this is no exception. Merlyn we are told is very young at the beginning of the novel, but he never struck me as being particularly young. Pen always seemed a bit aloof, but that was more likely to be a deliberate ploy developed so that her behaviour later in the book would be explained.

Likewise, although the novel is described as a boating adventure novel, the boats are not the main theme; I was expecting something like one of Bernard Cornwell’s seafaring novels. This is not quite the case, although there is possibly enough sea-lore to satisfy a boating enthusiast. The story is well written and I enjoyed it, although it takes a long time to get going and the main part of the story is the development of the relationship between Merlyn and Pen, which could possibly have been pared down a bit.

It is, I suppose, essential background information, and the clandestine relationships between American service personnel and local women must have happened and had really quite long ranging implications on the culture of the countries. The Vietnam war, whilst ongoing only a short geographical distance from here, is not a major part of the story, merely a vehicle for Merlyn to be placed in the area at this time, providing a backdrop which allows for the smuggling activities into which Merlyn is drawn.

I think that Mr Watkins could develop Merlyn yet further, and if the pace could be a little quicker at the beginning of the story without sacrificing the local colour, then the two of them could do very well.
Chrissi (29th January 2003)

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