Saturday, July 3, 2010

Staying Home Is Not An Option

Brett Battles is a rising star in the thriller world, the author of three novels in the Jonathan Quinn "Cleaner" series: The Cleaner, The Deceived, and Shadow of Betrayal.  Brett's books take the reader everywhere in the world at supersonic speed, although he shares with me (Tim Hallinan) a special love for Asia.  There are lots of good reasons to read Brett -- strong stories, great characters, and pace that leaves streaks on the page.

Hi, my name is Brett Battles, and I’m a non-recovering international thriller writer. It’s a disease I never want to get over. I mean, why would I? I get to blend the two activities I enjoy most (next to spending time with my kids) – writing and traveling!

If I can’t get out of the country (the U.S.) at least once a year, I go crazy. I NEED to set my feet on foreign soil. I NEED to know what it’s like not to be the native. I NEED to remind myself that what I know as common place, is not always common place everywhere, and that the way I know how to do things may be right where I come from, it is not always right where I am. It is humbling and it is enlightening and it is freeing.

And inspiring.

My stories often use the places I’ve been. Saigon. Berlin. Singapore. London. Paris. Brussels. Hong Kong…you get the idea. I use these places because the inspire me. I use these places because when I visit them, I fall in love with them. I don’t think there’s anywhere I’ve ever been that I haven’t found something to like about it.

Often I travel alone, which, given the fact that I’m kind of an introvert might seem like a bad idea. But it works well for me. See, when I go some place I like to just wander and explore, to just observe the people who live there, see what they do, watch how they interact. Sometimes I might just find someplace that won’t care if I sit around all day…an outdoor restaurant, a relaxed bar, a coffee shop – and I watch the world go by.

Yes, I do my fair share of interacting also, but I’d venture to guess a high percentage of the world, if they were to observe my habits, would think I was having a boring time. Well, they’d be wrong. Seriously, and completely wrong.

I remember one day in the summer of 2001 while working on a job that had me in Berlin for four months that I just go on the S-bahn (with the U-bahn, basically the train/subway system that serves the city) and road the route that circumnavigated the entire city. I can’t remember how long this took. I want to say between one and two hours. But it was great. I sat and watch Berlin go by. I observed the other passengers. I probably even read a little while.

I mentioned how traveling inspires me. Well, it was somewhere on one of those trains in Berlin when the character Jonathan Quinn came to me. He’s the lead of my series, and one day he just kind of decided to sit with me as I rode through town.

That’s far from the only time something like that’s happened to me.

Recently I traveled to Thailand. At the time, the Red Shirt protests were basically in the non-violent stage. What’s happened since my return has sadden me, and has me checking the news constantly because I have many friends in the Thai capital, and it is a place I love very much.

I don’t want to get into the troubles there in this post, because I feel inadequately educated to do this complicated issue justice. Instead, I would love to share a bit of what I experienced on that last trip, something that will help explain why I love Thailand so much.

I undertook my latest time to experience the Songkran Festival. Unfamiliar? Basically it is the traditional Thai New Year celebration. Officially it’s supposed to last 3 days. In reality, it lasts at least a week…sometimes more depending on where you are. Though I’m told it was not always this way, now it has turned into what amounts to a week long, country-wide water fight. And I’m not talking small scale water fight, I’m talking prepare to get drenched if you step outside water fight. I can’t even recall how many times I wrung out my shirt as I walked down the street soaked head-to-toe.

I bring this up because I know I’m going to get at least one story out of it, and probably more than that. It was overwhelming, humorous, tiring, frustrating, hilarious, and wet. Did I mention wet? And everywhere my mind saw stories.

I would suggest everyone should attend this festival at least once in their life. You don’t have to hang around for the whole time, but put one day in. You won’t be disappointed. After, I’m sure you will agree with me that no one celebrates their new year quite as well as the Thais.

The world is a place to be experienced, and shared, and enjoyed, and nurtured, and cared for. And we’re the ones who need to be doing that. Thanks, Tim (and all the other great contributors and writers here at Murder is Everywhere). I appreciate the opportunity to ramble for a while.

And for those interested in checking out my books, the third in my Jonathan Quinn series, SHADOW OF BETRAYAL, was just released in paperback here in the States, joining THE CLEANER and THE DECEIVED in that go-anywhere format!

Saturday, July 3


  1. "...the way I know how to do things may be right where I come from, it is not always right where I am. It is humbling and it is enlightening and it is freeing." Thailand must breed philosophers.

    This insight should play a part in people's emotional experiences, too. Sometimes we find ourselves in an emotional foreign land, plunged into a set of circumstances we can't have imagined. It is especially complicated when the foreign territory is that of someone I love. Adult children and their friends, and the way their relationships with those friends evolve, change parents. The older I get, the more I realize that in order to respect the people they have become, I need to accept that gray is a living color.

    My children have evolved a code of morality that is very much rooted in the values with which they were raised and I won't pretend that that isn't comforting in my old age. They are the three most non-judgmental people I have ever met and I have learned so much from them.

    "It is humbling and it is enlightening and it is freeing," to not believe that I always have to be right.

    Watching the world go by is one of my favorite things to do. I don't compare my experience to the world view you have, but when the children were children we went to Disney world frequently. There is a nine year age difference between the oldest and the youngest and Disney gave them something in common. For my part, when they were doing the Tower of Terror, etc., I would read T-shirts. The social history of the United States is written on T-shirts, (My son, who is 24, gets his T-shirts from Goodwill or re-sale shops. They all advertise charitable events that took place before he was born). As a nation, we care about the same things and they are things outside of ourselves.My kids were always concerned that I was bored, that I wasn't having a good time. They had no idea.

    I will be meeting Jonathan Quinn very soon. Thank you, Brett, for this post. Thank you, Tim, for introducing Brett to us. And thank you both for the opportunity to ramble.


  2. Thanks, Beth, for your own very philosophical comment. I, too, am a parent, though my kids are a bit younger than yours (no adults yet). But I do see signs that they are as torentant and non- judgmental as I have hoped they would be.

  3. Brett, I can NOT BELIEVE you went to Thailand for Songkran when I couldn't. I'm telling you straight: do it for Loy Kratong and we're finished.

    Great piece. But I hope you got a face full of talcum.

  4. Enjoyed that Brett. I know the feeling - I get the itch to get away for a bit each year to somewhere new, or returning to someplace. I also don't mind travelling alone at all. I know some people hate hotel rooms, but I secretly kind of like them. In fact I like them so much I'm thinking of getting a trouser press installed in my bedroom at home. Already got a mini-bar...

  5. Tim, I got more than one face full!!!

    And in your bedroom? Sweet! Oh, and disturbing.