John Burdett on Vulture Peak
The inimitable hero of Vulture Peak is Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. He’s not your everyday police detective. In his own words, here’s how he came to be where he is today.
Call me Sonchai, you probably won't be able to pronounce the rest of my name (Jitpleecheep), farang (Westerners) never can. You won't find me in any official histories of the Vietnam War (we just call it The War over here), but it produced me and quite a few thousand like me. They tell me that in those days a drafted man was entitled to about one week's R&R during his tour of one year. Add in flight time from Saigon to Bangkok, and you're left with a window of about five days for Dad (whoever you are, wherever you are) to impregnate a bargirl called Nong and disappear again forever. Mum tells me it was real love, even if she did make Dad pay for it. She's very tough. I imagine when she realised he wasn't going to show up to cop the full bill of child support, she just shrugged and got on with the business of survival, at which she proved to be a kind of genius. She owns her own bar now, where I moonlight; my daytime job is detective in the Royal Thai Police Force, under the world-famous Police Colonel Vikorn. He's the one loaned mum the money to start her bar called The Old Man's Club. Sure, I went through that rebellious streak that illegitimate half-casts are famous for (stole cars and smoked dope during my wild days, before mum took me in hand and made me ordain as a monk for a year in a strict forest monastery in the far north), but I'm very well adjusted now. I live with my wife Chanya, who used to work at The Old Man's Club, and I get my dope from the cops, so I don't need to break the law--ha, ha.
Farang, I am yours in dharma,