Tag Archives: Short Story Collection

Great stories and imagery … enhanced with reality. Down and Out in the Big Mango. @Deepcaster

Down and Out in the Big Mango

What the heck is the Big Mango? When I agreed to read Down and Out in the Big Mango by Tony McManus, that was the question I was asking myself. That’s what I get for not reading the complete title. I mean, that’s a great title, right? Who can blame me for not seeing the “and Other Thai Stories” part?

Once opening the cover and beginning the adventure I immediately knew the Big Mango had to do with Thailand, and specifically Bangkok, the capital city, the sister city of Washington, D.C., Liverpool, and Brisbane to name a few.

This wasn’t intended to be my book to review on the team but I’m Ko Chang Island Thailandglad I ended up here. As a collection of short stories, it was an easy read. I like shorts because I don’t have to commit a great deal of time at one go because I know I can read one entire entry from beginning to end without losing my spot or having to remember what happened before.

I didn’t know what to expect from tales of Thailand. Many people instantly think of Bangkok and the stereotype things about certain districts there. My mind didn’t drift to those places. I always think of a song from the 1980s about Bangkok and a game of chess.

The review!

McManus gives stories that from the beginning start out as black and white stories. People have clear thoughts of issues and beliefs. It’s like a coloring book where lines dictate where to use the crayons. Bangkok, ThailandMcManus puts his characters into the picture and then blurs those lines with reality.

What would you do if you faced capturing a white-collar criminal, an embezzler of money from the super-rich, the millionaires? I know what my answer was, is, or whatever. I’m still having a difficult time with it. McManus shows the layers of our beliefs and rules and then throws in reality, situations that test how either correct or perhaps needed those beliefs, and rules are.

Down and Out in the Big Mango and Other Thai Stories is a sleeper hit in my opinion. You get the imagery of a beautiful country, an inside look at the people and some of the interesting character that makes it a unique place on earth. I would love to visit a place like this, perhaps even live there.

Recommendation

I think most anyone would enjoy this that likes a bit of intelligent humor, some intrigue at times, relationships, beautiful imagery, and life questions. An enjoyable series of short reads. A great introduction to Tony’s other books you can find on his Author Page at Amazon by clicking HERE for the US or HERE for the UK.

RATING

Character Believability: 5
Flow and Pace: 5
Reader Engagement: 4.5
Reader Enrichment: 5
Reader Enjoyment: 4.5
Overall Rate: 4.8

Author: Tony McManus
Title: Down and Out in the Big Mango, and Other Thai Stories
File Size: 454 KBDown and Out in the Big Mango by Tonay McManus
Print Length: 149 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Ridge-Way Publications; 1 edition (January 14, 2014)
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, LLC.
Language: English
ASIN: B00HVE1YHG
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
Format: Kindle-US   Kindle-UK
Price:  4.99 (US)   £3.20 (UK)
Lending: Enabled

About the Author

Born in Manchester, I left England many years ago to get about and see the world. It was the best move I ever made. After lots of traveling and adventure in Africa, where I worked in many jobs to serve my passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, construction worker in the Transvaal goldmines and the Tony McManuscopper mines of Zambia.
Eventually, I moved to Canada where I still live part of the time. I made my home in Quebec, living in Montreal for many years before moving north into the Laurentian Mountains where I built a log home in the town of Ste. Adele.
I’m now living in Chiang Mai, Thailand and like it a lot. In the winter of 2012, I published my first novel on Amazon: The Iran Deception. Last November I published Down And Out In The Big Mango a collection of Thai short stories. I am presently working on a second novel: A Bangkok Interlude.

Goodreads    Author Site


About the Reviewer

Ronovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in Valentine’s Day of 2016. He shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer through his blog RonovanWrites.WordPress.com. His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge, a  Weekly Fiction Prompt Challenge, and the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as LitWorldInterviews.com.

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@RonovanWrites

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Q&A with Author Phil Harvey of Show Time.

Show Time Phil Harvey

 

Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His dark fiction and controversial ideas have broadened debate on violent entertainment, relationships and sexuality. At the core of his fiction stand the motives, methods and goals of the characters. Here he talks about his latest novel Show Time and the release of three new collections: Wisdom of Fools: Stories of Extraordinary Lives, Devotional: Erotic Stories for the Sensual Mind, and Across the Water: Tales of the Human Heart.

Q: Your three new books are collections of short stories in which characters touch something important in themselves or in others.

PH: The centerpiece of my fiction is always the individual. I like to put characters in demanding physical/psychological settings that force them to respond. Frankly this saves work and imagination because some responses are fore-ordained. Other ideas come from experience. Fly fishing. Sex. Upbringing. And so on. Some ideas even spring from other books. Really, the stories run the gambit. A few end in death, one in time travel, a few in redemption.

Show Time engages with seven people and their idiosyncrasies, lust, belligerence, and desire to survive. How they are attracted to each other, how they fight with each other, how they sometimes undermine and then strengthen each other. They boil, they confer, they fight, they make love—but overall, they must survive.

For all my characters, life goes on but is changed.

Q: Tell us about Show Time. The novel challenges seven reality show contestants with the possibility of starvation or freezing to death.

PH: My book explores the use of violence and death as entertainment. We already have real-world examples like the potential fatal violence that helps fuel the popularity of car racing. We like violence. It fascinates us. That’s why it leads the news every night. My idea is that policymakers someday will, perhaps without knowing it, encourage certain kinds of violence to keep people satisfied. Presidents like wars—even though they won’t admit it. Wars unify us. We always support the troops. So deliberate steps to encourage controlled violence are not so farfetched.

Q: Your fiction is occasionally threaded with darker impulses. Why delve into the shadow side?

PH: A wise writing instructor once said, “People don’t read nice. It puts them to sleep.”

I write dark-side fiction because that’s the only kind people read. I am not especially interested in venality, violence (which I really do not like), human weakness, etc. but these are essential elements of fiction. Of course we’re all fallible, and some of my fiction reflects this theme.

In Show Time, the producer arranges for a murder to happen on the show because her entire focus in life is on her ratings. Nothing else matters. We humans can get blinkered that way and occasionally take desperate measures to keep things on track. That’s true reality. But overall, I write in this vein because it is artistically satisfying and readers demand it.

Q: In Beena’s Story an Indian woman is disfigured by acid, in Virgin Birth a surrogate mother is attacked, and Show Time explores personal and social violence. How do you address violence without becoming graphic?Across the Water Phil Harvey

PH: Writing that is too graphic turns people off. Different readers (and writers) have different limits; mine are probably about average. Some would say I’m too cautious but bodies run through and guts spilling out simply seem unnecessary and distracting. It comes down to a matter of style. A very clear case is the “cozy.” There’s always a murder but never a body.

Q: These three new books include one that has a more erotic tone yet you don’t shy from sexual activity in stories that aren’t specifically erotic. Is there a line here, too?

Devotional Phil HarveyPH: As to sex, I think I provided the appropriate amount of detail in Show Time and, very differently, in Vishnu Schist, Swimming Hole, and Devotional. Sex scenes can be sexy, even graphic as in Devotional, but clichés must be avoided like the plague. In Charlie Stuart’s Car got a little close to that, I think. I’ll let readers decide.

Q: How do you align your dark fiction with your Huffington Post article about the world getting better?

PH: The reality is that dark impulses, especially violence, will always be there. The world is getting better in part because we are learning to curb our natural violent instincts. We sublimate by watching violent sports. Boxing. Football. NASCAR. We punish. Murderers and rapists are jailed. And so on.

Backing this up must be the rule of law. People are capable of unspeakable horrors. And that includes nice, civilized people. See the enforcers of the Holocaust. See Uganda. See North Korea. The fact that the government has a monopoly on legal violence (wars, executions, etc.) is a good thing. The great majority of citizens want violence curbed, and only a governmental entity can do that consistently.

So, yes, humans will always love violence (see video games), and in the societies that function best, violence will be sublimated. Hence my novel Show Time. Hence my short story Hunting Dora.

Q: You support the rule of law but some of your stories demonstrate abuses of power. Should readers beware authority?

PH: No society can exist without rules that prevent people from harming others. But the government can be a poor purveyor of justice. Where’s the justice in the War on Drugs? Where’s the justice in taking (by force) billions from hardworking taxpaying Americans and giving it to rich farmers and agricultural corporations? And on and on.

The government is necessary for some things, and I appreciate that. An army. Rule of law. Enforceable contracts. But it is not such a stretch to depict the government as complicit (behind the scenes!) in a brutal scheme to satisfy Americans’ lust for violence as in Show Time. Readers should worry, because government’s perfidy is backed by government force. The worst perpetrators of violence have been governments. Stalin. Mao. Hitler. Pol Pot. Dystopian fiction is perhaps popular because in the digital age it seems more feasible. Big brother is watching.

On the other hand, people are generally very good about making decisions for their own lives. Over two centuries or so we’ve seen that life can be pretty successful and satisfying in democratic, free market societies. That’s why messy democracy is so terribly important.

Q: What’s the takeaway for readers of your fiction?

PH: I would hope they have journeyed to a place they would not have seen without the novel or one of the stories…that they experienced it and enjoyed being there, became engrossed, and had the pleasure of a good read. I always welcome emails with serious and thoughtful questions. I invite readers of Show Time to think about the complexities of violence. Perhaps this is worth considering: “War unites us. Love divides us.”

Q: It’s interesting that some of your stories revolve around activists. Your own efforts range from philanthropy to utilizing social marketing to distribute birth control, yet some of your characters view “do-gooders” with sharp cynicism.

PH: We compassionate humans so love to think highly of ourselves that we do “good” things without using the brains god gave us. For a decade the U.S. sent huge amounts of grain to India. Result: Indian farmers couldn’t make a living, Indian agriculture stagnated, Indians were generally worse off than they would have been without our “help.”

Doing stuff that feels good instead of stuff that will acutely help is something I really abhor. Feel-good giving is self-indulgent and occasionally cruel. It’s great to feel superior to that panhandler on the corner, so give him a dollar (and assure the future of panhandling) and think how morally superior you are. Whatever you do, don’t think about how you could actually be helpful. Not emotionally satisfying!

So the cynics in my stories are right, only it’s not really cynicism. It’s clarity. It’s intellectual integrity. If you want to help people then empower them to take control of their lives. And don’t expect gratitude. You’re doing your job; they’re doing theirs.

Q: What’s next for you?

My most promising novel is Just In Time, in which a Wall Street trader is deposited back in the Pleistocene era. The other, Indian Summer, follows a Peace Corps volunteer’s transformation fighting famine in India during the 1960s. I plan to write more short stories focused on the transformative powers of sex and alcohol.

As for myself, I will continue enjoying my married life, being a stepfather, and nurturing my very promising grandkids. And, of course, I’ll continue organizing projects that promote civil liberties through the DKT Liberty Project, work to end the War on Drugs, and debunk yahoos who ignore the reason and science behind immunization and the genetically modified crops that can relieve suffering worldwide.

Phil Harvey

All of his books can be purchased by clicking on his author page link below.

Amazon Author Page

 

Harvey AuthorPhoto-(Small)