The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis Recommended books on Laos: The Lao Bookshelf

Written By: herbrunbridge - Apr• 30•10

Laos is as under-reported in literature as it is in the Press, so there are relatively few books particular to the country, compared to those pertaining to its neighbors in Thailand and Vietnam.  Here are a few that we at WoWasis recommend as worthy of your attention. 

Kay Danes’ prose is a bit twisted at times, but her travails as a Western businesswoman unjustly accused of embezzlement in Laos are the stuff of terror.  Their business essentially stolen by Lao government officials, Danes and her husband spent nearly a year in Phonthong prison.  They were lucky to get out alive, and their story is chronicled in Deliver Us from Evil (2001, ISBN 1-74095-025-9).  The book is a must-read for any Western person considering engaging in a business relationship with a Southeast Asian partner in-country. 

In 2002, Paul Conroy followed with the behind-the-scenes story that sent Kay and Kerry Danes on the road to ruin in 10 Months in Laos: a Vast Web of Intrigue, Missing Millions, and Murder (ISBN 1-86350-385-4).  The whole thing develops as a confidence scheme run out of Australia, with tendrils reaching into Laos and Cambodia.  Conroy’s got all the financial numbers down pat, to the extent that some accounting background might be necessary to grasp this intricate web of deception. 

American Brett Dakin spent the better part of a year in Laos, working for the government tourist agency.  He describes his life and acquaintances in Vientiane in Another Quiet American (2003, ISBN 974-8303-68-3).   To us, his stories offer a pastiche, but seem a bit incomplete.  The most poignant part of the book deals with his brief, uneasy relationship with “Kee”, a Lao bargirl (toward the end of the book, Dakin ‘fesses up that he was “repelled, rather than stimulated by the difficulties of pursuing relationships with Lao women.”) 

 In Air America: From World War II to Vietnam (1979, ISBN 974-8303-51-9), Christopher Robbins unfolds the story of the CIA’s secret airline, from the early days of Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, to the later times of “Pops” Buell and pilot Les Strouse.   Much of the action takes place in Laos. 

Col Cotterill’s third novel, Pool and its Role in Asian Communism (2005, ISBN 974-8303-76-4) focuses — yet again — on child trafficking.  The passion for the issue is clearly close to the author’s heart, having served in more than one NGO specializing in child abuse.  That said, the similarity to Cotterill’s previous book (Evil in the Land Without) in terms of subject matter leaves the reader wishing for a different type of criminal to provide some necessary variation. Much of the action here takes place in Laos during America’s Vietnam years, and Cotterill weaves various historical figures into this tale.  As other critics have noted, Cotterill places perhaps too much emphasis on the improbable for the book to be truly memorable. In our opinion, his strong suit is dialogue and humor, with believability running behind.

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One Comment

  1. We’re happy to announce the publication of “Food from Northern Laos – The Boat landing Cookbook”
    Apart from 84 recipes, preparation and cooking techniques, it contains a comprehensive illustrated glossary of local ingredients, a section on local ethnic groups, and an extensive index in both English and Lao.

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