Dean Barrett was one of the first two authors, living in Thailand, whose name I knew and could spell for you when I first arrived in the Land of Smiles in the early 21st Century. He was not, however, one of the first ½ dozen “Bangkok authors” that I read. I can explain: let’s face it, Dean seemed like he was having too much fun in Bangkok to be a good writer. From the first time he was pointed out to me in a second story Nana Plaza establishment 10 years ago, to his five minute YouTube video: Dean Barrett’s Guide to Soi Cowboy, to a few years ago when he climbed into a boxing ring for a charity event, at a time when a lot of guys his age were playing shuffleboard in Florida and collecting their Social Security checks, Dean enjoys life. Not to mention that one of his two web sites, with the dominatrix on the Enter page, will trigger the porn blocking software on any computer in China.
The first time I saw Dean’s Star Ratings on Amazon, I was surprised how highly his books were rated. I’m not sure why I was surprised, I still hadn’t read any of his books. I suppose I wanted my authors pudgy, with pale skin, bottle rimmed glasses and home alone, writing 12 hours a day for my benefit. Stephen King, I knew, was a good writer, even if not a personal favorite. Dean Barrett, I still had my doubts. One should not judge a book by its cover but I made some judgments, based on the titles of Dean’s books. If Groucho Marx didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to allot my valuable reading time to any author that liked so many clubs. Hey, we all have our biases. I was wrong. Dean Barrett writes well.
Let’s take a look at some of the names and the star ratings of Dean’s books on Amazon:
Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior – 18 reviews. Average rating: 4.53
Kingdom of Make-Believe – Thirty-five reviews. Average rating: 4.55
Permanent Damage – Six reviews. Average rating: 4.66
Skytrain to Murder – Nine reviews. Average rating: 4.44
The Go Go Dancer who Stole My Viagra & other Poetic Tragedies of Thailand – Six reviews. Average rating: 4.66
Murder at the Horney Toad Bar & other Outrageous Tales of Thailand. One review. Rating: 5.0
Murder In China Red (set in NYC). Twelve reviews. Average rating: 4.91
I have since read three of Dean’s books from the above list and have enjoyed them all. I also like his poetry. Keep in mind, Dean Barrett is old school. These reviews are real reviews, written by real people who actually took the time to read the book they reviewed.
There are other aspects about Dean’s writing not as widely known as, say, his YouTube video. Dean was a professional writer in New York City for many years as a librettist and lyricist. His credentials are too long to mention here. I have a theory about talent and self-deprecation: only the talented are good at it. Dean Barrett is good at self-deprecating humor. He is also a first class public speaker. If you have an opportunity to hear him speak about literature, go. He is well read, well-traveled, erudite, honest and humble. He’s John Grisham with a more interesting personal life and a few less books sold than John.
Another lessor known aspect to Dean’s writing career are his historical fiction books set in China. His talent coupled with his background as a Chinese linguist with the Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War made his China novels a fun discovery. The first Barrett novel I ever read in the Chinese historical fiction genre was, Hangman’s Point. And, in case you are wondering, sixteen Amazon reviews. Average rating: 4.93. As James A. Newman once pointed out, Dean’s work has been studied in libraries and read in bars. Hangman’s Point is a great, 533 pages in hardback edition, historical fiction novel, which will be read 100 years from now, probably in both.
Dean’s latest book is one I read recently: THE CHINA MEMOIRS OF THOMAS ROWLEY. (Village East Books. New York 2013). It is unlike any previous Dean Barrett fiction I have ever read. It is a historical fiction, love story, with plenty of erotica. I’ve never been a particular fan of reading erotica fiction, since I stopped reading, The Penthouse Letters thirty-five years ago. Some of the erotica scenes I enjoyed more than others. Set in 19th Century China and finishing in early 20th Century New York City – 1922. It is a story that takes place during a tumultuous period in China’s history – the Taiping Rebellion. Women warriors were common, known as “the silken armies.” I always enjoy the historical and literary aspects of Dean’s novels, which pay close attention to detail. The love story was fascinating in how it evolved. Dean also has a knack for writing female fight scenes better than any author I can recall, perhaps because he finds a way to have women fighting. Why not? It was realistic and well written. The ending was believable and satisfying. There were no loose ends. If you want to try an outside the box Dean Barrett novel, read: The China Memoirs of Thomas Rowley.
Dean Barrett writes mysteries, among other novels. But he is not mysterious. He is as straight a shooter as you will find. You may not like what he tells you, but you can be sure he will tell you the truth, according to Dean. Be prepared.
If you are in the area, Dean Barrett will be giving a breakfast talk this coming Sunday, December 8th, on THE CHINA MEMOIRS OF THOMAS ROWLEY at Tavern by the Sea, Amari Orchard Pattaya, 240 Moo 5, Pattaya Naklua Rd. Bang Lamung, Chonburi (Pattaya) 20150. Breakfast starts at 9:30 a.m. Dean Speaks at 10:30 a.m. For more details contact Dean via his Facebook site or at www.deanbarrettmystery.com
Kevin Cummings – Thailand Footprint – www.peoplethingsliterature.com