Friday, June 29, 2012


Colin Cotteril
Today I welcome back  Colin CotterilColin Cotterill is a London-born teacher, crime writer and cartoonist. He currently lives in Southeast Asia, where he writes the award-winning Dr. Siri mystery series set in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, and the Jimm Juree crime novels set in southern Thailand.  Mystery Readers NorCal hosted Colin a few years (photo from that evening by Carol Fairweather). What a great evening. I just finished reading and loved Grandad, there's a Head on the Beach, prompting me to ask Colin to write a short piece for Mystery Fanfare. Thanks, Colin, for obliging.


It’s difficult for me to write about myself with any conviction because I lie, professionally. I look at some of the rubbish that’s written about me on the internet and I’m painfully aware that the vast majority of it came from my own pen. This leaning towards self-fictionalization, coupled with the onset of dementia (Brought on, no doubt, by years of playing sports in which being kicked in the head was expected – nay, applauded.) means that I’m not sure I can write this introductory blog in a definitive manner.

In brief, there are one or two facts that cannot be denied as there is documentary evidence declassified by the Ministry of Alien Life Forms: my birth – October 2nd, 1952, my origin – Wimbledon, England, my gender – male, my chosen career – Physical Education teaching. From then on everything starts to get a little abstract. It’s rumoured that I left England in the mid-seventies as a small barrel of limes on a pirate ship in search of treasure and women with firm breasts. I washed up, ten years later, on a rocky beach in Australia, lucky to be alive. I traded my earring for temporary ownership of an English tongue. For many years I taught this unfathomable and illogical language to newly arrived boat people, none of whom were aware that I could neither spell nor punctuate. (unnecessarily glary decorations which still today I consider to be gratuitous.)

Given this aversion to rules, there are a number of theories in circulation in the cloisters of academia, as to why I chose to become a novelist. Some say it was an attempt on my own life, albeit a slow one, as most people who endeavor to make a living as a writer ultimately starve to death. Others say I was inspired by some of the great writers of my age: Orwell, Hemmingway, Barbara Cartland, none of whom I’ve read.

Perhaps there’s truth in the story that I merely got tired after 27 years of cycling to class through the rain and staring into thirty blank masks in the name of education. Perhaps it was then that I took to the word processor.

How I went from there to international literary stardom I have not a clue. I merely awoke one morning to the sound of hundreds of women throwing themselves at my front door like disoriented starlings. Ironically, there was not a firm breast amongst them as my books attracted a following of ladies ‘of a certain age’. They were not, I soon discovered, in love with me, but with my protagonist, Dr. Siri Paiboun the septuagenarian Lao surgeon who lives, loves and talks to spirits in my Coroner’s Lunch mystery series. He, it was, who brought me to the brink of Nobel Prize nomination. Awards fell on me like sleet. I became hugely wealthy and bought Western Samoa and bits of Fiji. These I use as getaways from the paparazzi.

But was I losing touch with the career that had inseminated me? Was I ignoring the little writers who will always be nobodies yet look up to me for inspiration? I needed to get back to the grass roots. So it was I started a new series under the assumed name of Colin Cotterill (which I later discovered was, coincidentally, my birth name.) And thus was born the Jimm Juree investigations. Set in a little fishing village in the south of Thailand, the J books follow a dysfunctional Thai family that leaves the big city and tries to make a go of it at a deserted beach resort in an awful location. (A place, incidentally, that I made my home four years ago. It’s horrible. Don’t even think about moving here.)

I see from the New York Times bestseller list that Jimm 2: Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach has hit the streets in North America. Although you’d never learn this from the title, it begins with Jimm finding a head on the beach…and telling her granddad, a retired, forty-year career traffic policeman. Thence follows a rip-snorting, seat-edging romp of a chase as the family sets out to find the identity of the head and the bastards what done it.

At the moment, I’m evidently writing the third in the series, The Axe Factor, in which I’ve decided to take a starring role as an introverted author of mystery novels set in some unknown southeast Asian country. I’m planning to have a romantic interlude and/or sex with my protagonist. Fiction knows no bounds.


Shirley Wetzel said...

Colin, thanks for taking time off from your dog walking and beach bumming duties to talk about your writing.

For those of you who haven't read Mr. Cotterill's books - do so immediately, you'll be glad you did. Both series(es?) are excellent, each in their own way.

For those of us of a "certain age," and readers of any age who appreciate great writing, sly humor, and entertaining stories, I also recommend his Growing Old Disgracefully.

Mr. C did not pay me for my comments, I'm just a big fan of his writing and want more people to discover his books.

Bobbie said...

Colin this lady of a certain age certainly enjoyed your post today! And your words are, as always, witty, informative, and a bit wild; I too want more readers to discover them!

Priscilla said...

Looking forward to your new series which I shall start as soon as I finish rereading Dr. Siri's adventures. Sigh....
Signed: Lady of a Certain Age

Judith Starkston said...

Thank you for giving me a good long laugh. That lovely title about finding a head on the beach had already attracted my attention--how could it not, clever you. Now I'm doomed to adding yet another book--or rather 2 whole series--to my TBR list which threatens to shut down my computer for taking up too much memory. More, alas, than my novel file, I sometimes fear. Thanks for starting my day with a smile. It's bound to go downhill from here.