Orange is the New Noir
Really exciting news here from the TNT office. One of our writer’s Mark Bibby Jackson has written his second novel in the Cambodian Trilogy ‘Peppered Justice.’ It’s a must read for all of our travel obsessed readers and I for one can’t put it down.
We sent Coral Glennie along to chat with the man himself.
The world seems awash with crime novels. So much so that it is difficult for any to stand out from the crowd. What makes Mark Bibby Jackson’s second novel, Peppered Justice, unique is its landscape.
“I went to a talk by the crime writer Jim Kelly earlier this year and he said that his central character is the landscape of the Fens in which his novels are set,” explains Bibby Jackson. “The same applies to my novels – they are about Cambodia.”
The second in his Cambodian Trilogy, Peppered Justice picks up from where Bibby Jackson’s debut novel To Cook A Spider left off, with disgraced Cambodian detective Major Sorn Satya transferred to Kampot after his handling of the Defaux murder case.
When the inspector is unexpectedly instructed by the Kampot Chief of Police to work on what looks like a routine missing persons case, little does he realise he will become ensnared in a web of murder, underage sex and pepper smuggling that is set to shake the peaceful town of Kampot to its core.
Where the author succeeds is in successfully capturing the atmosphere of Cambodia, in so doing he provides a psychological insight into what draws people to the southeast Asian country underwritten by a page-turning plot.
UK-based Bibby Jackson recently won a prize at the inaugural Essex Book Festival Crime Writing Short Story Competition. His first novel, To Cook A Spider has been recommended for the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
Bibby Jackson first went to the Southeast Asian nation over ten years ago, and soon set up the travel and lifestyle magazine AsiaLIFE Cambodia, of which he is still publisher.
“I was annoyed by all the negative publicity that the country was getting in the media – everything was about the Khmer Rouge and sex tourism,” he says. “We wanted to publish something that was different, something that stressed the good in the country, especially in its people rather than focus solely on the bad.”
This is something that is more difficult to accomplish in a crime novel, which by definition must focus on the seedy underbelly of society, but once more Bibby Jackson wishes to avoid clichéd images of unrelenting darkness.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great fan of Chandler and Nordic Noir, but to me it’s not what Cambodia is about,” he says. “There’s an absurdity about life in Cambodia, but it is one that is performed with a smile. It’s much more orange than noir.”
Instead the writer believes his novels are more indebted to the Italian crime genre, especially Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series, not least in the detective’s shared love of food.
“People don’t understand how good the food in Cambodia is. Everyone talks about Thai and Vietnamese food, but they forget the country in between,” he says. “Kampot Pepper is arguably the finest in the world, and I wanted to write a novel about it.”
Peppered Justice will be officially launched at the second Kampot Writers and Readers Festival from November 3 to 6, in which the author will participate on panel discussions on publishing and writing in Cambodia.
“I missed the first festival, but everyone says it was great fun,” he says. “It will be great to be on the same stage as people such as David Puttnam.”
Bibby Jackson is currently working on the third of his Cambodian Trilogy, which will be released next year.
Peppered Justice is now available as an e-book at Amazon, or print versions can be ordered through the Facebook page – Peppered Justice – or purchased at Monument Books in Phnom Penh International Airport