Reviews of Bangkok Affections: Provided initially with reference to
the internationally published version, Father, I Have Sinned:
A Novel by James Aaron Parmelee
FOREWORD CLARION REVIEW
Bangkok Affections: Love, Sex, Murder and Syndicate Tyranny at Our Lady of Ubiquitous Tears
James Aaron Parmelee
Five Stars (out of Five)
Bangkok Affections is the gritty tale of an American teacher, Ignatius Fylchworthy, who lives in Thailand and defies great odds to bring down an international child trafficking ring that is being run out of the Catholic school where he teaches. Not only does Fylchworthy destroy the trafficking ring, but he attacks the practices of the Vatican believing that the insisted celibacy contributes to the incidences of child abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. Amidst the intrigue revolving around the child trafficking, there is the strange case of the statue of Mother Mary that sheds bloody tears.
In the course of his investigation, Fylchworthy finds out that the school's Director of Studies, Tyler Keyhorn, is missing. As Fylchworthy unearths one clue after another, he discovers that Tyler is hiding with one of his students, Bik, who has escaped from the child trafficking syndicate. Both Tyler and Bik are marked by high level officials to be shot on sight so neither of them can publicly identify the pedophiles and help dismantle the syndicate. Fylchworthy, together with the assistance of ex-cop Bill Yolkaby, whose brother happens to be a key player in the syndicate, set about to gather information that will implicate all the major players and save the children who are lined up to be the next "recruits."
Bangkok Affections effectively shows the contrasting aspects of Thailand, from the "delightful environment," to the "raucous bars," and "world's most gorgeous, smiling and willing women." Parmelee skillfully presents cultural aspects of Thailand, such as the relationship between Thai people and foreigners and especially the interaction of Thai women, both with men and one another. Probably the most disturbing descriptions center around Thailand's poverty, and its most vulnerable citizens who are misused by foreigners and the very people in power to protect them.
The mystery surrounding the Madonna's bloody tears adds to the intrigue and lends a sense of mysticism, malevolence and foreboding to an already suspenseful story.
Parmelee's writing is crisp, evocative, and fast paced. The plot and compelling conclusion successfully achieve Parmelee's primary goal for the book; namely, to draw attention to pedophiles and the children they abuse. A fascinating, sometimes uplifting, sometimes harrowing read, Bangkok Affections is thoroughly thought provoking.
THE U.S. REVIEW OF BOOKS
Set in Bangkok, this novel/thriller centers on a ring of crooked educators, priests and other citizens involved in an international child trafficking ring. Its author, Parmelee, is the director of an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) school in Thailand. Our Lady of Ubiquitous Tears is a Catholic boarding school in Bangkok where our narrator, Ig Fylchworthy, teaches. On site are statues of the Virgin Mary that occasionally spout what looks like blood, as they do during the investigation...
What is quite fascinating are the landscape and cultural background of the book. The descriptions of Thai architecture, customs and habitats are alluring. For example, Fylchworthy, a divorced American who moved to Thailand where he learned to be an English teacher, says, "Come here once, and you are lost. That is, Thailand absorbs you. It benefits from who you are, and you benefit from who you become..."
The mystery wends itself through murders, hospitalizations and incriminations as Catholics, Interpol and the non-religious work together. The battle ends up at the Vatican. Life after death is contemplated. This book would doubtless most appeal to those who have spent time in Thailand or wish to do so. Of course, it is also extremely timely, considering the ongoing scandal within the Catholic Church.
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KIRKUS DISCOVERIES REVIEW
Parmelee’s understated thriller tackles a pedophilic, child-trafficking syndicate in Thailand.
Parmelee, who teaches English in Thailand, sticks close to home by setting his story in a school—a Roman Catholic scholarship school—in Bangkok, where Ignatius “Ig” Fylchworthy is a member of the staff. Through a series of sinister and grisly happenings, Ig discovers that his school is a hotbed of student sexual molestation. For the most part, Parmelee keeps the story running in the shadows, like a 1940s noir movie, and the inscrutable foreign climes make it all the more so.
His writing can be strangely elliptical at times (“ ‘Yes, Sister had lunch in,’ she said, but spoke much more than this, somehow, though in an odd and very inexplicable way”) and wordy at others, but on the whole Parmelee keeps the drama perking along.
Ig is a full character, if at the expense of other players who must express their personality through dialogue (“Hey, buddy, that was awesome! I’m so proud of you I could bawl, dude!”). He is a talented teacher who cannily uses his classroom to elicit information about the predation—depicting himself as far from a hero (“I was worried there might be something diabolical in their planning for me”) and with his own issues handling sexual appetite.
But in his rage against the syndicate, he is a gratifying force for good. Parmelee is clearly at ease with his Thai locale and able to generate a realistic Catholic school atmosphere, even providing a host of colorful nuggets such as the school’s statues weeping tears of blood.
An extended sting operation set up by Ig allows Parmelee to explore how syndicates like this go about their vile work, and his final speech evolves into a plea—and a commonsensical one, considering the circumstances—to relax the unnatural sexual restrictions placed on men and women of the church.
Parmelee draws the depth and range of pedophilia and sexual slavery into an appalling light.
THE PATTAYA MAIL
Thursday, 27 January 2011 13:21 By Lang Reid
James Aaron Parmelee's book Bangkok Affections is set in a school in Bangkok and opens explosively with one missing teacher and a naked girl across the hallway from the teacher's now vacant room.
The subject matter is topical and deals with pedophilia and the Catholic clergy, something that has had repercussions around the globe, and has involved innuendo as well as fact. The way the church has handled the situation is also up for debate, but there is no doubting that this has had a tremendous impact upon Mother Church.
The detail in this book makes one forget that it is purportedly a work of fiction, and many times I began to wonder if there really was a Thai Prime Minister called Pradit Saengdaet.
The plot involves an American English teacher at a Catholic school in Bangkok who stumbles across a pedophile ring, finally uncovering not just a local group of child abusers, but a world-wide network, which he exposes with the help of Interpol and other domestic agencies.
The finale is exceptionally thought provoking where author Parmelee has swipes at the Catholic Church and then extends that to Buddhism and other religions that are known for their interest in childhood education. Parmelee puts forward a very reasoned argument that one of the etiological factors in pedophilia comes from celibacy imposed upon the clergy, and then goes further to claim that there is no mandate for this in the religious texts, and quotes from the bible to shore up his argument.
In many ways this book is almost two books in one. A thriller in the accepted genre of this style of writing, plus as an extra, a short treatise on the depth and causes of pedophilia in the world, citing 8,000 pedophile priests in the US today. If he is correct, those are troublesome statistics. Unfortunately, the same argument, as logical as it sounds, does not explain the incidence of child abuse at the hands of teachers themselves, married or otherwise, or other groups of adults who are deeply involved with looking after children.
The book is distributed by Asia Books and has an RRP of 550 baht, (595 baht for Father, I Have Sinned) and is a hefty read. Written in such a fashion as to be quite engrossing, though there are some 'leaps of faith' to be done as the plot unfolds and reasons are given (or guessed) for some of the actions in the subplots. What the book does do, however, is to show the insidious nature of the pedophile network, and how far up the social ladder it can go. That is both for this country, and other regions of the world. That many Thai children are trafficked in some way or another, is often just thought of as the situation of rich societies preying on the poor. This does not, however, exonerate or explain.
SINS OF THE FATHERS AVENGED
One of my indelible memories is of dining in a foreign restaurant in Bangkok when a man came in, asked the waiter to point out the proprietor and approached him. He then asked in a voice everybody heard: “Where can I find a boy, you know, young?”
Thailand is by no means the only land where children are preyed on by paedophiles, local and from abroad.
Now and again there are reports of arrests, yet as noted in Bangkok Affections, it is more widespread than we realize. And an American English teacher in Bangkok — Ignatius Fylchworthy — means to put an end to it.
A non-Catholic in a Catholic school, Our Lady of Ubiquitous Tears, Iggy gets along with its nuns and priests. His fiancée is Khun Lek and they ultimately marry. The story is told in the first person. Awareness grows that more than a few pupils are being sexually abused, several dropping out and disappearing.
Not being one of the faithful, Iggy doesn’t hold bishops or higher prelates in awe. In time, he joins forces with the national police chief and the prime minister to involve those profiting from paedophilia and child trafficking in a massive sting against rich, powerful, influential Thais and foreign dignitaries.
Afterwards, Iggy makes a public speech in support of the marriage of priests, so that they take their lust out on their wives rather than the altar boys, maintaining that celibacy isn’t in the Bible.
Bangkok Affections has something to say, but is the Vatican listening?
Parmelee, James Aaron
Bangkok Affections: Love, Sex, Murder and Syndicate Tyranny at Our Lady of Ubiquitous Tears
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