Sunday, July 05, 2009

More on Colin Cotterill's spirits

Colin Cotterill is the supernaturalist's answer to readers who don't like the supernatural in their crime stories. Here's a bit more from Curse of the Pogo Stick, fifth novel in Cotterill's series about Dr. Siri Paiboun of Vientiane, Laos:
"These small bamboo structures were miniature reconstructions of actual bridges but in this case they had no water to cross. They traditionally offered a shortcut for lost souls to return to their host. One was customary. Four suggested a hell of a lot of souls had gone missing from this particular house."
"A hell of a lot of souls" is wonderful, resonant, funny and unexpected. It nicely captures the simultaneous irreverence and respect with which Cotterill portrays the worlds of the supernatural and of those who believe in it. Dr. Siri is both a scientist – the chief and only coroner in post-Communist-revolution Laos – and a shaman, an unwilling conduit to the spirit world. Does he believe in the spirits with which he comes into contact and which sometimes help him solve mysteries? He has no choice:
"My biggest problem as a practicing cynic, however, is that I'm aligned, against my will and better judgment, to another world. ... I don't know how it's possible, but damn it, it's there. So I resort to the rules of the supernatural. I begin by seeing whether the incredible can be explained through their rules. And when that world tells me something is off-kilter and implausible, I know I have to think as a human. I have to use logic. My visit to the Otherwold told me I had to look for earthly solutions to this mystery."
That's one of the nicer accounts by a fictional detective of his own methods. Among the books' achievements, in addition to their engaging, sympathetic characters, their compassion, and their jabs at Communist bureaucracy, is that they invite respectful consideration, without dogma, mumbo-jumbo or embarrassment and with good humor, of the spiritual world and its role in human lives.

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The illustration of Curse of the Pogo Stick's UK cover comes from the author's own Web site, one of the cleverer and more amusing of its kind. Take a look.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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6 Comments:

Blogger seanag said...

Peter, that is a fun website. I had no idea that Cotterill was also a cartoonist. I liked the Books for Laos project that he's doing too. It's a nice way to give a little something back.

July 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I should look at the site again and see whether he has written children's books. This would not surprise me, given the home page's instruction for enterting the site.

I had not known he was a cartoonist until I discovered the site. He's quite good.

July 05, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I don't know if he has or not, but it does seem as if it would be right up his alley. Not just the pictures, but the tone of his diary make me feel sure that they would be amusing.

July 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I posted a link a while back to a video interview with Colin Cotterill should you with to judge for yourself whether he is amusing. He certainly seem a genial sort, and the interview has an amusing title.

July 05, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Thanks, Peter. I'll look at it when I get a little time, maybe later this evening. I do think this has all bumped those mysteries a good way up my TBR list.

July 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's good to hear. I'm listening to the interview again now, and it's even better than I remembered it. Cotterill has much interesting to say about Laos and his experiences there and with its people.

July 05, 2009  

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