Newsroom a night-crop

Sample Excerpt: Chapter 1


It was a test, any dope could see that. They were playing me for a fool, seeing how much they could get away with from the new guy. I had been warned enough of the edgy dealings of the crowd over at the Bangkok Post that it was hardly much of a surprise when Vonchalerm, our wily Thai general manager, stopped me in the hall and gravely told me that they were once more throwing our papers off the train. “This for us is not so very good,” he said in his uneven English, an English at its worst still leagues better than my Thai.

Not good? Well, of course not.

We only sold a few thousand copies at the phantom U.S. air bases up-country but a few thousand was a lot to our Bangkok World, a newspaper whose circulation was around thirteen thousand – give or take five thousand or so. Even at the end of it I never quite knew what the circulation exactly was. But I knew enough that having several thousand newspapers thrown from the train into the damp rice paddy of some startled farmer on the iron route to Korat, Ubon and Udorn and elsewhere where the bases were was not entirely a good thing. Not such a great thing for the rice farmer, either.

This had happened before. Even as I was only new to the odd authority as editor and publisher of the Bangkok World, the oily Bangkok Post crew had already found a way to kick our bundles off the early morning, northward-bound train. I had sent a brisk message of complaint over to them, not too far around the corner actually, and heard back in the most aggrieved terms how they were just astonished and amazed that such a thing could happen and wouldn’t they rather have the nails pulled from their fingerends than be in any way part of such a shoddy practice and wasn’t it only just another sad sign of the contentious and troubling times we live in that such an unfortunate but likely purely accidental thing as that could take place at all, giving a bad name to all good professionals and institutions especially like that of your respectful friends and admirers over here at the Bangkok Post and we hope you are having a very nice day.

We then went to the expense, as did the Post, of having men travel with the bundles but somehow that didn’t help very much as our crew always just happened to be in the other car when the papers went sailing overboard, probably spending on rice whiskey and the kerosene that passes for Thai beer the small bribe it took to ensure that they had vanished when it was time to send aflying our poor newspapers. Very annoying. So I advised my people, “Throw their papers off the train.”

For a few days, then, the rural landscape would be littered with Bangkok Posts and Bangkok Worlds until the game grew wearying and petered out. They would start it up again some weeks later, always, it seemed, just when there was some special need for the papers to make their arrival in timely shape, just when our distributors were threatening us over our uneven service, pledging to withhold payment, to dump us. It seemed more than a coincidence. They seemed to always know when it would do the very most damage.

“They have a spy in the business office,” said the always affable and wise Giorgio Berlingieri, one of the paper’s owners, the “Ital” half of the gigantic “Ital-Thai” conglomerate that built roads and skyscrapers and ports and ran the majestic Oriental Hotel that bejeweled the riverside of the Chao Phrya, and in so many other ways prospered as Thailand was belatedly drawn rather reluctantly into the 20th Century, more than sixty years behind the times – if being “behind” such times as those were was somehow considered a bad thing. Along the line, Giorgio had been persuaded to consider it smart business to buy the newspaper, buttressing the survival prospects of the slight outfit with its American inclinations – as contrasted with the British-owned Bangkok Post – and, very possibly, thus keeping a bit on the good side of the contract-awarding U.S. embassy in the process of the game. It was a small but bright investment, although one that likely gave him more headaches than the others combined.

“They have a spy in the business office who’s telling them when to hurt us the most,” he said, with an operatic arch of his eyebrows and a conductor’s wave of the hands at the great perfidy of it all, the dark debasement of all that is good and noble.

“That is terrible,” I said. “How do we know they have a spy in our office?”

“Because my spy in their office told me,” he replied. Ah.

So this time when I learned that once again their agents were jettisoning our lovely newspapers, papers we had worked so very hard to get out in complex circumstances that would baffle any modern practitioners of journalism and commerce alike, when I heard that this precious journal so rich in our spirit and sacrifice and effort was going over the side at the hands of the other guy’s villains, it was in high exasperation that pointedly and with as much steel as I could deliver I once again commanded of their newspapers, “Throw them off the train.”


It hardly seems at all fair that I should be faulted for every little thing that goes astray when conflicting appreciations of the various languages of a richly international community scratch up against one another causing sparks to fly off in quite a different direction than was probably intended; it seems surely wrong to imagine blaming me that my simple instruction should be caught in a linguistic updraught to deliver quite a different conclusion than what I am almost sure I had charted for it; who could ever believe that a gentle, poetical sort such as your pal, Denis Horgan, Editor and Publisher of the Bangkok World, would at all have thought for even an instant that the “them” in the instructions to “Throw them off the train” would be construed to mean, not the Bangkok Posts, but, alas, the agents of the Bangkok Post themselves who were, in fact, hurled from the train into the rural rice paddies by our own men. My, my.

Of course, there being so little justice and understanding of life’s little mishaps, a great howl went up from the Bangkok Post, assailing me to all ears as a pure madman and criminal to inflict such an outrage and wouldn’t you expect just that from a misplaced cowboy, some crude American gangster cousin of Mr. Al Capone of Chicago, USA, pickled in violence and twisted in disproportion and …

…and never again did a single copy of the Bangkok World get thrown off the early morning train on its way north, up towards Vientiane across the Mekong with connections to Korat and Ubon and Udorn and other such places, and never again did the farmers along the route sleep anything but the sleep of babes, knowing that they were free of the rain of falling newspapers.

What a world. How on earth did I ever get into this thing?

Good question.

Purchase Today

The Bangkok World is available for purchase today.

The book can be found on and other online retailers, or here on the site for a copy signed by the authors.