cover of this new book Supertanker, from an original screenplay by
Ric Lawes and written by controversial author Ian Quartermaine (Sleepless in
Bangkok and other thrillers), almost says it all - “9/11 was just a practice
run.” From that point on you know that this is going to be a thriller. The
cover also states “A great airport read,” so again you expect short
chapters, racy dialogue and an unexpected finish.
There is a strong Thai element all the way through, with
chapters bringing in Bangkok, the Klong Toey slums, Map Ta Phut and even the
fabled Boys in Brown get a mention, even if just for tea money.
The book relates to the current practices by pirates to
hijack a ship and demand a hefty ransom. Lloyds of London, one of the
principal insurers of shipping have been caught enough times to wish to
strike back at the pirates. A kind of pro-active insurance policy perhaps?
Characterizations are always handled well by Quartermaine,
and I did get the feeling that he was not all that enamoured of the British
titled gentry. “Without access to constant cups of tea, Britain would
probably have lost World War Two.” He has, however, done his homework and
the Aussie truck drivers and the dangers of nitroprils and diesel are very
The sheer size of a supertanker has to be seen to be
believed, requiring eight nautical miles to slow down in a straight line,
but 30 nautical miles to turn. With opposing parties on board and Lloyds of
London on conference phone, decisions regarding the route coordinates have
to be made well ahead of time. And is there time?
As the book continues, Quartermaine gives the reader a
short course in Buddhism, as well as vignettes of Thai society, in addition
to the chemical equations to produce Zyklon B and a physics demonstration on
how to disable a GPS.
As the book heads towards the final chapters, the pace
steps up (and certainly much faster than a supertanker), with sides being
changed as often as the pages are turned. During that time, comparisons are
drawn between the importance of money to the Thai poor, and the importance
of money to the British rich. The answer is clearly disappointing. And if
you think it was all about money, don’t forget corruption - it can have its
Supertanker (IQ Inc, ISBN 978-616-90445-8-1 September
2010) even gives the reader two alternative endings. One guaranteed to shock
you and the other a ‘feel good’ justification. As someone who will never
forget Edward Woodward’s portrayal of a Scottish policeman in the film “The
Wicker Man”, I went for the former. But the reader is given a URL in which
you can register your choice.
At B. 395 in Asia Books and Bookazine, it is a cheap
read, and is ideally suited for those interminable waits at the airport and
for reading between beer and peanuts on the flight, and much more enjoyable
than reading the Safety Instructions for your aircraft, which has improbable
illustrations of a plane floating on water. They don’t float! But