Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952, traveled the world, worked in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan, then began training teachers in Thailand. Cotterill became involved in child protection in the region and, with his wife, set up a book and scholarship program and runs a small school for the children of Burmese migrants near his home in Chumphon in the south of Thailand.
All the while Cotterill has continued with his two other passions: cartooning and writing. His work with trafficked children spurred him to write his first novel, The Night Bastard. Since 2001, he has written 13 more books, including the popular Dr. Siri series, set in Laos. He is launching a new series with Killed at the Whim of a Hat (Minotaur, July 19, 2011).
On your nightstand now:
Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. It was on my nightstand in Chiang Mai and moved south with me, along with the lamp and the piggy bank, which were also yellow. They're all in the same position now. I call it "Still Life with easy nurses and loose change by lamplight... in yellow."
Favorite book when you were a child:
Books were just wanky and pooey. Can I have a magazine? If I can, it would have to be Mad. I loved that magazine. Its illustrators were gods. They forced me to read. If I'd had any money, I would have traveled to the States and become their slutty boy groupie.
Your top five authors:
Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Norman Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, Haruki Murakami. If you asked me again in a week or two, I'd have five different authors, as my Billboard top 100 fluctuates with the change of seasons and the erosion of memory. There are always travel writers at the top, followed by investigative journalists who make you step off the status quo, then a good dollop of the dark fantastic.
Book you've faked reading:
I think it was a Barbara Cartland romance. I knew Stella from geography was into her. I was trying to do Stella the same favour. I found one in the library and took it to the lunch canteen. I flipped it open and stood it up and started devouring it along with my spam quiche. No reaction. I found out later Stella was short-sighted and too vain to wear glasses. A year later, the library fined me for the Barbara Cartland I'd thrown in the trash.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Norman Lewis's A Dragon Apparent. Perhaps not an evangelist, exactly--more a Latter Day Avon Lady. I did tell a couple of people they should look at it if they wanted to be travel writers. Lewis was a quirky traveler who did the unusual, saw what he wanted to see and bugger the publisher.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Pocket Massage for Stress Relief because I thought it was about... well, never mind.
Book that changed your life:
Spike Milligan's Puckoon. For me it was the equivalent of a girl growing up in a boy's body and learning that Margaret Thatcher had at some stage been female. It was as if all the secret weirdness I'd been harbouring inside was suddenly validated. I was not alone. A book that was quite ridiculous had been published and people were buying it and laughing raucously. I could be a swan.
Favorite line from a book:
"Education isn't everything, for a start it isn't an elephant." --Spike Milligan, Puckoon
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Janet and John, first year reading series. This time I'd do it without stuttering, without Miss Clapp tittering behind her hand, without Phillip Lambourne firing rubber bands at me. This time I'd get it right and there would be no ongoing fear of reading aloud in front of strangers.
What colour underwear you have on:
Black with white lines (vertical).