CARTER: A really interesting observation I felt you made in Eating Smoke was of those expatriates who come to places like China looking to assert their dominance over the culture, and those expats who “go native” and completely immerse themselves in the language and customs, sometimes to the point of arrogance towards other foreigners.
Why do westerners behave like this in other countries, and why, in your opinion, do Asian immigrants in America or the UK have seemingly the exact opposite attitude?
THRALL: That’s a good question but probably a long-winded answer. It’s important to remember that not all westerners misbehave when abroad and not all Asian immigrants immerse themselves in or accept western culture and etiquette.
When you consider the West’s history and of colonialism and capitalism – arguably practices that require the population of one country to believe they are racially superior to another’s – it’s not hard to appreciate why some westerners behave this way.
Add to that a “functionalist” education system, a class system, a one-sided record of history…I could go on, couldn’t I?
CARTER: Comparisons are being made between “Eating Smoke” and Gregory David Roberts’ “Shantaram” (about a drug-addicted escaped convict who joins a crime family in Mumbai, India) and Alex Garland’s “The Beach” (young backpackers living on an isolated island in Thailand who goes mad from solitude and drugs).
Have you read either of these, and how does Eating Smoke stand apart in this genre?
THRALL: “Eating Smoke” is 100% true life – whereas “Shantaram” and “The Beach” are fiction, though loosely based on their authors’ travel experiences, no doubt.
Although it’s on my shelf, I haven’t read “Shantaram”, but “The Beach” is one of my all-time favorites.
The reason “Eating Smoke” stands apart in this genre is that it works – or so the reviewers say – on so many levels and therefore appeals to readers of all ages, sex and genre.
I’m told my story is unique and an eye-opener and that my writing style – honesty, humor, originality, and pacing – makes the book impossible to put down. Even though it is over 500 pages as a traditional paperback, I often receive Facebook messages and emails from people who have read it in two days.
CARTER: I’d like to go on record as saying that I think “Eating Smoke” has “Hollywood” written all over it, and I expect your story to be optioned for film rights. Johnny Depp is slated to play the lead role in “Shantaram”, and Leo DiCaprio starred in “The Beach”.
Do you have any preference for actors to play yourself in “Eating Smoke”: The Motion Picture, like Shia LaBeouf or Justin Bieber (just joking!)? Who would you want to direct?
THRALL: *laughing* So long as the guy was English, a good actor, and resembled my character at the time, I wouldn’t mind. I don’t have a preference – I’m not that clued up on 25-year old English actors, to be honest!
As for a director, Danny Boyle would be my choice. I loved “The Beach”, “Trainspotting”, “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours”. It would require someone with his perception to be able replicate the psychosis that I experienced, accurately.
Chris Thrall was born in the UK. At eighteen, he joined the Royal Marine Commandos. Following active service in the Northern Ireland Conflict and training in Arctic warfare and survival, he earned his parachutist’s ‘wings’ and went on to serve as part of a high-security detachment onboard an aircraft carrier. In 1995, Chris moved to Hong Kong to oversee the Asia-Pacific expansion of a successful network-marketing operation he’d built, part-time, while serving in the Forces. Less than a year later, he was homeless, hooked on crystal methamphetamine and working for the 14K, Hong Kong’s largest triad crime family, as a doorman in Wanchai’s infamous red-light district. Eating Smoke, a humorous yet deeply moving first book, is his account of what happened.
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