Friday, 7 December 2012

The book I actually wrote

The sheer scale of what I had in mind for the “City of London expose” was pretty daunting and that is what kept making me put it off. I started writing “Thai Lottery”, by accident. My work takes me to Asia about four times a year and it’s also our favourite place to take a holiday. I was chatting to a client, who has become a very good friend. We were sitting in an open air bar in Bangkok watching the hordes of people milling around below us.  I explained that I wanted to write a book about human weakness. How everyone starts with a view of the world and everyone (I am told) has moral boundaries. There is stuff that they will do but there is a line that they won’t cross. Then comes an opportunity or a threat and the moral boundary just shifts a little. If that happens enough times, the “line in the sand” can move a very long way in a relatively short time. That was the idea that underpinned my original idea for a book. I had seen it plenty of times in my career, the promise of a big bonus, a new office or a more prestigious title can make people behave in ways you would neither expect nor admire. The threat of losing any of those things is just as potent.  My friend was very encouraging and assured me that he had plenty of stories to share about greed and avarice.

As we looked out onto the street, we noticed an old lady carrying a thin, hinged wooden box. He explained that she was selling tickets for the Thai Lottery. No on-line options, no lucky number selection, you just get to choose from the box. It has all the hall-marks of a church raffle but for Thais, the first prize is potentially a life changing sum of money.  He went on to tell me about the Huay Tai Din. This is the parallel “underground” lottery, which is far more popular than its official counterpart.  You can be arrested for buying a ticket, let alone running one of the thousands of schemes that operate all over Thailand. I was told about a girl who sold the tickets to earn some extra money for her family. It all went horribly wrong and she and her family have spent the subsequent years picking up the pieces. Now that, I thought, is the basis of a really good story.

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