Tom Vater

About Tom Vater

Tom Vater is a writer and publisher working predominantly in Asia. He is the co-owner of Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based English language crime fiction imprint.

Tom is the co-author of several documentary screenplays, most notably The Most Secret Place on Earth, a feature on the CIA's covert war in 1960s Laos.
Tom Vater is a writer working in South and South East Asia. He writes both in English and German. His articles have been published around the world. He is the author of several books and has co-written a number of documentary screenplays for European television and cinema. TIME Magazine described his recent work as 'exuberant writing'. Tom first visited Asia in 1993.
Arriving in India proved to be a life-changing experience. At the time, Tom was documenting the music of India's indigenous minorities for the British Library's International Music Collection. This project continues and has resulted in the collection of hundreds of hours of musical traditions, many of which are slowly fading away in the face of globalization.
Because of the unique contact Tom had with many indigenous communities, he began to write about minorities in South Asia. His first publication (barring a forgotten past as editor of student magazines and music critic for a German daily) was a full page spread on Nepalese folk music in Nepal's biggest English language paper in 1997. Since then, he has never looked back. Tom's work has appeared in a wide variety of publications - from well-known dailies to specialist magazines - including The Asia Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Marie Claire and Penthouse. His books on South Asian themes include two novels, several non-fiction titles, travel guides and photo books.
Tom often works with Thai photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat ( They published the critically acclaimed regional bestseller Sacred Skin ( in 2011.
Tom is also the co-founder of Crime Wave Press (, a Hong Kong fiction imprint that endeavors to publish the best new crime novels from Asia and about Asia to readers around the globe.
Much of the year, Tom is on the road, researching stories, fulfilling assignments. His travels have led him (on foot) across the Himalayas, given him the opportunity to dive with hundreds of sharks in the Philippines and left him stranded in dozens of train stations, airports and bus terminals around South Asia, Europe and the US. On his journeys, he has joined sea gypsies and nomads, pilgrims and soldiers, secret agents, pirates, hippies, police men and prophets. Everyone put up with him longer than he deserved.


Here is what Tom Vater has to say about the writing of The Man With The Golden Mind
The Man with the Golden Mind, the second Detective Maier Mystery, has its background in one of the great barely reported secret histories of the 20th century - the US secret war in Laos.

From 1965 to 1973, the CIA ran its largest covert operation to date in Laos, a small landlocked Southeast Asian country neighboring China,Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. During this time, the American secret service trained a secret army of montagnards (ethnic minorities) to fight the Laotian communists. The secret heart of this operation was an airport called Long Cheng, deep in the Laotian jungles. From here, theUS flew aid and ammunition, troops and drugs around the country. For some years, Long Cheng was the country's second largest city and the world's busiest airport, though few people knew of its existence. As the war in Vietnam was being lost in the late 1960s, the US Air Force took over from the CIA mission and bombed the country back into the stone-age. Up to half a million people perished in the bombing, which was heavier than all the tonnage dropped during World War 2.

I first heard of Long Cheng in 2000 when I traveled across the Plain of Jars, a vast highland in northeastern Laos covered in bomb craters and unexploded ordnance, with my then wife, photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat and my brother, film maker Marc Eberle. Here, entire villages were built from US war scrap and people lost lives and limbs to buried bombs at an alarming rate, 25 years after the war had ended. We were told that no journalists had been to the secret airport since the end of the war in 1975. We were hooked on the story of "The Most Secret Place onEarth".

It took some five years to make the feature documentary about Long Cheng's rise and fall and the story of the CIA's covert war in Laos.During the research for the film, which my brother directed and for which we wrote the screenplay together, we met former CIA case officers and bureaucrats, Air America pilots, Thai mercenaries, academics, the Hmong (montagnard) general who ran the CIA's secret army and the whistleblower who uncovered the secret of the US bombing of Laos. We visited archives in the US and trawled through 1000s of photos, films and documents, returned to Laos and crisscrossed Thailand to interview countless people who played a part in the secret war.

The film was released in 2008, has shown at many film festivals and has been on TV in some thirty countries. The ABC Australia TV version( is on youtube. My long involvement with this exquisite slice of secret 20th century history gave me the historical background for The Man with the GoldenMind(

The Man with the Golden Mind is a more straightforward book than TheCambodian Book of the Dead which had genocide as its central theme,dictating a rather somber tone on the narrative.

The follow-up is lighter, the history is more digestible, though still very much n the dark side of human affairs, and the characters are just as larger than life as in the first Maier Mystery. The novel is a reflection on how secret wars are fought as well as a meditation on family relationships. And lest I forget, there are assassinations, mock executions, salacious sex, high quality drugs, sacred tattoos, serious combat and an appearance by the most infamous of US foreign secretaries to keep even the most jaded reader from slipping away.

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