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Author puts Lao coroner-detective on Asian literary map

Fictional sleuth fights crime while shining light on secretive country

British author and cartoonist Colin Cotterill provides insights into his Dr. Siri crime series, which has put Laos on the literary map, at the Bangkok Edge festival. (Photo by Peter Janssen)

CHUMPORN, Thailand -- Dr. Siri Paiboun was already beyond retirement age when he was appointed state coroner to the morgue in the Lao capital, Vientiane, shortly after Dec. 2, 1975, the day when the land-locked Southeast Asian nation officially became the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Some 12 books later, the famed Lao coroner-cum-detective is still going strong, solving murders, sassing communist officials, messing with the spirit world and slurping down tasty noodles cooked by his second wife, Madame Daeng.

The Dr. Siri detective series, set in the years after Laos fell to communist control in 1975, is the creation of British author Colin Cotterill, 65. After living in Laos, Cotterill settled in Thailand and now lives in the southern town of Chumporn, with seven dogs and his wife, Kyoko, whose family owns a 300-year-old soba noodle restaurant in Shiga, Japan. Like his Dr. Siri alter-ego, Cotterill is also postponing retirement. "The strange thing that happens when you stop writing is the money stops coming in," Cotterill said with typical wry humor.

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