CHUMPORN, Thailand Dr. Siri Paiboun was already beyond retirement age when he was appointed state coroner to the morgue in Laos' capital, Vientiane, in 1975, when the Southeast Asian nation officially became the Lao People's Democratic Republic. A dozen books later, Siri is still solving murders, sassing officials, messing with the spirit world and slurping down noodles prepared by his second wife, Madame Daeng.
The Dr. Siri detective series, set in the years after Laos fell into communist control, 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.