‘The Motion Picture Teller’ is a feel-good book for classic movie lovers

Colin Cotterrill is best known, if he is known at all, as the author of a series of mysteries featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun. Over the last two decades, and 15 books so far, Cotterill’s eccentric medical examiner has amused and befuddled readers. The fictional octogenarian Paiboun has served as the national coroner for the SE Asian nation of Cambodia.

Most of Cotterill’s other books have been set in neighboring Thailand, a country the author knows well, he has lived there for many years. The author bio states: “he lives in Chumphon, Thailand, with his wife and a number of deranged dogs.” Some years ago Cotterill was in the U.S. at a conference and I was able to interview him; he told me that initially he was a cartoonist.

His books contain lots of humor. His latest is a standalone novel, “The Motion Picture Teller” and it was released on his longtime imprint Soho Crime. While the story is definitely a mystery I would not call it a crime novel since there really aren’t any significant crimes that occur.

In the author’s note he explains “back in the nineties I was approached by a fledgling movie production company to write screenplays...one of these I called “Bangkok 2010.” The film was never made, but the research he conducted then eventually provided the basis for this story which is set mostly in Bangkok in 1996.

“The Motion Picture Teller” is a story about the friendship between Supot, a mail carrier for the Royal Thai Mail Service, and his buddy Ali, the proprietor of a video store. Both men are devoted to classic films and possess encyclopedic knowledge of almost any vintage American movie.

They spend their time together in the back of Ali’s shop watching and discussing movies. One day a wino turns up there with a box of old VHS tapes he wants to sell so he can buy another bottle. Ali isn’t that impressed with the unfortunate fellow’s offerings, but he buys them just the same.

Most of the tapes in the box are not that interesting, but there’s one videocassette that attracts their notice. It is a generic unmarked tape. They insert it in the VCR and are stunned when they realize they are watching a futuristic production with the title of “Bangkok 2010.”

These seasoned cinema buffs are astonished; the movie is fantastic. They had never heard of it-none of the actors were familiar to them. Supot is transfixed as he falls in love with images of a beautiful young woman who starred in the film.

Supot doesn’t need much encouragement to begin trying to locate this woman. He hates his postal job while he’s becoming obsessed with her. He begins investigating. Nobody has ever heard of this film. It was never released. Supot’s quest takes him to some rather unusual places.

He finally locates her. Readers will be amazed at what he learns about the movie and about her. “The Motion Picture Teller” is satisfying and warmly sentimental.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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