Two-Year Visit to Laos Inspires Great Detective Series
Writer and cartoonist Colin Cotterill is best known for the sardonic Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery Books, set in the communist People's Republic of Laos during the late 1970s. Dr. Siri is a septuagenarian coroner who works in a morgue in a hospital in Vientiane. In 2011, Cotterill transformed the tragedy of world economic crisis into the background for a funny, warm-spirited mystery series set in southern Thailand, Jimm Juree Mystery Books, starring Jimm Juree, intrepid girl crime reporter.
NPR reports that Cotterill's first trip to Laos, with a UNESCO project, turned into a two year stay, most of it spent in the hospital that inspired Dr Siri's workplace, Mahosot Hospital.
The first month, Cotterill was a patient in the hospital. The rest of the time he was a tenant in an apartment on one of the hospital's upper floors. He spent a lot of time with the medical staff, practicing his Lao, hanging out and swapping stories with the doctors, nurses and patients. Many of the stories he heard were about the late 1970s, when the long-running civil war had finally ended and the new communist government was just getting on its feet.
Born in London, Cotterill has taught in Australia, the United States and Japan and lived in Thailand and in Laos. He has worked for non-governmental social service organizations to help abused children. At present, he is a full-time writer and lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
On June 15 2009 Colin Cotterill received the Crime Writers' Association Dagger in the Library award for being "the author of crime fiction whose work is currently giving the greatest enjoyment to library users."