“You should write your memoir,” a guy on the internet once told me, which I thought was questionable advice, even before he messaged me a picture of his genitals and asked for a picture of mine.
For one thing, people who write memoirs are old, celebrities, or famous in their own minds—like David Sedaris or Mary Jo Buttafuoco. People who write memoirs have interesting lives. Nothing fascinating ever happened to me…except maybe that one time I almost got kidnapped.
An Origin Story (Kind of Like Wolverine’s)
A disclaimer: I romanticize stories about my father. Without meaning to, I make him sound like Yojimbo or a Chow Yun Fat character, some ultra-smooth James Bond dude. Because my father isn’t around to defend himself, I tend to forget he did things like toss an entire chicken into the soup pot without straining the bones, which made you think you could have a scaly foot in your mouth at any moment. I mean, really.
But here’s the deal: My father was a spy for the US Army.
In the early 1970s, when Nixon was all about his drug war, we lived near the Golden Triangle, which is a region in Southeast Asia where Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet. (Not to be confused with the intersection of Tanque Verde and Kolb in Tucson, which used to have both an Eegee’s and a McDonald’s and possibly a Carl’s, Jr.)
Since the 1950s, the Golden Triangle has been the most extensive opium-producing region in the world. You can do an internet search and find the drug kingpin against whom my father collected evidence and eventually testified in court. (I’m not naming names because if I were a drug lord, I’d do a crap-ton of internet searches for myself and if I found myself mentioned by some weird mystery writer, I’d follow her on Twitter. And possibly ask her for nude pics.)
Let me say that again: My father testified against a Thai drug lord.
Needless to say, my parents were ready to get the heck out of Dodge immediately after my father gave his statements.
A Major Character Flaw
Every main character needs a flaw. Apparently, as a toddler mine was that I was too trusting. We had a lot of household help, which sounds kind of Gunga Din—except I wasn’t a first world imperialist, lording over a subculture. I was a native. I had a Thai name prayed and paid for at the local wat (temple) and I looked like any other child there.
Our impending hasty departure, however, made my Thai nanny go slightly insane. She’d been with me since birth and now she was losing me. People actually came to our house to warn my parents that my nanny was telling everyone she was planning to “K̄hmoy Emily,” which means “to steal” me.
The thing is, she really wouldn’t have had to steal me. I would have gone with her.
I gave you that disclaimer about my father. Here’s one about my mother.
A disclaimer: My mom is a badass, and I never exaggerate stories about her. When my mother heard the crazy nanny was making noise around town about kidnapping me, she decided she had had enough of this phooey (direct quote). She got the US military to speed up our departure plans even more, the whole time not letting me out of her sight until we were on American soil. If you’ve ever tried to deal with military bureaucracy, you’d realize exactly how badass my mom is.
The rest is history—I went on to become a writer of snarky mysteries in which I based the character of Josie Tucker’s mother on my former nanny. If events had gone differently, I might have been doomed to a short and miserable life in a Thai sweatshop, or worse…
A weird addendum: Although my father was the spy, my mother is the one who doesn’t have any fingerprints. Think about that for a minute.
A new, snarky Josie Tucker mystery is coming soon. In the meantime, have you read the others?