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Smoking Poppy (Gollancz S.F.) by Graham…

Smoking Poppy (Gollancz S.F.) (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Graham Joyce

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181865,444 (3.77)18
Title:Smoking Poppy (Gollancz S.F.)
Authors:Graham Joyce
Info:Gollancz (2001), Edition: 1st edition, Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library

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Smoking Poppy by Graham Joyce (2001)



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What a terrific novel! I blasted through it, forcing myself all day yesterday to behave and do the things I had to do . . . Dan's daughter has gone missing, turns up in a jail in Thailand, having been caught smuggling opium. Dan resolves to go and see her and see if he can find a way to get her out and home, to his surprise first his friend from the bar he frequents for quiz night and snooker decides he's coming too, and then to his further amazements (and no little chagrin) his son, from whom he is pretty well estranged, due to his son's in-your-face evangelism, has also decided to come. Dan is a sympathetic, flawed Dad, but it is his friend and his son, the setting, and the situation that really gripped me. Joyce did his homework about the opium/morphine/heroin traffic nexus and obviously made a trip out there to see for himself, and describes it convincingly, even lyrically at times. There is just the slightest fantastical element, but to my mind, no more than one does occasionally encounter in Real Life, so called. Wonderful. ****1/2 ( )
2 vote sibyx | Feb 2, 2017 |
Danny Innes is the Brit equivalent of what Americans call a "regular joe." An electrician by trade, he's alienated from his adult children, recently separated from his wife, and a bit befuddled as to how it all came about. All he's ever done is his best to love and provide for them, but there he is, kicked in the teeth and alone.

Then he's told his daughter, Charlie (Charlotte), has been arrested for drug trafficking in Thailand and is imprisoned in Chang Mai. Danny has to go. No matter how estranged they've become -- Charlie had gone off to university at Oxford and come back multiply pierced and with "the politics of an international terrorist" and he hasn't heard from her in two years -- it's his little girl and it is up to him to do what he can. Danny, like most men, is a "fixer." When confronted with a problem -- whether it is frayed wiring or a daughter facing life imprisonment or execution -- he wants to fix it.

Danny, although not a recipient of higher education, is a voracious reader who uses books "the way some people do alcohol, to obliterate the noise of the outside world." (Although of late, our Dan's been knocking back quite a bit of whiskey and not a few ales.) He's the sort of autodidact who has accumulated vast amounts of the sort of knowledge that makes one wizard at trivia. Like most self-taught intellects, Danny's brain acquires information in what "educated" types would consider an odd fashion. He picks up books by Keats, Coleridge, Baudelaire, De Quincey, and Rimbaud from the library (along with a more technical guide to drugs) because someone's told him they were notable dope-fiends and he wants to find out more about the stuff. Of course, unhampered by the prejudices of "education," Danny also can make associations and gain insights his allegedly-learned brethren can not.

Danny goes off to Thailand accompanied, somewhat to his distress, by his "best mate" Mick and religious zealot of a son, Phil. Mick Williams is a blustering bull of a man, but possessed of a lively intelligence and undauntable determination to help his friend--despite the fact that Danny has never considered Mick a friend. Phil is as repressed as Mick is unrestrained. Three years older than his sister and a laboratory technician, Phil has distanced himself from his father with a parsimonious nature and complete dedication to Christian fundamentalism.

The incongruous trio hit Thailand and are confronted with a world more alien (and perhaps more survivable) than the bottom of the Marianas Trench. They are also dismayed to discover the young woman imprisoned in Chiang Mai is not Charlie. Despite the utter incompetence of the foppish local British Consul, they manage to question the imprisoned girl and her information gives them a possible location for Charlie -- a small village near the Myanmar border, a lawless area that requires a trek through near-impassable mountainous jungle terrain to reach.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
'Smoking Poppy' is not marketed as a fantasy, or even as 'magic realism', but rather as a straightforward novel about a man seeking his daughter, supposedly under arrest in Thailand for smuggling drugs. But this is Graham Joyce, so that's only the start of it.

Joyce's protagonist speaks in his own voice, as an ordinary working-class man from the English Midlands, though like many British people located somewhere on the political left, Joyce entertains the idea of the working class having the capacity to absorb high culture and deep introspective thought as well as quiz night in the pub and struggling with flatpack furniture. There is nothing wrong with this world-view, no matter how much some commentators might think it unlikely. The secondary education system in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, when Graham Joyce was growing up, was quite capable of delivering that outcome; Graham himself was an example of it; and so it is quite reasonable that his protagonist speaks in that voice.

I mention this because the book is as much about what it means to be a father in Britain at the turn of the 20th century as it is about issues relating to the drugs trade in Thailand. Joyce observes that part of working class life that he experienced would be for children to exceed the achievements of their parents; and this is a big part of the inner landscape of his central character.

Indeed, it is the protagonists - Danny, his mate Mick and his son Phil (whose act of rebellion against his parents is to turn to evangelical Christianity in a big, zealous way) - who are the defining feature of this book. They are not characters from central casting, but instead well-drawn, ordinary protagonists coming to terms with a very alien environment. At the outset, when Danny and his party arrive in Thailand, initially to visit Danny's daughter in jail, their reaction to Thailand is straight out of the usual list of tourist expectations. But as they find that they have to go up country, their journey, seemingly a simple 'Heart of Darkness' narrative, becomes stranger as the main characters' complete unpreparedness for their new environment becomes plain.

They find Danny's daughter, but she has fallen into difficulty that far transcends mere addiction; and we are pitched into a setting where the real world and the spirit world interact. We pass into this state almost seamlessly. At the same time, the real 'outer' world, the world away from the poppy fields of northern Thailand, continues to intervene, in the form of a plausible and frightening drugs baron.

Graham Joyce always wrote stories that were grounded in the real world, and this one is no exception. Interestingly, although his protagonists come from Leicester - Graham's adopted home for the last part of his life - he does let slip a little bit of his past location in Derby, in the reference to a local psychiatric hospital, "The Pastures", which was the local such establishment for Derby rather than Leicester. Graham's whole output was well-grounded in the real world - in his corner of the real world particularly, as he kept returning to it and finding it fertile soil for his particular brand of fantasy - and 'Smoking Poppy' is no exception. The exoticism of main location is simply a framing device for a story about the important business of friendship, and family, and fatherhood. ( )
1 vote RobertDay | Aug 24, 2015 |
Joyce delivers here a richly detailed psychological portrait of family life and friendship as a father seeks his lost daughter in the wildernesses of Thailand. Intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying, this novel strikes at the heart of domestic relationships. ( )
  jemsw | Oct 6, 2009 |
My first book to finish in 2009, and an excellent way to start the year! I thoroughly enjoyed my first read from Graham Joyce -- the fast-paced events, hallucinatory images, well-drawn characters and good dialogue, the humor and sometimes caustic tone. It's a novel that tells several stories at once, and not least of all about being a father. ( )
  thioviolight | Jan 4, 2009 |
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Haiku summary
Daughter disappeared,
Son gone evangelistic,
Dad is in despair.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671039407, Paperback)

Graham Joyce

travels to an enthralling, suspense-charged landscape in this hallucinatory novel of a father's quest to save his daughter -- without destroying himself.

Dan Innes has received shattering news from the British Embassy in Bangkok: his daughter, Charlie, whom he hasn't seen or spoken to in two years, has been imprisoned in a Thai jail for drug smuggling. Angry, terrified, seething with reprimands and questions, Dan leaves for Thailand. But the jail at Chiang Mai marks the beginning of his search rather than the end. Following the faintest of trails up into the lawless, dangerous mountain region near Myanmar, where opium grows abundantly, Dan must retrace Charlie's steps -- and brave the same traps that have swallowed her...on a terrifying mission of self-discovery, blind faith, and salvation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:35 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Oh that Charlie of mine, how I wanted her back. Dan Innes hasn't seen his daughter for two years. Now he's been delivered shattering news from the British Embassy in Bangkok: the light of his life has been arrested as a drug smuggler, languishing in wait of a probably death sentence in a hellish Chiang Mai jail. Angry and terrified, seething with guilt, reprimands, and questions, he leaves London for Thailand, prepared to fight for his estranged daughter's freedom." "But Dan's visit to the jail is inconclusive, and soon he is following the faintest of trails up in the lawless mountain region close to the border with Myanmar, where opium grows abundantly and the dangers of nature are second only to that of man. It's a place where the fearless and the foolish wander - and disappear forever. To find Charlie, Dan must retrace her steps and brave the same traps that swallowed her. Here he will discover his own limits, his own temptations, as he drifts across the strange tides of an even stranger land, on a terrifying mission of self-discovery, blind faith, and salvation."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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