Tuesday, January 4, 2011
by: Jacob White
Expat author, Erich R. Sysak’s new crime novel, STAGE IV, from Monsoon Books, Singapore (www.monsoonbooks.com.sg), puts the spotlight on problems in America by way of Thailand. Let me explain. A marketing manager named Lawson Banks is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given one or two years to live if he has multiple surgeries, chemo, and swallows handfuls of drugs. And of course spends all of his money. Welcome to America, right?
Banks loses his house, his job, his family, basically everything except a life insurance policy. The first twist: viatication. I had no idea people actually bought life insurance policies with someone’s future death in mind, but apparently it started up big in the eighties as an unregulated investment for aggressive Wall Street bankers.
Banks cashes out his policy for less than half its value, 400,000 dollars, and moves to a beach in Thailand to live out his final days in paradise. Because of the huge difference in the cost of living between the US and Thailand, Banks settles into a nice beach house, finds a girl and really starts enjoying life. But that’s not all. He discovers that medical care is not only just as good, but cheaper, a lot cheaper. So cheap he can afford a super-drug called Somastatin that in the novel cost him 8,000 dollars a pop in America (an outrageous pay or die scenario based on a real drug called Sandostatin that is outrageously expensive in the US).
The book is not only an exciting mystery that’s fun to read, but it achieves a higher ethical victory by putting a spotlight on just how cruel and isolated sick people can be in the United States and how the rest of the world seems to be dealing with health care in a much more sympathetic and compassionate way.