PATTAYA, Thailand – Most old hands in Pattaya know Dave Collier as the sociable and knowledgeable owner of Canterbury Tales trade-in library with 65,000 volumes and still counting. The business is incredibly successful, especially since the move a year ago from the riotous downtown Soi Pothole to the calmer palms of Soi Bangkot. The premises also serve as the main drop-in center for British expats during the daytime. “It’s an amazing news-information, talk shop and gossip center,” says Dave.
But there was once a very different Dave Collier persona, at any rate to judge from his just-published book “The Gamekeeper”. It’s not a comprehensive biography, but a fly-on-the-wall assessment of his many years as a gamekeeper in the countryside around Canterbury and, then, as surely the most overworked, voluntary prison visitor in the history of the British penal system. Technically, it’s a work of fiction but based on a true story. You can likely identify the made-up bits most effectively if you are an avid reader of true and fiction crime.
If the only gamekeeper you ever heard of was Lady Chatterley’s snotty lover, forget him and turn to Dave. A real gamekeeper protects the valued wildlife and destroys the four and two legged enemies which roam the forests at night. Foxes, rats, stoats as well as nasty rooks or cuckoos are all on the death list by shotgun. But there are also human marauders, ranging from naughty egg-stealing schoolboys to professional thieves who have to be kept in check. Dave deals with all of them with thoroughness and enthusiasm, encountering along the way several dead bodies, men in abject misery (we don’t know why) who go to the woods to commit suicide.
Gamekeeping had been Dave’s dream as a country boy but his chosen career eventually fell apart along with a failed marriage. He had several jobs, including becoming a driver for two debt collectors, but took up voluntary work with the Samaritans which in turn led to running the listener scheme in Standford Hill and Elmley prison on the Isle of Sheppey. Here Dave got to know some of the worst criminals, particularly murderers and pedophiles, and paints a grim picture of how many were released too early and immediately began reoffending. The author is no social worker in the traditional sense.
Some of the chapter headings give a clue to Dave’s involvement, for example Child Killer, The Night Mick was Shot, A Copper’s Double Life , Trapping the Pedo, Kidnapped Daughter, On His Deathbed – just to name a few. Surprisingly, humour does emerge in several of the tales, though mainly the black type. Thus criminals who were arrested in the 1970s learned nothing of DNA in prison and were easy prey for police investigators when they started a new naive life of crime after release. There has likely never been a franker account of the grimmest type of British prisoners during and also after incarceration.
It has long been an ambition of Dave to write a memoir. After all, running a book shop does concentrate the mind. He wanted to tell this particular personal story as it is truly unique in both content and approach. It would hardly be surprising if Netflix devoted a mini-series to some of the escapades described here. Health permitting – Dave has suffered for many years from a progressive muscle-wasting disease – the author hopes to write a second tome about some of the amazing characters who have lived in Pattaya over the years. Another work of fiction just based on a true story will likely again be the likely format.
Print copies of “The Gamekeeper” can be obtained by writing to Dave at [email protected] E-book version available from Amazon.