Death of a Friend: Max Voigt (1941 – 2007)
Sunday night I lost a long time friend. He died of a heart attack. I just saw Max last Thursday at lunchtime. He’d lost a lot of weight and said he wasn’t feeling well. I said, “Max, take care of yourself.” And Max smiled, shook his head and pushed out the door. He was one of those people with a morbid fear of doctors and hospitals. Friends offered to take him for a check up. Max just refused to go past the hospital door.
It is likely you never heard of Max Voigt. Max was an American lawyer who had lived in Asia for more than half of his life. When I first came to Bangkok in the late 1980s, Max was head of Corporate Department of a leading law firm in the City. By chance I saw walking on my soi and struck up a conversation. A couple of days later, Max sent me my first freelance case. One case led to another until I had a steady stream of work for the first crucial years I lived in Thailand. Without Max’s friendship, the work wouldn’t have come my way, and without the work, I never would have had the time or opportunity to write novels. I owed Max Voigt a great deal.
Behind the ordinary man mask Max was an incredible character. I dedicated A Bewitching Smileto Max and two other friends. In A Haunting Smile, there is an American lawyer named Ross. A lot of Max found its way into the Ross character. Ross, like Max, was a Bangkok based lawyer.
This excerpt is from A Haunting Smile:
“Ross’s technique was to soften up a client who was racked with regrets, lapses of courage, doubts about his competence. He found it was successful to start with a minor lesson about bitterness and courage. *** Ross was the kind of person who befriended only people who refused to succumb to his sewer-death fear. Some people like people surrounding them who shared their fears, who reconfirmed that insanity and misery caused by hidden secret traps set in everyday life, someone to whom they could rage and cry out against the unfairness of so much personal danger and risk. Not Ross. He wanted people who climbed into the belly of the beast without blinking an eye as if to say, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Max will be greatly missed.