The Ideal Man by Joshua Kurlantzick Wiley Farang is a Thai word with a meaning akin to gweilo here. And 20th century Bangkok's most illustrious farang was indisputably a Delaware native son and long-term resident of the capital named Jim Thompson. Indeed, today his museum-style home remains one of the city's top tourist attractions. For those familiar with the Thompson story, Joshua Kurlantzick's treatment is both satisfying and frustrating: the former because the author fills in the many blanks in this peculiar life story; the latter because it does not go any further in explaining the American entrepreneur and spy's mysterious disappearance in Malaysia in 1967. The furthest that The Ideal Man ventures is to vaguely theorise that Thompson was bumped off by a Thai business rival. Yet, with the passage of 45 years and no meaningful leads, Thompson's fateful last solitary walk in the Cameron Highlands is destined to remain a mystery. Born in 1906, Thompson grew up in a wealthy east coast family and attended Princeton University. He held a dreary but safe office job during the early years of the second world war, before joining the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1943, where he was swiftly identified as a capable recruit of high value. Duly, he was assigned to North Africa, Italy and France as an intelligence officer with advance units of US combat forces. With the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945, the OSS planned to parachute Thompson into northeast Thailand to organise anti-Japanese militias, but the Pacific theatre of the war ended before this plan could be executed, and Thompson ended up assigned to the State Department's Bangkok legation. He severed his official connection with the US government in 1946 but remained in the Thai capital and maintained an active though informal relationship with the CIA station there. Meanwhile, as the cold war crept east, the US faced a problem. Should the superpower, as Thompson increasingly believed, help Southeast Asian nations develop democracies based on their traditional cultures? Or, as the USA apparently wanted, should it simply nurture anti-communist regimes - at any ethical cost - through stealth and alliance-building? Thompson was also an entrepreneur in love with Thailand. His Thai Silk Company, which he established in 1948, became a wildly successful export business. Sales were much helped by Thompson's reputation as a socialite, and an internationally acclaimed host famed for throwing lavish dinner parties. In the late 1950s, these events began to taper off as the chain-smoking bon vivant's health declined, and he suffered bouts of depression. Despite his wildly oscillating moods, Thompson's genuine kinship with his adopted nation never wavered. Furthermore, he gradually accrued considerable political influence, becoming a shadowy player in both domestic and regional politics. Concurrently he became disillusioned with the American ways and means of dealing with the superpower's allies and foes in the region. Kurlantzick's examination of Thompson's conflicted bicultural life is engrossing, and will prove especially rewarding reading for those with a historical interest in the cold war in Asia. An Ideal Man is an important addition to the many works on the life and times of this Southeast Asian legend.