In any other country, novels about expats forming romantic relationships involve respectable local women. Not so here, where there’s a stigma respectable women are reluctant to endure. (They are somewhat more willing abroad.) Which accounts for so many books being written about expats and demimondaines, prostitutes easy to meet, ready, willing and able to hook up with “rich” farangs – aren’t they all rich?
With the possible exception of call girls, prostitutes overseas are uncouth and display zero affection. Sex is a cut and dry play for pay transaction. Most of the johns berate themselves afterwards, the act a far cry from the fantasy preceding it. They wouldn’t think of trusting a hooker, much less establishing a liaison.
The Land of Smiles is something else again. The prostitutes here are into illusion. They (with exceptions) do what their sisters under the skin don’t do: make each john feel special. This requires fabricating stories about themselves (usually the same story with minor variations). Without putting too fine a point on it, they are consummate liars.
Their performances are persuasive (except to their local husbands they never mention and to Old Thailand hands who have learned the script by heart), swearing that they hate their profession but need the money to help their parents. Whereupon the johns take out their wallets and pay them to get off the game and be faithful.
David Young is one of the better authors focusing on the prostitutes here, Fast Eddie’s Lucky 7 A-Go-Go following The Scribe and Thailand Joy. Set in Chiang Mai, it follows the course of Eddie McDermott’s life after having a heart attack at age 60. The publican of the title recalls his marriage, infidelities and divorce in the States, before going to Thailand with the hope of starting a new life.
He’s good to his bar girls and dancers and they are loyal. But thinking he’s going to die, he sells his watering hole to fellow expat Ray Malone. Insensitive, the staff — even those he beds — have no time for him. Eddie’s teenage son shows up as a backpacker and takes to the sporting life.
The author makes it clear that the lasses aren’t interchangeable, having distinct personalities. Neither are the expats, Dr. Brent for one not the satyr he makes himself out to be. The shootings are a bit much, but then they aren’t fatal. Things work out at the finis, which would be unlikely in real life.
Their lies apart, the serious question of whether the girls would turn their back on prostitution if they could be taught useful, if less lucrative, occupations. In the event, some do. Unless you are jaded by the genre, Fast Eddie’s Lucky 7 A-Go-Go is a fast read and is interest-holding.