The Nation : Digging Into Thailand’s Underbelly

by Kanhet

Prostitution in Thailand has provided a seedy backdrop for many ex-pat novels published both in and outside of the Kingdom. It’s a rare occasion however, to find an author that tackles the subject with the same humor and insight as David Young. In his first novel, The Scribe, we were introduced to Henry Russell, a foreigner writing scam letters on behalf of bargirls. His follow-up, Thailand Joy took us into the world of Mantana as she scaled the heights – and suffered the consequences – of the working girl life. In his most recent novel, Fast Eddie’s Lucky 7 A-Go-Go, (Hostage Press International, 2004), Young once again digs into the underbelly of Thailand and weaves a tale that is both fresh and original.

“Fast Eddie” is the owner of a popular a-go-go bar in the Northern city of Chiang Mai. One evening, Eddie experiences a heart attack in his very own bar. His near-death experience awakens memories of a life he left behind. Determined to set things right, Eddie decides to abandon the “good life” and sell his famous establishment. His first choice is Ray Malone, a middle-aged English teacher desperate to escape the rut he’s in. One has to wonder what makes Eddie choose a man who falls in love with all the wrong women and obviously has no head for business, but it’s a minor detail. As expected, Ray’s less-than-admirable lifestyle has depleted his bank account. With his future at stake, Ray abandons what morals he has left in his attempt to raise the money. He’s aided by his friend, Tommy the Frankenstein, a man who acquired his nickname due to a pre-Thailand accident and a dark trench coat he wears even on the hottest of days. Tommy provides a voice of reason to Ray’s turmoil. His lowdown on Ray’s working girl girlfriend makes it obvious that author Young is not out to titillate. “Ann wasn’t brought up to feel guilty over lying or cheating. She was brought up learning to survive. This goes way beyond good and evil, right or wrong, moral or indecent.” He gives Ray—and the reader—plenty of food for thought.

Young doesn’t stop there. Running parallel to Ray’s plight is a series of storylines that develop a life of their own as well as reflect upon the main characters of the novel. One such storyline involves Mike. Mike is the son Eddie abandoned fifteen years ago to recharge his life in Thailand — and the one person Eddie wishes to see again. Needless to say, Mike is a little more than wary of a father-son reunion. His procrastination and fear of his father’s expectations begins to wear on his girlfriend, Haley, who, in the middle of a nightclub, demands that anyone who knows Fast Eddie step forward and “say something nice about the man.” The responses she gets range from the bizarre to hilarious.

Foreigners make up only half the tale. Two of Eddie’s working girls, Pim and Ann, put their own separate spins upon Ray’s life once they realize their beloved boss is going to sell the bar. Ann, who he loves, plans to dump him. Pim on the other hand, sees more potential in the would-be barowner. Pim’s scheme of arranging a fake accident in which Ray would have to pay for her medical bills (and thus become indebted to her) is as outrageous as it is plausible.

Added to the mix are a mysterious doctor that lives outside of town and a strange sailor who also has his eyes on Fast Eddie’s.

In keeping with The Scribe and Thailand Joy, Young’s writing style remains energetic and brisk. Much is said in as few words as possible, such as when the author relates the history of Fast Eddie’s bar. “To insure his investment, he paid off the police to protect him from the Mafia. He paid off the Mafia to protect him from the police. Within the first year of business, everyone was playing nicely.” And again, when Pim’s sister offers her advice on finding a husband, “Oh well, like, love; that all gets blurred after the initial excitement is gone. What you’ve got to do is fix yourself in his life so that he can’t leave you.” Characters in “Fast Eddie’s” come to life through slim observation rather than a morass of detail.

Fast Eddie’s Lucky 7 A-Go-Go runs 346 pages and is priced at 395 baht. It is an unflinchingly entertaining tale of hard luck cases and their struggles for redemption.