My local Bookazine in Big C Extra was having their stock-take, so I decided to re-run Private Dancer which I consider to be one of the most important books of the decade.
Private Dancer, written by well known author Stephen Leather, has been a best seller in Bookazine for many years, and even though I reviewed the web copy, I felt that this book has been such a strong seller, I should review the paperback, which I now do again.
It is a very cleverly fabricated story, relating to a journalist (Pete) who comes to Bangkok to work and who falls in love with Joy, a dancer at a bar in Nana Plaza. She is to become his ‘private dancer’ from which comes the title of the book.
What sets this manuscript apart from the overdone ‘farang falls in love with bar girl’ books is that Stephen Leather gives the side of the central character Pete, and then follows that up with the thoughts of the girl Joy. After that, at various important milestones in the relationship, other people are brought in who give their impressions of what is going on. These people include Pete’s boss Alistair, the owner of a bar called Big Ron, whom Leather admits is well known identity Big Dave, and the bar called Fatso’s was Big Dave’s establishment called Jool’s on Soi 4 Sukhumvit (as anyone who has ever been there would pick immediately). Others who give their opinions include Pete’s friends, his flat-mate and even the owner of Joy’s bar, who is even more cynical than Big Ron.
Where Stephen Leather has excelled with this book is in his understanding of the Thai viewpoint. And to then put it down in print. There will be those who will say that a farang can never get inside the mind of the Thais. Perhaps not, but this book of Stephen Leather’s must go damn close. Close enough for me! Take for example the words from Joy after Pete rang her in her room to say that he had been talking to Park, her Thai husband. “Park was in my room when Pete telephoned. I asked Park what he was playing at, and he said he didn’t know what I was talking about. I got angry then and said that he’d spoiled everything. He had no right to talk to Pete, he was my customer.” And it all hangs on that last word!
This is the best warning book about bar girls ever written, and at B. 595 should be compulsory reading for all single males before arrival in Thailand. Make that for all single males period. Love and logic only start with the same letter, and that is where the similarity ends, and where self-delusion starts. The world is populated with Petes, about whom Big Ron states, “Was I surprised at what happened to Pete? Of course I (expletive) wasn’t. He was on the road to ruin as soon as he let her get to him. A lost cause.”
If you have not read it, do so, and keep a copy for overseas visitors!