The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis Book review: ‘38 Million Dollar Smile’ / ‘Bangkok Free Fall’ by Richard Stevenson

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 04•13

Stevenson38MillionLargeRichard Stevenson is the nom de plume of Richard Lipez, an American author best known for his series of novels involving the world of private eye Don Strachey. Here at WoWasis, we’re always looking at new twists on the Bangkok Fiction genre. The ‘bar girl meets western man’ theme has been covered in dozens of books, so Stevenson’s 38 Million Dollar Smile (2009, ISBN 978-981-08-6409-5) is a refreshing difference. In fact, there’s not a bar girl in this Bangkok-based novel. The main protagonists — like the author himself — are gay. And instead of the classic Bangkok target adult venues such as Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy, they visit Dream Boys, a well-known gay boy show club on Soi Twilight, adjacent to Patpong Road. The book, incidentally, was also published under the title Bangkok Free Fall in 2010 for distribution in Asia.

The story involves a wealthy Eastern U.S. family and their wayward son, who seems ready to abscond with the family fortune and donate it to a somewhat shady Thai group that has promised to build a large Buddhist center near Suvarnabhumi airport. The family hires Strachey to visit Thailand, meet with the son and figure out what’s really going on. In standard Thai fashion, though, people are “committing suicide” by being thrown off high-rise buildings, some influential police figures are involved, and Strachey and his partner Timothy are imperiled virtually as soon as they arrive.

ThailandPromoBannerThe book is a fun read, with plenty of gay banter, lots of inside references to arty material (“It’s Chinatown, Jake”), a ladyboy associate, and a witty wisecracking Thai private eye, Rufus Pugh, our favorite character. The book will appeal to anyone willing to enjoy a departure from traditional Bangkok fiction. Much of the dialogue is reminiscent of what you’ll hear in drag shows in the United States, so be prepared for something really different, humor-wise. We found it ultimately to be an enchanting, wonderful take on Thai crime and culture. Buy 38 Million Dollar Smile now at the WoWasis eStore.

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