I had an obvious dilemma from the start. My story was set in Thailand and many of the stories were inspired by sitting in a Bangkok bar, pretending to watch the football but actually making up stories about my fellow customers. The idea of the book was that a girl’s life could come crashing down around her ears for one small mistake. The Thai Lottery theme had made me think about a lot of the people you see in Bangkok. Locals and foreigners alike are playing their own lottery, hoping that one day they will wake up to see that their dreams have come true. An escape from a life they wish belonged to someone else. Some get lucky, most have to wait for another day, but for some “the abyss awaits”. I also wanted to write about the westerners who take a chance on a new life in a foreign country or who save up to buy a brief escape from the “real world. When you put all those themes together there is only one setting for the book, the notorious Thai sex industry.
I am not shy about admitting that I have visited plenty of bars in Thailand, many of them have staff who “make their own arrangements” with the customers as the evening progresses. It all sounds horribly seedy but somehow the Thais deliver a “Toy Story” experience. The better bars can be seen on two different levels just like the Pixar movies. They are fun and welcoming places for women as well as men, but there is an “adult” side to it all if that is what you want. My wife once disappeared with a “lady of the night” we met in a Thai bar whilst I was playing a dice game with the waitresses. She came back twenty minutes later having had her nose pierced. Thailand has that effect on you.
I was dwelling on how many westerners look down on Thailand and its notorious sex industry, whilst having a drink with a friend recently. We were in the bar of one of London’s most exclusive hotels. It was packed with the young, the beautiful… and old blokes like us. There were lots of stunning girls, alone or in pairs and they were so friendly. Each time I went to the men’s room they would smile. It might have gone to my head had I not been going to the Gents where I could get a reality check in the mirror. Their interest was purely professional. Now what was I saying about the Thai sex industry. Oh yes….
My problem was, how I could write a book about the sex industry without everyone assuming it was autobiographical? Oddly enough, nobody assumed that Agatha Christie was a mass murderer, but I had a queasy feeling that I would not be given the benefit of the doubt. I thought about it for a while and decided “what the hell”.