Early blueprints for bar scene scribes
Two recently re-released novels from the 1950s set the bar for the myriad memoirs of expatriates falling into love and later loathing with Asian prostitutes that now litter bookshop shelves
Years before the obscenity trial that allowed Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer to finally be published in America which, along with Playboy and Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, helped to bring sex in from the margins of pornography to the bedrooms of suburbia, two British authors enjoyed scandalous successes by exposing the brothels and bargirls of Asia.
Originally published in the mid-'50s, Jack Reynolds' A Woman of Bangkok (Monsoon Books) and Richard Mason's The World of Suzie Wong (Penguin) have recently been reprinted. As pioneering works of sexology and cross-cultural relationships, their influence looms large and their progeny is legion.
Reynolds' novel laid down the template for all the half-cocked, vanity-press memoirs written by wayward Romeos, which should usually be subtitled "How I Lost My Heart, Sense and Savings to a Scheming Bargirl". The most startling difference between him and his many emulators is that Reynolds was a real writer. His descriptions of dreary England, the narrator's stuffy family background with a vicar for a father, and the prudishness of his relationship with Sheila, who deserts him for his brother, leave little doubt as to why Reggie Joyce has come to the Far East. Bored and frustrated, the only excitement in his old life came from risking his neck as a professional motorcycle racer. (That was also Jack Reynolds' former profession, and his father was a man of the cloth too.)
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