Tuesday, 13 April 2021

What I'm reading: the brutal reality of ladyboy bars


Forty-year-old Londoner Graham leaves his wife to start a new life in Bangkok, opening a cabaret bar with a ladyboy lover. The obstacles to this enterprise include corrupt policemen and an American hardman who muscles in on both the business and Graham’s lover. Other rivals meet grisly deaths.

Robin Newbold does not dwell on the glamour and camp of the cabaret scene. He highlights the squalid streets of Patpong and the intense trafficking of young flesh for those visitors who are not in Thailand to admire its temples and beaches. When Graham goes to Cambodia to renew his visa he doesn’t tour Angkor Wat: he visits a genocide museum and bars with teenage prostitutes. Bangkok Burning is a grim, unflinching read.