Private Dancer - A Novel
by Stephen Leather
This story was originally published in short form in Esquire Magazine
and has appeared on a number of web sites in that form. Stephen has
developed it into a full length novel which you can download in PDF
format from the link below for free. You can also visit Stephen's
website and check out other books he has written based in South East
Stephen's website - www.stephenleather.com
Download the novel in PDF format: Private
Dancer (right click the link and select "save target as"
- it's 1 megabyte
If you do not have the PDF reader you can get it here (It's free
and a 5 meg download)
And just to whet your appetite, here is an extract from the novel.
The fact that the main character is called Pete is totally coincidental
An Extract from Private Dancer by Stephen Leather
I don't know if it was love at first sight but it was pretty damn
close. She had the longest hair I'd ever seen, jet black and almost
down to her waist. She smiled all the time and had soft brown eyes
that made my heart melt, long legs that just wouldn't quit and a
figure to die for. She was stark naked except for a pair of black
leather ankle boots with small chrome chains on the side. I think
it was the boots that did it for me. I didn't know her name, and
I couldn't talk to her because she was already occupied with a fat,
balding guy with a mobile phone who kept fondling her breasts and
bouncing her up and down on his knee. She was a dancer at the Zombie
Bar, one of more than a hundred go-go dancers, and between her twenty-minute
dancing shifts she had to hustle drinks from customers.
I kept trying to catch her eye, but she was too busy with the bald
guy and after an hour or so she changed into jeans and a T-shirt
and left with him. They looked obscene together, he must have been
twenty stone and old enough to be her father. I was with Nigel,
a guy I'd met in Fatso's Bar, down the road from the go-go bars
of Nana Plaza. Nigel was a good-looking guy with a shock of black
unruly hair and a movie-star smile and a pirate’s eye-patch.
First time I met him I thought he was wearing it as a joke and I
kept teasing him about it, but then it turns out that he lost an
eye when he was a teenager. Stupid accident, he says, climbing through
a barbed-wire fence on his parents farm. He’s got a false
eye but he still wears the eye-patch. Reckons it gives him an air
of mystery, he says. Makes him look like a prat, if you ask me.
It was Nigel's idea to go to Zombie. It was one of the hottest bars
in Bangkok, he said. It was my first time, I'd only been in Bangkok
for two days, and I hadn't known what to expect. It was an eye-opener.
Two raised dance floors, each with more than a dozen beautiful girls
dancing around silver poles. Most of them naked. Around the edge
of the bars were small tables, and waitresses in white blouses and
black skirts scurried around taking orders and serving drinks.
"She's beautiful, isn't she?" I asked Nigel as the girl
walked by holding the bald guy's hand.
"They're all beautiful," he said, winking at a girl on
"No, that one's special," I said. "And I don't just
mean the boots."
Nigel drank his Singha beer from the bottle and wiped his mouth
with the back of his hand. "Pete, let me give you a bit of
advice. From the horse's mouth. They're all hookers. Every one of
them. Pay their bar fines, take them to a short-time hotel, screw
your brains out, then pay them.
But whatever you do, don't get involved. Trust me, it's not worth
it." I watched the girl and her customer disappear through
the curtain that covered the exit to the plaza. I asked Nigel how
it worked, how you got to go out with one the girls. He explained
how the bar fine system worked. You pay the money to the bar, it
varied between 300 baht and 500 baht depending on which bar you
were in, and the girl was then free to leave with you. What you
did was pretty much up to you, but usually a customer would take
the girl to one of the numerous short-time hotels within walking
distance of the plaza. How much you paid the girl depended on what
she did and how generous you were, it could be as little as 500
baht, as much as 2,000 baht, more if you wanted to spend the whole
night with her. Nigel waved at the two stages, crammed with girls.
"Go on, pick one," he said.
I shook my head. There was no-one there that I wanted.
It's funny watching the faces of the first-timers when they walk
into a go-go bar. Their mouths drop and their eyes go wide, then
they try to be all cool as if it's the most natural thing in the
world to be confronted by dozens of naked girls. Pete was no exception.
He sat drinking gin and tonic, his eyes flicking from side to side,
trying to take it all in. I've been in Thailand for more than five
years so I'm pretty blas? about it. I've seen pretty much everything
here. Full sex, lesbian sex, homosexual sex, sex with a German Shepherd
once, and now nothing shocks or surprises me. Pete seemed a nice
enough guy. Bit quiet, a bit serious, but a few months in Bangkok
would loosen him up. He'd been sent to Thailand to update a travel
book, one of those guides you always see in the hands of backpackers
looking for a cheap place to stay. It was his first time in South
East Asia, so I took it upon myself to show him around the sleazier
parts of Bangkok.
There are three main red light areas - Nana Plaza, Patpong and
Soi Cowboy. The Plaza's my favourite. Soi Cowboy is too quiet, the
girls are almost never topless and they don't do shows. Patpong
is full of tourists, the shows are good but there are too many touts
trying to pull you into their bars. Nana Plaza is where the expats
go. It's more relaxed and, in my humble opinion, the girls are prettier.
There are a couple of dozen bars on three floors, all overlooking
a central area where there are outdoor bars. The outdoor bars are
good for a quiet drink, but the real action takes place inside.
Zombie is the best, but I'm a big fan of G-Spot and Pretty Girl,
As soon as we sat down, Pete starts eyeing up this girl. She was
dancing naked, except for ankle-length boots. Nice body, lovely
long hair. Face was okay, too, but I never look at the mantelpiece
while I'm stoking the fire, if you get my drift. The girls get paid
according to how much they take off. If they dance in a bikini they
get four thousand baht a month, about a hundred quid. If they take
their top off, it's five thousand baht, and if they take all their
kit off, it's six thousand.
I could see he was keen but he couldn't even get eye contact with
her. She was working a big German guy, smiling and flashing her
tits to keep him interested. It was driving Pete crazy. He was practically
grinding his teeth when she left with the German. I figured he'd
get over it. I mean, there are plenty more fish in the sea, right?
I went back several times to Zombie but she was always busy, usually
with overweight Germans. They'd sit next to her, paw her, buy her
drinks, pay her bar fine and take her off to a short time hotel.
Eventually, on my fourth visit, she was free. I smiled at her while
she was dancing, and she smiled back. She wasn't a particularly
good dancer, she just stood by a silver pole, holding it with her
right hand, the little finger extended as if she was drinking from
a tea cup. From time to time she'd reach up with her left hand and
brush her long hair away from her face. When her dancing shift finished
she scuttled off the stage and wrapped a leopard-patterned shawl
around her waist. She came over to me, glancing down shyly and extending
her right hand. We shook hands, the formality almost ludicrous considering
that she was still topless.
"Hello," I said. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, thank you," she said. "And you?"
I smiled at her stilted English and patted the seat next to me.
She sat down, her leg pressed against mine. "What's your name?"
"Joy," she said.
I asked her what she wanted to drink and she said "cola".
I nodded and she pulled my chit from its holder and went over to
the bar, returning with a small glass of coke. The chit kept a running
total of the drinks I'd bought.
"Cheers," she said, and we clinked glasses.
Her English wasn't good, but it didn't seem to matter. We sat together
for almost an hour, watching the dancers. Then she stood up. "I
must dance now," she said.
"How about I pay your bar fine?" I offered.
"You want go short time with me?" she said.
It wasn't what I'd meant, I'd just wanted to keep her next to me
for a while, but I didn't argue with her. Besides, if I didn't pay
her bar fine, I was pretty sure someone else would.
"Okay," she said.
She held out her hand and I gave her 400 baht. She went over to
the cashier, handed over the money and then mimed putting on a shirt
and pointed to a door that I guessed led to the changing rooms.
Ten minutes later we were in bed.
To be honest, the sex wasn't that good. I mean, it was great being
with her, she was drop dead gorgeous, and she did everything I asked,
but she wouldn't initiate anything. It was all too passive. I shouldn't
really have been surprised, I suppose, because I'd only known her
for an hour or so and they we were, naked in a short-time hotel.
The hotel had been her idea. It was on the first floor of the Nana
Plaza complex, less than a hundred yards away from Zombie. I was
staying at the Dynasty Hotel in Soi 4 but I didn't want to take
her back there as I knew that the staff would only gossip. There
was an old guy at reception reading a Thai comic book and he charged
me four hundred baht for the use of the room for two hours and ten
baht for a condom. He didn't even look up as he took my money. Joy
took the key and went straight to the room. She'd obviously been
Afterwards, when it was all over, she rushed into the shower, and
when she came out she was wrapped in one of the two threadbare towels
that the hotel supplied. I wanted to lie with her, to hold her in
my arms and talk to her, but she seemed more interested in getting
back to the bar. I could understand why, she was working and I was
a paying customer, but I wanted to be more than that. I wanted her
to care about me, the way I cared about her. I asked her about her
family, about where she went to school, how long she'd worked in
the bar, but her English wasn't good and my Thai was virtually non-existent
so mainly she just smiled and nodded, or smiled and shrugged.
She sat on the bed and waited until I'd showered and we went back
to Zombie together. I didn't want to go inside the bar so we sat
outside and I bought her a cola. I explained that I was going to
Hong Kong the following day. I had to see the regional editor of
the book I was updating. She looked suddenly concerned.
"So I not see you again?"
I was touched. Maybe she did care, after all. I told her I'd be
back in a week or so. She shrugged. "I not believe you,"
she said. "I think you not come back." I had an idea.
I took off the gold chain I was wearing around my neck. It was worth
about a hundred pounds. I put it around her neck. "There, I
said. Now you know I'll have to come back, to get my gold."
She grinned and threw her arms around my neck, and gave me a Thai
kiss. Not with her lips, that's not the Thai way, she put her nose
close to my cheek and sniffed. She smelled fresh and clean, like
she'd been out in a field, but I knew that it was the cheap soap
that had been in the bathroom.
"I hope you come back to me," she said.
To be honest, I never thought I'd see him again. He was a bit drunk,
I think, and even though he gave me his gold chain I thought he'd
forget about me as soon as he left Bangkok. A lot of farangs are
like that, twenty minutes after they've met you they start saying
they love you and want to marry you. They say it but they don't
mean it. A Thai man would never say he loves you that quickly. I
don't think my father ever told my mother that he loved her, right
up until the day she died. I'm not saying he didn't love her, he
did, but he never actually said the words. Farangs are the opposite.
They say it, but they don't mean it.
He looked okay, I guess. He said he was thirty seven but he looked
younger. He wasn't fat like most farangs who come in the bar, and
he wasn't losing his hair. He wasn't especially good-looking but
he had a kind face and really blue eyes. It was his eyes I remembered
most, I think. They were blue and soft. He was a bit drunk when
he left, and I guess I figured he'd forget about me as soon as he
got on the plane. I remember being disappointed that the chain wasn't
bigger. The sex? I don't even remember doing it with him. I try
not to think about what I'm doing when I'm in bed. I blot it out,
just think about the money. It's not making love, it doesn't even
feel like sex, if you know what I mean. I'm there, on the bed, and
there's a farang with me, but I just let them do what they want.
Tender or rough, it doesn't make any difference to me, I just want
it to be over. Ten minutes is the most it usually takes. Some of
the girls moan and groan, they reckon that makes a man come quickly,
but I don't do that. I don't want to do anything, I want it all
to be their doing. Usually I just lie on my back. I hate it when
they want me to go on top because then they expect me to move, to
do the work, and I don't like that.
He didn't ask me how much he was supposed to pay and before we
left the room he gave me a thousand baht. I told him it wasn't enough.
He looked confused, I suppose one of his friends had told him that
a thousand baht was the going rate. Most of the girls will do it
for a thousand, some will even go short-time for five hundred, but
I never do it for less than fifteen hundred. And if they want me
to stay all night, that's three thousand. Anyway, I told Pete that
he had to pay me fifteen hundred, and he did.
Copyright 2000 Stephen Leather
The right of Stephen Leather to be identified as the author of the
work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988. All characters in this publication
are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
If you want to read more download the entire novel from the link
above. It's totally free.
And a note from the author -
My publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, is reluctant to publish
Private Dancer as it’s so different from the thrillers that
I normally write. If you enjoyed it and would like to see it in
print, please send a postcard to the company’s managing director
– he’s Jamie Hodder-Williams, at Hodder and Stoughton,
338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH, United Kingdom. If he gets enough
postcards, maybe he’ll publish it!
Please don’t e-mail him because that would clutter up his
mailbox, and please don’t send a letter as he’s a really
nice guy and will feel duty-bound to write back to you. I don’t
want to annoy him, I just want to show him how much support there
is for the book out there. So please pop a postcard into the post
to him - the prettier the postcard, the better!
You can see more of my work at www.stephenleather.com.
The Tunnel Rats and The Solitary Man are set in Thailand, The Vets,
Hungry Ghost and The Fireman are set in Hong Kong. The Chinaman,
despite the title, is an IRA story and the hero is Vietnamese.