Set against a beautifully observed Thailand of the 1950s, this is the story of a young Englishman’s infatuation with a dance-hall hostess named Vilai, who all Bangkok knows as The White Leopard. No ordinary prostitute, Vilai is one of the most memorable in literature’s long line of brazen working girls. An unmitigated liar and brutally transparent about her desire for money, she unscrupulously milks young Reggie Joyce, the son of an Anglican vicar, with complete frankness. Reggie knows her for what she is yet there seems no folly he will not commit for her, no road to ruin he dares not take. Vilai becomes an obsession for him—an obsession that brings Reggie moments of ecstasy, months of anguish and the threat of utter disaster.
Acknowledged today as one of the most memorable novels about Thailand, A Woman of Bangkok was first published to critical acclaim in London and New York in the 1950s and is a classic of Bangkok fiction. While the Fifties was a very different world, what is remarkable about this book is that the more the bar scene in Bangkok changes, the more it stays the same. Just as Moll Flanders and Fanny Hill stand eternal, Vilai takes a very special, dare one say seminal, place as the first and best of the many anti-heroines of the now burgeoning Bangkok novel.
Praise for A Woman of Bangkok
‘Among the ten finest novels written about Asia’ The Asian Wall Street Journal (Harry Rolnick)
‘Pulls no punches … a book to remember’ The Age, Australia
‘At times the lying, grasping, impenitent and wholly immoral Vilai becomes twenty times larger than life. She is the real thing …’ The New York Times
‘One night in Bangkok, so the song goes, makes a hard man humble. The city is, in fact, a combine harvester for the expat male heart. Jack Reynolds captures the ethos perfectly in this, the definitive account, written 50 years ago’ The Guardian, UK (Malcolm Pryce)
‘Fascinating … intensely readable’ Gore Vidal, author
‘More than half a century ago, Jack Reynolds wrote the original Bangkok bargirl story’ Stephen Leather, author
‘A well-written and poignant story of a young Englishman’s descent into the world of Thai brothels … the best novel yet published with this theme’ Joe Cummings, author
About the author
Jack Reynolds worked for the Bangkok Post and other journals as writer and editor, sandwiched between further unaccompanied postings with the UN in the Far East and Africa. He finally returned to journalism in Bangkok in the Seventies and was a favourite contributor of articles on a range of local topics with a strong popular following in Thailand.