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Book Review

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Book Review: Private Dancer

by Lang Reid

Private Dancer, written by well known author Stephen Leather, is not available for sale, but available from the web as a free download! At the end, Leather indicates that his publisher was unwilling to publish this one as it was so different from the thrillers that he usually writes.

It is a very cleverly fabricated story, relating to a journalist (Pete) who comes to Bangkok to work and who falls in love with Joy, a dancer at a bar in Nana Plaza. She is to become his ‘private dancer’ from which comes the title of the book.

What sets this manuscript apart from the overdone ‘farang falls in love with bar girl’ books is that Stephen Leather gives the side of the central character Pete, and then follows that up with the thoughts of the girl Joy. After that, at various important milestones in the relationship, other people are brought in who give their impressions of what is going on. These people include Pete’s boss Alistair, the owner of a bar called Big Ron, whom Leather admits is well known identity Big Dave, and the bar called Fatso’s is Big Dave’s establishment called Jool’s on Soi 4 Sukhumvit (as anyone who has ever been there would pick immediately). Others who give their opinions include Pete’s friends, his flat-mate and even the owner of Joy’s bar, who is even more cynical than Big Ron.

Where Stephen Leather has excelled with this manuscript is in his understanding of the Thai viewpoint. And to then put it down in print. There will be those who will say that a farang can never get inside the mind of the Thais. Perhaps not, but this book of Stephen Leather’s must go damn close. Close enough for me! Take for example the words from Joy after Pete rang her in her room to say that he had been talking to Park, her Thai husband. “Park was in my room when Pete telephoned. I asked Park what he was playing at, and he said he didn’t know what I was talking about. I got angry then and said that he’d spoiled everything. He had no right to talk to Pete, he was my customer.” And it all hangs on that last word!

This is the best book you cannot buy. When it was given to me, the previous down-loader said that it should be made compulsory reading for all single males before arrival in Thailand. My logical mind would agree, but love and logic only start with the same letter, and that is where the similarity ends. The world is populated with Petes, about whom Big Ron states, “Was I surprised at what happened to Pete? Of course I (expletive) wasn’t. He was on the road to ruin as soon as he let her get to him. A lost cause.”

As an added benefit, there are some good recipes running right through the book, as that had been Pete’s brief, writing a cook book. In the end you will see just whose goose gets cooked!

Brilliant book. Leather’s publishers are crazy to let this one escape!


Mott's CD Reviews: The Story of Man – Part One

Straightened by Ella Crew

(The Welsh rock ‘n’ roll band, not the people. This Dog can understand rock ‘n’ roll, people are a lot trickier.)

Supposedly part one revolves around the recently released live greatest hits album sensibly titled ‘Man Alive’. Yes, both parts of the review get a glorious 5 Stars. (Big hint, part two next week.)

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... well, Swansea, Wales actually. In 1968 there was a very popular little beat combo called “The Bystanders”, who were doing very nicely thanks to the scampi and chips night club circuit in their native country and North England. Deciding to take themselves seriously (well, somebody had to) they turned professional and invited a certain Deke Leonard to expand the existing foursome.

Deke was amazed to find out that by the time he joined his compatriots, they had decided to change their collective name to Man. Originally that did not sit well with their new lead singer and guitarist, but it was satisfactorily explained to him by fellow singer/guitarist Mick Jones. Man was a wonderful moniker, easy to spell, could fit in a very short space, or, if necessary, fill up a very large space with a few big letters. But best of all, everybody at the end of the sixties, who was hip or more likely thought they were hip, said the name of the band at least once in each sentence - sometimes twice, like “Hey Man, where you going Man?” The band figured they would get free publicity every time somebody opened his or her mouth. With this unbeatable logic Man began their path down the long and winding road of rock ‘n’ roll fame and glory. Anyhow, that is what they want us mere mortals to believe.

Man is still going strong today, but the path has been strewn with rocks as well as boulders. In over thirty-five years they have released more than 30 original albums (if you add compilations, greatest hits, etc, it runs into hundreds), but no consecutive album has ever had the same lineup. They have done over nine thousand gigs and played in eighteen different countries. The amount of alcohol and cigarettes they consumed over this time is mind boggling. Then there were the TV shows. Man was always huge in Germany, where they actually lived for two years. It would have been more inconvenient exchanging the Welsh valleys for those of the Rhine each time they were due to do their lengthy German tours, often playing to over 20,000 people at one show. They essentially split up for good in December 1976, only to reform again on April Fool’s day in 1983.

Then of course there is the personnel of the band themselves, the actual people who play the music not just the music that surrounds them. In over thirty-five years, twenty five people have been featured as official recording members of Man. If you count the ones who have just appeared live with them, again it would run into hundreds. Some like Martin Ace (Ace the Bass) have joined and left the band on a regular basis. All but two of them have been Welsh. The tiniest in stature, but biggest in heart, lead guitarist Mick Jones, is the only permanent feature of every lineup, except when some nasty brain tumor surgery laid him low for a year when his place in the band was taken by his son George.

Deke Leonard is another steadier member of the band, but yet this year he left again, this time of his own accord, not by the boot. Phil Ryan is the keyboard sound of Man, but occasionally some poor soul has to be dragged in to do a copy job. If you are lucky, Ace Martin is there, even if it’s not at the time as a permanent member, or even on bass. Terry Williams was there on the drums for a long time before getting delusions of grandeur and joining Rockpile and then final world domination in Dire Straits.

For one glorious tour and album the great American John Cipollina, ex-Quicksilver Messenger Service joined them, giving Man a three pronged lead guitar assault. Man never came top of the bill stars internationally, although there were pockets of areas solely inhabited by Man-fans, especially in their homeland, Germany, and the East Coast of the United States of America. They never gave less then 100%, whether in the studio or their natural environment, the live stage. What of the music I hear you ask. Well, for that you will have to wait for next week. But if you fancy doing a bit of your own research, try bending an ear to any of the following Man albums:

Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day
Back Into The Future
Welsh Connection
Twang
2oz Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle

Or read Deke Leonard’s wonderfully frank and funny Autobiography “Rhinos Winos and Lunatics”.


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