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A Sukumvit cowboy: Bangkok Buckaroo

Writer Steve Rosse is an old Thailand hand who cut his teeth penning articles for the Phuket Gazette in the early 90s and later achieved a modicum of fame as a columnist for The Nation and Thailand Tattler.

Friday 10 March 2017, 03:00PM


He has released several books, Thai Vignettes, Expat Days and She Kept the Bar Between Them –all anthologies of his best columns from those days as well as a smattering of short stories.

His latest book Bangkok Buckaroo is a tongue-in-cheek romp through the alleys, dive bars and sex clubs of Bangkok's infamous Sukhumvit neighbourhood.

We follow Joe DiMaggio, urban cowboy and former US marine cum amateur private detective, as he hunts for connections between the bizarre murders of his estranged friend and a Bangkok bar-fly who runs a website detailing the sordid pleasures available in the city's red-light district.

After being ordered to find the culprit by his retainer, a steely-eyed underworld lawyer nick-named Pee Mah (Elder Horse), Joe begins his search for clues to the murders – whose victims were bled to death following what appears to be a sadistic sexual game in seedy Bangkok hotel rooms.

The clues at first lead him to the Hellfire Club, a high-end private sex club, which he enters pretending to be a patron in order to question the working girls.

After some fruitless but not all together unpleasant questioning of the girls, he is summoned to the office of Vlad, the tactless and menacing Russian gangster who owns the club.

Vlad warns him not to return and orders his flamboyant, cowboy hat wearing henchman to throw Joe out.

Soon we learn that the two murdered men, desperate for cash, had borrowed money of Vlad to finance a people smuggling operation bringing Cambodian girls to Bangkok to be forced into the sex trade.

However an unidentified third partner in the scheme tries to flee with the money and seemingly disappears without a trace.

As the plot thickens and more bodies pile up there is a final flourish of twists and turns that I won't spoil here, suffice to say that Joe manages to narrowly scrape his way out of some sticky situations before the murderer is stopped.

The plot is a pretty standard detective story but told in the gruff style of a classic Western, and it is clear that Rosse is having much more fun populating Bangkok's sleazy underworld with a caste of quirky characters, which he describes in convincing and humorous detail.

So putting the rather thin plot to one side, the real enjoyment of Bangkok Buckaroo comes from the wry observations of the lifestyles and habits of his characters, both Thai and foreign.

Joe muses on some of the quirky cultural nuances of Thai behaviour and beliefs and anyone that has spent much time here will enjoy these idiosyncratic insights.

The book never takes itself too seriously despite the seedy setting and grisly murders. So there is much fun to be had watching Joe, who is surprisingly naïve given his demonstrated street-smarts, slip through the the hands of Russian gangsters one minute and tumble into the arms of a busty Thai vixen the next, with a sardonic quip always at the ready.

Throughout the book Rosse uses a mixture of homespun Texas sayings and mystic Eastern aphorisms to draw parallels between the enlightened teaching of Buddha and Joe's hard won cowboy life-lessons.

These digressions add some depth to the story and make it a more enjoyable to read then your typical pulp detective novel.

In conclusion, Bangkok Buckaroo is a quick, fun read, especially for anyone who has spent some time living in Thailand and will get more of the sly winks about life in the Kingdom.

Bangkok Buckaroo and Steve Rosse's other books are available from this page at Amazon.com in ebook or paperback editions.

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