The 38 Million Dollar Smile


“Smile is a rattling good read with the trademark intricacies

of plot and felicities of language, added to which this time are remarkably subtle sketches of the sights, politics, religion,

customs and pleasures of Thailand (the latter both gustatory

and sexual) and one unforgettable character: wily, intrepid,

unflappable Bangkok private eye, Rufus Pugh.”

Frank Kelly

poet and co-author of the beauty-pageant musical

I can’t phone or email them to check what’s up. No, I have to

wait until Richard Stevenson permits me access to these

gaychums of mine by giving up a new book. This time it’s The

38 Million Dollar Smile, and I got to go to Bangkok with my

buds for a heaping help of illicit gay sex, murder, Naked Thai

Boys Swimming, and Buddhist enlightenment from an angle

even the Kama Sutra couldn’t imagine.”

Mark Saltzman

screenwriter of

LB Gregg

Kit Zheng

Drewey Wayne Gunn

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and

incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright 2009 by Richard Stevenson

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Published by

MLR Press, LLC

3052 Gaines Waterport Rd.

Albion, NY 14411

Visit ManLoveRomance Press, LLC on the Internet:

Cover Art by Deana C. Jamroz

Editing by Judith David

Printed in the United States of America.

ISBN# 978-1-60820-014-6

Issued 2009

worked to understand Thailand.

insightful guides to Thai life and culture. When I wrote this

book, Warren Olson’s

Thai criminal justice system.

Also helpful were numerous Thai and

official who prefers not to be named.



Death Trick

On the Other Hand, Death

Ice Blues

Third Man Out

“Go ahead.”

It had been Ellen Griswold’s idea to meet in the bar at the

Albany airport at six thirty. She was picking her husband up

from the US Airways flight from Washington that theoretically

got in at seven forty but sometimes arrived around nine or ten.

So we had plenty of time for going over the mysteries of life.

“I know you’ve spent time in Southeast Asia,” she said. “So

I assume you know something about Buddhist philosophy.”

She was nicely turned out in a beige linen suit, the sea green

silk wrap she had been wearing against the early April chill now slung over the chair next to her. Still on the underside of fifty, I guessed, Mrs. Griswold was raven haired, with clear dark eyes, a handsome beak, and apparently had had some minimal

cantilevering and other structural work done on her chin and

cheeks, though nothing that would have overtaxed Le


I said, “I was in the war there, so I know a little. But even in Army Intelligence, my thinking was focused and practical. The

larger questions relating to the Asian psyche were left to the

deep thinkers at the Pentagon. How did you know I was in


“Bob Chicarelli told me.”

A lawyer I knew. “I’ve done work for Bob.”

“And have played squash with him. He also says you’re gay.

That’s good, because so is my ex-husband, who is the problem

here, I think.”

“Ah, the problem.”

making a spectacle of it, like Timmy’s and my lesbian friends

who drink beer while they inexplicably watch men play football

on television.

Mrs. Griswold said, “My ex-husband, Gary, believes that in a

previous life he was Thai. What do you make of that?”

“Thai, as in a person from Thailand?”

She sipped her Kingfisher, and I sipped my Sam Adams.

“Gary not only believes that he was Thai, but that he will be

Thai again in his next life. This is a man I was married to for six years.”

“It sounds as though he may have been problematical for

you on multiple fronts.”

This got a little half smile. “Well, yes. We were married on

January seventeenth nineteen eighty-one. I should have known.

It was three days before Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.”

“An auspicious week, as a sometime-Thai like your former

husband might say.”

A curt nod. “I think he would say that, yes. Not back then

necessarily. But now Gary would think of it in exactly those

terms. Astrology, numerology, karma, reincarnation, the whole

nine yards. All that new age hooey. It’s really disappointing.

When I married Gary, he had his obsessions, which were

generally harmless — bicycle racing, and so on. But he was also

one of the most rational people I knew.”

I said, “East Asians don’t think of karma and reincarnation

as new age hooey. They think of them as the way the universe is


I meant this as a point of information, not a lecture, and she

seemed to take it that way, unperturbed. “That’s fine if it works for the Asians. I’ve lived and worked abroad, and cultural

relativism is fine with me. But for Gary, Eastern ideas turned

into a kind of trap, I think.”

“How so?”


“I don’t think of myself as an overly materialistic person,”

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