“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.”
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.”
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.
MLR Press, LLC
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Albion, NY 14411
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Cover Art by Deana C. Jamroz
Editing by Judith David
Printed in the United States of America.
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.
OTHER NOVELS IN THE
DONALD STRACHEY MYSTERY SERIES
On the Other Hand, Death
Third Man Out
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
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.”
“I don’t think of myself as an overly materialistic person,”