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When Pattaya, Patpong on Steroids first hit the bookshelves in Thailand in March 2002 it quickly became one of the most popular English-language tomes in the country.

In his review of the book, written for the Pattaya Trader (April 2002), the late Scott Miller wrote, 'Many have come before and many will come after, but Duncan shoots from the hip and he is more than a confident shooter. His stories demonstrate his knowledge of the ways of Pattaya and Thailand. Each account into the lives of the bargirls offers depth beyond the tale. Each person has a face and a name and a past, present and maybe, an unexpected future.

Most intriguing is the chapter entitled 'The Ugly Australians'. An attempt at character assassination it explains an errant 60 Minutes television presentation in Australia. Anyone who has ever been misquoted or misled will immediately recognise these proceedings. Duncan sets the slates straight.'

The following is an extract from 'The Ugly Australians' chapter (pages 149-150): 'I mistakenly felt [the producer] and 60 Minutes could be trusted to do the right thing. I have since realised a genuine expose of the scene here would merely encourage a vast increase in tourism to Thailand, and Pattaya in particular... I spoke to most of the Aussie bar owners I knew, as well as a few others I thought might make good interviewees, whether on or off camera. Almost as one they expressed concern about 60 Minutes. They believed, based on bitter past experience, any form of media coverage would be just another cheap shot at Thailand and Pattaya.'

As Scott Miller continued in his review, 'More refreshing than the tales is the perspective Duncan Stearn applies to the characters. The bargirls of Pattaya are not born on a barstool, although many of their tales of woe- from the dead village buffalo to the sister's motorcycle wreck- are products of time on that barstool. [He] presents both sides of the baht coin and allows the reader to pass judgement.

In a delicate balance between the ways of the Western and Asian worlds his stories toss philosophies against the moral wall. And the ensuing bounce is unpredictable. We've all heard similar versions of many of these tales, but not with the background and, often, the follow-up. Too often Westerners pass judgement on the nightlife in Pattaya without taking into consideration all perspectives.

Perhaps the most demanding question raised in this book is the line regarding the bargirls and their patrons: 'Actually, who is the hunter and who is the hunted?' There is a sense of respect for these demure, dark-skinned, raven-haired beauties. That's the beauty of his presentation: both sides of the argument. The girls also have a voice… Upon completion of most chapters I subconsciously thought, "Yep, been there, done that." Again, the strength and appeal of the book is the conveyance of familiarity.'

If you have ever been to Pattaya or Thailand then this book should ring with familiarity. If you've ever thought about coming to Pattaya or Thailand then this book should give you encouragement, while arming you for the potential pitfalls.

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