Sex sells, as they say -- in movies, TV serials and books. David Brazil's book No Money, No Honey was purportedly a best-seller in Singapore, Malaysia and a few other countries. First published in 1998, it examined the sex industry in the squeaky clean island republic across the Causeway. Sex hotspots like Geylang and Orchard Tower were vividly described. The book went through four annual reprints without any updating, with David laughing all the way to the bank.
After having read it, I had wanted to emulate his daring efforts, in the hope of making a quick buck. So I hatched a plan to write a book of the same genre called Bachelor's Guide to Kuala Lumpur, using the pseudonym "Eric Schubert." When I approached a publisher with the idea, he was interested. On my second visit to his Bangsar Baru office, he wasn't only interested, he was excited. He revealed that through his sources, he had checked the sales figures for No Money, No Honey, and they were pretty impressive. Rubbing his hands gleefully, he added: "If this book sells, we can come up with a series -- another on Bangkok and even a third on Manila!"
Two months of field research, interviews and writing passed before the manuscript was completed. Alas, it was sheer ecstacy to hold the hot-from-the-press final product in my hands. In a sense, my book was not a quintessential sex guide as nightspots for business entertainment, dating and drinking; spas for pure relaxation; and dangdut lounges for dancing were also covered. When it came to true-blue sinful spots, their real names and addresses had been changed.
A month later, I visited my publisher again. He broke the bad news. Major book retailers whom he had approached refused to take Bachelor's Guide to Kuala Lumpur. As a veteran in publishing, he was nonplused. Why No Money, No Honey could be sold in Malaysia but not Bachelor's Guide to Kuala Lumpur? Vulgar language was not used; neither was there any erotic prose. Was it because our book retailers were scared of running foul of the law by seemingly promoting prostitution? Was it because it would give KL a bad image? Well, whether one likes it or not, all foreign visitors to our capital city knows an underground sex industry exists. Anyway, all my efforts went down the drain. My Bachelor's Guide to Kuala Lumpur, written ten years ago, never saw the light of day.
Recently, I read a paperback titled Undercover in Jakarta by Moamar Emka, which saw sales of 200,000 copies in Indonesia. Written in English, it chronicled the writer's sex adventures in Jakarta. I am once again tempted to do another take on our capital city's sleazy hotspots as well as clean nightspots. Any courageous publisher out there? Maybe times have changed.