Jack Flowers, saint or sinner, found a new lease on life when he jumped off the Allegro in the Straits of Malacca, caught a passing bumboat to Singapore and got a job as a water-clerk to a Chinese ship chandler. Soon he executed a brilliant idea, which resulted in his fame throughout the Far East - - work which Jack likens to that of an idealistic missionary. He continues to offer girls (indeed “anything, anything at all”) to tourists, sailors, residents and expatriates. In due course, he starts two establishments of his own -- ‘Dunroamin’ with its Indian palm court orchestra, and Paradise Gardens, a private hotel for American soldiers on leave from Vietnam.
But Jack’s story is more than a detailed record of pimping in the tropics. His 53 years weigh on him and he dreams extravagantly of success. When Mr. Leigh from Hong Kong shows up to do the accounts for his employer, Jack sees many of his own yearnings in the visiting Englishman. After a heady period of hope, however, he is brought face to face with death and a sense of his own failure. The shock persuades him to agree to act as blackmailer for the faintly sinister American, Edwin Shuck, in a plot against a general from Vietnam. The outcome, which can hardly be called a success, leaves Jack unscathed if not entirely triumphant.
These outrageous confessions of an ingenious and thoughtful con man admit the reader into the seedy and unforgettable world of expatriates among imperial ruins.