Miss BETTY CLARK, at Miss WALKER'S.
This Lady is about 21, of the middle size, red hair, and very good teeth. She is far from being disagreeable, if it were not for her sulky temper, which sometimes cools the keenest desire even in the height of their mutual embraces. (We hope also, she will take the above hint.) Notwithstanding, when she meets with a lover, she gives him the utmost satisfaction, as she understands the power of friction admirably well.from Ranger's Impartial List Of the Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh ~ attributed to James 'Balloon' Tytler, 1775
Many moons ago, when I was struggling to earn a living as an artist, I took what promised to be a 'dream-job' compiling a guide to Edinburgh's pubs. This involved copious amounts of drinking because every publican would offer a free pint of beer in the hope of receiving a favourable review. There are hundreds of pubs in the city and I - and my small crew of 'researchers' - were expected to check them all out in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. Anyway, thanks mainly to the free beer, we soon discovered we could only actually get round about six pubs each in a night. Forms had to be filled out, and notes taken - did Rabbie Burns once seduce the landlord's daughter in the cellar?, and so on - but as the evenings wore on these jottings became increasingly incoherent and illegible. Often vital bits of information such as the actual address of the pub, the type of beer they sold, or the state of the toilets would be missing entirely. I would therefore spend the next day trying to decipher these notes and fill in the gaps by phone before writing them up in a supposedly witty but informative and unbiased manner while labouring under what soon became a permanent hangover. What I had happily envisaged as a merry jaunt through the capital's colourful watering holes turned into a logistical nightmare welded to a blinding headache, and for a while I wondered if I'd ever complete the book. But I did, and as soon as it was published I fled to the country to dry out, and to avoid the wrath of a few pub owners who took exception to my perhaps too-candid reviews. There are one or two pubs I have never set foot in again.
But I digress. On the dubious strength of the pub guide I was surprisingly offered work as a writer and sub-editor on a big, up-market guide to the city. This was much more like it. The pay was good and the work not nearly as damaging to the liver and brain cells. However, when it was finished the publisher decided that since over 200 years had passed since the publication of the above-mentioned 'List Of the Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh' it was time for an update. He offered me the job of writing it - under an assumed name - and waved a wad of money in front of my nose. It would be published in a 'plain brown paper cover', he said, and would be a sure-fire success because nothing sells better than sex. I was dubious to say the least, but the wad of money clouded my judgement, and before I knew it I had been assigned a young, largely illiterate, and somewhat wayward member of the aristocracy as my assistant and we set to work exploring the massage parlours (brothels in any other language), strip joints and go-go dancing establishments of the city. In fact we were meant to cover anything and everything remotely connected with sex in the city - call girls, contraception, sex shops, nudity at the Edinburgh Festival, glamour modelling, and so on. I soon realised that exploring the seamy side of life was even worse than trawling around endless bars checking the cleanliness of the toilets and the clarity of the beer.
It was certainly more difficult and dangerous because most people involved in the sex industry were operating either on the edge of the law or outwith it entirely, and just about everyone was highly suspicious of a couple of guys showing up and claiming to be researching a book about it. My assistant was packed off with fifty quid of expenses to do some 'hands-on' research, which he seemed to enjoy enormously, having found a young lady with as admirable an understanding of the power of friction as her illustrious antecedents. As far as I was concerned this was an infinitely better use of his time than attempting to get him to write anything remotely coherent for the book. I, meanwhile, collated the information and typed it up. At other times we visited saunas, interviewed off-duty masseuses, and found ourselves sitting nervously in darkened rooms with sun-tanned criminals - flanked by enormous minders - just back from their second home in the Algarve to check that everything was running smoothly on the business front here. It was not exactly my cup of tea, but I'd accepted the advance for the book and felt I had to soldier on.
My blue-blooded assistant, despite receiving a generous monthly allowance from the bulging family coffers, was always short of cash, and one day had the bright idea of making a bit on the side by phoning a well-known gossip columnist at a national Sunday newspaper and selling the story of how a peer of the realm was researching the sex trade in Edinburgh. He threw in some photographs of himself loitering outside a couple of dens of iniquity and pocketed a few hundred pounds for his trouble. I knew nothing of this till I saw the full-page spread in the paper, and immediately blew my top. I was incensed, not because he'd been so stupid but because he actually mentioned my name as his co-author. It was the last straw. I refused to work with him again, bundled up the manuscript, such as it was, and dumped it on the publisher's desk, informing him that he could do what he liked with it but to make sure my name was never mentioned in connection with it. I asked for payment of the remaining fee, which he sheepishly handed over, and I fled abroad to Amsterdam for a few weeks. When I got back I discovered - to my huge relief - that the book was no longer going to be published because of certain 'legal complications'.