Jean Turvey’s best selling novel ‘The Wages of Sin.’
Initially published in 1999, this is the first in the series of four novels set in the New Zealand sex industry in the 1980’s, when soliciting was illegal and women had to work under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions. A time when parlour bosses hit on their workers for free sex, charged them huge amounts of money for trumped-up silly offences and fired them for no reason. The vice squad raided regularly and women were arrested and heavily fined.
No woman’s dream career is to work in the sex industry, yet thousands of them take up the profession every year and each one has a story behind her decision.
Jean Turvey’s The Wages of Sin tells the story of Angela Blake, a solo mother so deeply in debt she can’t see any way out of it. As a last resort she starts work in an Auckland massage establishment where she finds by the end of her first shift her prayers have been answered – until she gets stung by the vice squad that is. Angela takes us into five massage parlours and eventually a brothel.
‘What are the wages of sin, Diana?’
‘Sixty dollars for oral and sex, Roger’ I chanted after him.
….I really didn’t think that I’d ever see Roger again after making fun of him like that, but I was wrong. ‘Religious Roger’ came back fortnightly for the rest of my time at Fleure’s, trying to make me repent, and not once did he stop me from taking my clothes off!
Religious Roger was just one of Angela Blake’s clients during the years she worked as a prostitute. She encountered all sorts of people – both customers and co-workers – and each showed her aspects of human nature that she’d never seen before. She learned about their needs and dreams, their hang-ups and vulnerabilities. Her observations on the changing styles of massage parlours provide a previously unexplored side of New Zealand’s recent history.
This is a fascinating, highly readable insight into a world most people know very little about. The author tells it how it is, but with humour and warmth.