Strip-searching at Border Crossings

The Ottawa XPress – November 3, 2005

Tracy Quan’s Diary of a Married Call Girl (Three Rivers Press, 318 pages, $17.95)

Tracy Quan’s “Diary of a Married Callgirl”

Love, lust and funds found south of 79th and 2nd

“How much can – or should – one person get away with?”
~Nancy Chan, Call Girl

When it comes to sex, you get what you pay for. But Ottawa-born New York writer and former call girl Tracy Quan always gives that little something extra.

Her latest novel, Diary of a Married Call Girl, is the follow-up to her runaway hit, Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, which has been optioned for a movie to be produced by Darren Star, creator of HBO’s Sex and the City. It tells the story of infidelity and topflight hooking that Quan’s fictional alter-ego, Nancy Chan, escapes to during the day.

One hook: Nancy’s got two lives – the first is as respectable wife who runs her husband’s shirts to the dry cleaners and cooks him fancy meals. But outside of cooking in the kitchen, Nancy stirs up something a lot spicier with kinky old men south of Seventy-ninth and Second. And husband, Matt, doesn’t have a clue.

“The journey from hooker to wife doesn’t require a passport or a visa – not if you stay in Manhattan,” says Nancy, boldly. “There are no checkpoints or embassies. It’s supposed to be like moving from Ontario to Quebec. Or California to New York.”

“Supposed to be,” but when Matt wants to have a baby, like a border patrol it threatens Nancy’s freedom to cross boundaries easily.

Crossing over to prostitution is classic Quan. She’s very comfortable with sex work and she credits Ottawa, which is mentioned in the book, for her positive view of the career. She told XPress in a recent interview

that she grew up in the Glebe but she would see prostitutes downtown: “Knowing prostitution existed in the city in places that were appropriate was healthy and it was good for me, and I didn’t internalize hang ups about prostitution the way some people in the suburbs do.”

Quan first introduced Nancy Chan’s hooking through weekly installments on She kept it a secret from her own partner because, she said, “I didn’t want the energy from our relationship to interfere with my creativity.

“A lot of people would say there is a big difference between writing and prostitution. But I don’t know that there really is,” Quan said. “It’s about work and self-expression and whether this is more important to you than catering to a certain image that you have in a relationship.”

Extra-marital sex helps contain Nancy, who fears she is losing her “self” by being married to Matt: “Could I have become, in less than a year of marriage, the total embodiment of everything that causes a man to see hookers in the first place?” she worries. The deep notion of the “true self” is also explored through Nancy’s exchanges with the other hookers in the novel, characters who Quan said represent different parts of her.

Having a secret life may be reprehensible to some, but by sexualizing the theme of independence Quan seduces the most principled reader into understanding how the search to – using Quan’s words – retain your independence and focus on your work, and be a shrewd survivor, is often at odds with love.

Here, Quan delivers fluid, easy-to-read airport novel prose; suspense and Prada-big city backdrops typical of a popular television series; and hot sex scenes of quality porn. Like any successful writer, or hooker, Quan has staying power and her book deserves a place in everyone’s bedroom-and bookshelf.

For a good time, read Tracy Quan.

– Sylvie Hill