In Hong Kong, I asked Charlotte Horstmann if she could recommend an antique dealer in Thailand. I planned to buy some Chinese porcelains, and this was her field of expertise. She suggested I ask Jim Thompson when I got to Bangkok. He'd know the current situation better than she.

At that time, Americans were not permitted to go to China. Their antiques had to be acquired in another country subject to verification they had left China prior to the communist takeover in 1949.

Jim Thompson, an American, had gained a worldwide reputation for the wonders he had accomplished with Thai fabrics. While their designs had always been beautiful, quality was inferior. He improved the weaving of the silk and introduced vastly superior European dies. What was once a "poor man's" fabric became the epitome of luxury.

I called on him, and he recommended an antique dealer named Peng-Seng. I made some buys and returned to Thompson's shop to report my success and thank him again for his assistance. He invited me to a dinner party the -following night.

His home - actually two connected houses on a klong - was a treat to see and still is. Thompson mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia, and his home remains today a popular tourist attraction.

My shipment arrived in San Francisco, and U.S. Customs requested the necessary verification. It was not included in the shipping papers. I said I'd cable Peng Seng and ask that he forward the documents. Customs took a dim view. Any dealer, they said, would make out such papers. Did I know a reputable American in Bangkok? So, Jim Thompson wrote and verified my antiques had been in Bangkok prior to 1949. He didn't know, of course, but it satisfied customs.

Three years later, Jim Thompson went to Cameron Highlands in Malaysia's Sultanate of Pahang. He was a house guest in this popular mountain retreat for those anxious, at least briefly, to escape tropical heat.

After lunch one day, he told his host he was going to take a walk. He left the house and was never seen again. The mystery of his disappearance still prevails. Countless articles and even books have been written with a wide range of theories of what happened to him.

A friend of mine in the CIA told me their theory. In the mountains of Pahang, natives build traps to capture and kill tigers. A hole is dug in the ground with upward pointing sharpened shears of bamboo lining the bottom. Covered with a light layer of soil, the trap is not noticeable.

Thompson fell into one of these when taking his walk. The natives, anxious to avoid discovery, filled the pit. So, what was intended to be a tiger trap was a Thompson trap.