Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Charles Cumming is the author of the international bestselling thrillers A Spy By Nature and The Spanish Game.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Typhoon, a New York Times Notable Book of 2009, and reported the following:
As luck would have it, page 69 of Typhoon takes you right into the heart of the novel.

It’s the spring of 1997. The hero, Joe Lennox, a young MI6 officer operating under deep cover, is interviewing Professor Wang Kaixuan, a liberal academic who has just swum across a narrow stretch of water from mainland China to Hong Kong. Wang claims to be in possession of highly sensitive information about the government in Beijing. Joe’s job is to find out if he is a bona fide defector or just an agent provocateur sent by Chinese Intelligence.

Joe and Wang are talking in a tiny safe house in Kowloon. It’s the middle of the night. Gradually, Wang has revealed that appalling human rights abuses are being perpetrated against the Uighur population in Xinjiang province. Wang has explained that the Uighurs are a Turkic-Muslim people, native to the vast desert region of north-west China, whose culture and living standards have been systematically eroded by the Communist party for decades. He tells Joe:
“The Uighur people are tired of racial abuse, tired of discrimination from the state, tired of sending their children to schools where they are obliged to write sitting on the floor because of a lack of desks and chairs. Unemployment is running so high among Uighurs that the sons and daughters of proud Muslims have been obliged to turn to crime, even to prostitution, in order to provide for their families.”
As the interview progresses, Wang tells Joe that a riot has taken place in the town of Yining, a demonstration which was ruthlessly put down by the Han Chinese authorities:
“The police beat them with sticks, they used tear gas, they attacked them with dogs. Those with cameras or recording equipment who attempted to witness what was happening had these items confiscated… We estimate that four hundred people were killed, thousands more arrested. The jails became so full that prisoners were taken to a sports stadium on the outskirts of the city, where they were obliged to live for days without shelter in the snow. The police hosed them with water cannons to make their situation worse. Some froze as a result. Many lost hands and fingers through frostbite.”
This section of the book is based on eye-witness testimony assembled by Amnesty International. In my novel, Joe realises that he has been made privy to a major incident which has gone unreported in the West, a massacre to compare with the horrors of Tianenman Square.

However, Wang is soon spirited away by the CIA to run a covert operation, codenamed TYPHOON, aimed at destabilising China and creating an American-sponsored independence movement in Xinjiang. It is another eight years before Joe lays eyes on Wang again – only to discover that he is a key player in an appalling terrorist outrage which is planned for downtown Shanghai.
Read an excerpt from Typhoon, and learn more about the book and author at Charles Cumming's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue