Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Bad Traffic"

Simon Lewis was born in Wales and grew up in Scotland. He is the author of the Rough Guides to China, Beijing, and Shanghai, and the backpacker novel Go, which he wrote in a village in the Himalayas. He spends half his time in Brixton, London, and the rest in Asia, mostly China and Japan.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the American edition of his crime thriller Bad Traffic and reported the following:
On page 69 of Bad Traffic, Ding Ming, a newly arrived illegal immigrant, encounters Black Fort, the human trafficker who has brought him and his wife to England - for a price.

To this naive peasant, the thuggish gangster represents the world that he wants in on. He admires the man's style: 'How cool he was, with artfully dishevelled hair, a gold earring, jade necklace, bomber jacket, black jeans. When Ding Ming had money he'd dress exactly like that. He couldn't get taller and paler, and he doubted he could ever achieve that self-assurance, but at least he could buy the look.'

Black Fort speaks the English of a native speaker, which again causes awe and admiration. Ding Ming too can speak some English - he trained as a teacher. This represents a threat to the traffickers, as it makes him less malleable than his companions. And it will make him vital to the brutal anti-hero of the book, the policeman Jian, who speaks no English at all; shortly he will kidnap Ding Ming, and force the poor man to help in his quest to kill Black Fort.

The heroes of the book are Chinese men trapped in life and death struggles in the alien landscape of rural England. Understanding very little, they must constantly make judgements based on superficial impressions and limited information. In this case, typically, Ding Ming is mistaken: Black Fort, it rapidly transpires, is no friend to be admired, but a enemy and abuser.
Read an excerpt from Bad Traffic, and learn more about the book and author at Simon Lewis' website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue