Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Border Run"

Simon Lewis studied Art at Goldmiths College in London, then worked as a travel writer in Asia. He researched the Rough Guides to China, Beijing, and Shanghai as well as writing for newspapers and magazines.

His first novel Go (1999), a travel thriller about backpackers, was written in a village in the Himalayas. His second novel, Bad Traffic (2008), is a crime thriller about people smugglers, featuring Chinese policeman Inspector Jian.

Lewis applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel Border Run, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Border Run, a holiday adventure is just beginning to go seriously wrong. Two backpackers, Jake and Will, have been tempted into the remote forest on the border between Burma and China. Their guide, Howard, has promised them an untouched, secret waterfall and the possibility of dalliances with the local tribal women. Now they're on their way back and Howard's Jeep has been stopped by a customs official on a remote forest track.

Unsuspecting Jake asks, 'What's that? Is it a checkpoint?'

The other backpacker, Will, has already discovered the truth - that Howard is smuggling illicit goods from out of Burma, using the backpackers as cover. Both he and Howard are trying hard to conceal their nerves.

'It's not a checkpoint,' snapped Howard. He stopped the Jeep, looked round, and said 'It'll be fine.' The stillness after the engine cut out seemed ponderous. Howard's fingers tapped lightly on the underside of the steering wheel.

But it is the ignorant Jake who panics - he has a little amphetamine, and is terrified that the official will search them and discover it:
Jake groped in his bag. 'I've still got that wrap. I'd better ditch it. I can't remember where I put it.' He rummaged in one zipped compartment, gave up, and moved on to the next. That too, was no good... a pair of socks fell into the footwell. Jake withdrew his hand and shook it to loosen a tangle of headphone leads. 'It should be in here, I'm sure it was in here... must have slipped down the side.'

'Relax, said Howard. 'He doesn't care about us. We're civilians. Put the bag down.' Then speaking through gritted teeth, he hissed it, slower, like a threat. 'Put.. the... bag.. down.'
The forthcoming encounter with the customs official will prove fateful for all concerned. The two naive backpackers are about to discover how easy it is, when you're a long way from the world you know, to find yourself slipping over the line - into moral decay and murder. And there's nothing like a crisis for finding out who your real friends are.
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Lewis' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Bad Traffic.

--Marshal Zeringue