Sunday, September 2, 2012

"The Headmaster's Wager"

Dr. Vincent Lam is from the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam, and was born in Canada. Dr. Lam did his medical training in Toronto, and is an emergency physician in Toronto. He is a Lecturer with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has also worked in international air evacuation and expedition medicine on Arctic and Antarctic ships.

Lam's first book, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and has recently been adapted for television and broadcast on HBO Canada. Dr. Lam co-authored The Flu Pandemic And You, a non-fiction guide to influenza pandemics.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Headmaster’s Wager, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Headmaster’s Wager is a torture scene.

Sort of…

The novel takes place in Vietnam during the war. Prior to this page, Dai Jai - the son of the main character, Percival Chen, was arrested by the notorious South Vietnamese Secret Police. Desperate, Percival has agreed to meet a man in a jungle shack who supposedly can rescue his son.

‘Sort of’ a torture scene?

In the dark shack, the man describes to Percival the abuses that his son might be undergoing. He terrifies the father before naming a ransom price. This is representative of the novel. In the implied torture, much is concealed even as much is revealed. In this book, the layers of plot and sequence of revelations is important. Percival’s love for his son drives the scene, as it drives much of the novel. The scene’s tension is elevated by the conflict between Percival as an ethnic Chinese in Vietnam, and the other man, who is an ethnic Vietnamese. These kinds of ethnic conflicts were true to the time, and are true to The Headmaster’s Wager.

Of course, not everything can be found on one page. You’ll have to read the rest of the novel to know about Percival’s love affairs, his high-stakes gambling, and how things turn out with his son.
Learn more about the book and author at Vincent Lam's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Headmaster's Wager.

--Marshal Zeringue