Wednesday, May 25, 2022

"Wild Prey"

Brian Klingborg has both a B.A. (University of California, Davis) and an M.A. (Harvard) in East Asian Studies and spent years living and working in Asia. He currently works in early childhood educational publishing and lives in New York City. Klingborg is the author of two non-fiction books on Shaolin kung fu; Kill Devil Falls; and the Lu Fei China mystery series (Thief of Souls and Wild Prey.)

He applied the Page 69 Test to Wild Prey and reported the following:
In Wild Prey, Lu Fei’s search for a missing woman leads him all the way from the city of Harbin in Northern China to the hidden lair of a warlord in the jungles of Myanmar.

On page 69, he has tracked the woman’s phone to a Chinese seaside resort town before the trail goes dead.
The custodian unlocks the door, and inside, Lu finds shelves chockablock with old coats, scarves, hats, toys, earphones, glasses, and a huge bin of cell phones.

“This many?” he says in dismay.

“People lose phones all the time,” the custodian answers. “Or some idiot steals one, and then discovers he can’t unlock it, so he just tosses it.”

Lu sorts through the bin, parsing out the Xiaomi models, of which there are more than a dozen, but none are the same model as Meirong’s. Another dead end.

He thanks the custodian and finds a noodle stand in the station for a quick lunch. As he eats, he notices a dirty and disheveled old lady digging through a nearby garbage can. He watches as she plucks out bits of uneaten food, recyclables, and anything else that catches her fancy. He sets down his chopsticks and approaches her with a friendly smile.

“Hello, Auntie. How are you today?”

The old lady gives him a suspicious look and starts to gather up her junkyard treasures and put them in a rolling cart.

“Don’t be afraid,” Lu says. “I mean you no harm. I’m looking for something. A phone that may have been thrown away last Saturday. Perhaps you found it in one of the garbage bins?”

She mutters to herself and starts to wheel the cart away. He catches up. “There’s a reward.”

The old lady stops. “Reward?” Her expression turns cagey. “How much?”

“Er . . . a hundred yuan?”

The old lady snorts and continues walking.

“One fifty,” Lu says. He trots after her. “Two hundred. Final offer.”

The old lady stops. “Let me see the cash.”

“Really?” Lu sighs. He counts out two hundred. The old lady holds out a grimy hand. “No,” Lu says. “I don’t even know if you have the phone.”

“I have lots of phones. Lots!”
While this passage doesn’t feature any important plot points, it does underscore that Wild Prey, for all its detours into exotic locales, deep undercover work, endangered animal trafficking, and jungle fighting, is at its heart a story about Lu Fei’s quest to discover the fate of an innocent young woman.

It also shows something of my intention to make the setting intrinsic to the action and flow of the narrative. While Wild Prey is a crime novel and thriller, it is also a window into a different place and culture. Every person Lu Fei encounters, every big city or remote village he passes through, every plot twist is in some way informed by the cultural backdrop where it takes place.
Visit Brian Klingborg's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wild Prey.

Q&A with Brian Klingborg.

--Marshal Zeringue