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Vincent Lam's Debut Novel: The Headmaster's Wager

abstract:Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam has today released his first novel titled, The Headmaster's Wager (Doubleday, 2012 Canada and Hogarth Press in America) based on his own grandfather who was "a drinker, womanizer and man-about-town" and the headmaster at an English school in Vietnam. Interviewed today on CTV news, Vincent explains the space between this novel and his last published work - due to the sensitive nature of writing about close family members, the emotions he felt and the care he wished to take with the writing. The premise of the novel is below. Lam won the Giller for his collection of short stories titled Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures (2006). That book was adapted for television as a series that aired in 2010 produced by Shaftsbury Films. In addition to being an author, Lam is an emergency physician who works at the Toronto General Hospital, as well as being a devoted husband and father. Last, Vincent is a passionate advocate for the Toronto Public Library and the value of public spaces that nurture thought, creativity and social capital. Click for CTV Interview


April 24, 2012
Beautifully summarized by Mark Medely of the Financial Post:

"The novel tells the story of Chen Pie Sou, later known as Percival Chen, the owner and headmaster of a prestigious English-language school in Cholon, a small city on the outskirts of Saigon. He arrives in Saigon as a young man, new bride in tow, having (barely) escaped the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during the Second World War. He soon opens a school in an old warehouse previously owned by his father, who had fled rural China for Vietnam in search of fortune when Chen was still a boy.

A shrewd businessman, wanton womanizer and problem gambler, Chen rises in the ranks of Saigon society, becoming an important ally to the U.S. officers stationed there, who require translators in their ongoing efforts against the Viet Cong. The novel opens in 1966, just as the war is escalating. More problematic for Chen, however, are the actions of his headstrong son, Dai Jai, who is arrested by police and, later, must flee the country ó events that eventually compel Chen to wager everything to save his sonís life."

No stranger to BookBuffet, Vincent Lam spoke to our group in 2006 via conference phone. We were gathered around the amplified speaker phone in a conference room in Whistler, BC while he was in the back seat of a cab on his way to Toronto General Hospital to cover the night shift in the Emergency Department! Such are the lengths that authors go through to support the public and promote their work. We thank Vincent again, and wish him all the best with this stunning new novel! Besides, Percival is the middle name of my first born son, and my husband's grandfather. Curiously, I am already drawn into the story.



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