Last week saw the book launch of British expat Guy Singer’s Cambodian Innocence at New Leaf Book Café.
The novel juxtaposes the journeys of two different twelve-year-old boys, a Cambodian boy abandoned in central London and a privileged London kid finding himself alone in rural Cambodia.
In telling the story of the boys, the book deals with themes of sex trafficking, homelessness and the battle to triumph against adversity.
The story is set in 2007 and begins with Sopheap, a victim of sex trafficking, being flown to London where a twist of fate leaves him homeless and alone.
Meanwhile, the other boy, Logan, a Khmer adopted as a baby by a Western family, loses both his parents and his memory in a car accident in Kralanh, while his family is visiting Cambodia as tourists.
Singer says he got the idea for the novel after discussing a hypothetical situation with friends.
“We said, if you took a 12-year-old village Cambodian boy and dumped him in the middle of central London, and a 12-year-old Londoner and dumped him in village Cambodia, which would get on better?” says Singer.
“And that was our starting premise. I initially saw it as a short story, but I had to get the two boys into their situations. So the easiest way of getting the Cambodian boy across was sex trafficking. And that put the theme into the entire book.”
What started off as a short story soon became a 70,000 word novel, which took him just four months to write. Londoner Singer, who has lived in Siem Reap for 15 months, says he took inspiration for some of the characters and plot devices from various people he has met.
“There’s one scene in the book where the monks in the temple play a prank on the new temple boy, and they dress up as ghosts to scare him – that’s a real life story.”
Despite the dark themes, Singer says the book has a positive bent to it.
“It’s a black story in as much that it deals with a dark subject – sex trafficking is a fact of life whether we like it or not,” he says. “But the book deals with it in a non-graphic way – it’s not a cheap sex thriller at all. And let’s just say the good guys all win in the end.”
Singer is already close to finishing the sequel to Cambodian Innocence, a tome called Cambodian Boxer, dealing with the people who go and work on the building sites in Thailand.
Cambodian Innocence can be downloaded at www.cambodianinnocence.com or on e-publishing website www.smashwords.com for $3. Printed copies can be purchased from Singer for $5, or at New Leaf Book Café..