Killer Nashville’s Book of the Day / Wednesday, August 22, 2012 / “The Headmaster’s Wager” by Vincent Lam

Today’s featured book is The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam.

"Headmaster's Wager" by Vincent Lam

“Headmaster’s Wager” by Vincent Lam

Why I chose this book:

People aren’t who they appear to be. That’s the consensus of this debut novel by Canadian author (and full-time physician) Vincent Lam whose interwoven short-story collection “Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures” first got my attention back in 2007 [hint: read it, too]). But, back to this book: The main character in “The Headmaster’s Wager,” Percival Chen, is chocked-full of foibles. You’ll not like him, then you will. But what you will find is a man trying to make do with what he has to work with in his war-torn Saigon of the 1960s. In a world such as ours, with countries lost in war, it’s beneficial to me to be reminded of the individuals locked in lands of turmoil. Sometimes, like the character in this novel, one just has to do what it takes. I chose this book, not because it is a mystery or thriller, but because it’s just good. It’s one of those books you read and walk away from, carrying it with you and thinking about it. Chen’s story of love, ultimate betrayal, and personal sacrifice is unforgettable. I love Chen’s pursuit of something that matters, when what he is really trying to do is fill the hollowness that his choices in life (and life itself, to be fair) have dealt him. 2007 to 2012 is a long time between books. I’m looking forward to when Lam gives up his day job in the ER to chase his novel career full time. :o) Vincent Lam is definitely an author to watch.

From Amazon:

“A superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting debut novel about one man’s loyalty to his country, his family and his heritage. Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English academy in 1960s Saigon, and he is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of his school. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country, though he also harbors a weakness for gambling haunts and the women who frequent them. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, but when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage whom he is able to confide in. But Percival’s new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see. Graced with intriguingly flawed but wonderfully human characters moving through a richly drawn historical landscape, The Headmaster’s Wager is an unforgettable story of love, betrayal and sacrifice.”

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join ourFacebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

– Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville


About Clay Stafford

Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker ( and founder of Killer Nashville ( As a writer himself, he has over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print in over 14 languages. Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” ( and the music CD “XO” ( A champion of writers, Publishers Weekly has identified Stafford as playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” throughout “the nation’s book culture.” (PW 6/10/13)
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