Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Book Lovers Ball Interview Series, with Vincent Lam

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Vincent Lam

Need a dose of literary glamour? We're continuing our series of interviews with guest authors for the Book Lover's Ball, one of the city's most exciting literary events.

Today we speak with Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam, whose most recent book is The Headmaster's Wager (Random House Canada). Vincent speaks with us about a case of mistaken identity, what every self-respecting book needs and of course, we had to ask what look he'll be rocking for the ball.

A fantastic fundraiser for the Toronto Public Library Foundation, the February 7, 2013 gala will see more than 60 authors in attendance.

Stay tuned for more interviews with guest authors from the Book Lover's Ball.

Open Book:

Is this your first time attending the Book Lover's Ball? If so, to what aspect of the event are you most looking forward? If you've attended before, what is one of your favourite memories from the event?

Vincent Lam:

I’ve attended the Ball a few times, and I most look forward to connecting with readers and my fellow writers. My favorite memory is that on one occasion, the year that I won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, an Asian man about my height and age approached me.

He said, “Hey, are you Vincent Lam?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “Did you win some prize or something?”
I said, “I did.”
He said, “Well, congrats! People have been congratulating me all night!”
I said, “My advice to you, just roll with it.”

OB:

This year the ball features book-inspired entertainment. Tell us a bit about your most recent book.

VL:

The Headmaster’s Wager is about Percival Chen, a Chinese gambler in wartime Saigon. In addition to being a gambler, he is an English school headmaster. Percival’s son gets in trouble with the authorities, and he has to risk everything to save him. Also, Percival falls in love with a beautiful half-French, half-Vietnamese woman. What self-respecting novel doesn’t have a love interest?

OB:

What will you be wearing to the gala?

VL:

I will be wearing my favorite suit. It is the suit I was married in, the suit I’ve attended all my children’s baptisms in, and the suit that I’ve worn to every Giller Gala, every Book Lover’s Ball, and actually every Gala and Ball in my fine beloved city of Toronto. It’s kind of my lucky suit. It’s also the only suit I own.

OB:

This event raises funds for the Toronto Library System, the busiest urban library system in the world. With what Canadian writer, living or dead, would you most like to spend an afternoon in the library? What might you ask him or her?

VL:

Gontran de Poncins. Actually, he was French, but his biggest hit was a book called Kabloona, which was based upon time he spent in 1938 on King William Island, north of the Arctic Circle. So, I consider him an honorary Canadian. (It’s kind of like posthumous religious conversion.) Gontran de Poncins went on to live in, and write about Cholon, the Chinese sister city to Saigon where my family comes from, and where The Headmaster’s Wager takes place.


Vincent Lam did his medical training in Toronto, and is an emergency physician in Toronto. Dr. 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. The Headmaster's Wager, Dr. Lam's first novel, about a Chinese compulsive gambler and headmaster of an English school in Saigon during the Vietnam War, was shortlisted for the 2012 Governor General's Literary Award.

For more information about The Headmaster's Wager please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

For more information about the Book Lover's Ball, please visit their website.

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