On the trail of murderers

Author Neil Humphreys will take participants on a guided walk to places in his novels in campaign to get Singaporeans to buy local books

Author Neil Humphreys with a copy of his book Return To A Sexy Island.
Author Neil Humphreys with a copy of his book Return To A Sexy Island. PHOTO: MARSHALL CAVENDISH

Tales of money launderers who keep $10,000-a-night hotel suites at Marina Bay Sands are among the lurid stories author Neil Humphreys will tell on a walking tour at the end of the month.

The 42-year-old will take participants around Marina Bay on the one-hour tour, provocatively titled Walking With Murderers In Sexy Singapore.

"We need Singaporeans to read more for pleasure, and that's easier said than done," says the British-born writer of a number of bestselling Singapore novels. "A walking tour where we could see the key locations behind my two novels makes it a tactile experience."

The upcoming #BuySingLit campaign, an industry-led movement to get Singaporeans to buy local books, does not want to keep readers confined to their armchairs.

Rather, a slew of literary walking tours and book scavenger hunts have been planned for the weekend of Feb 24 to 26.



    Author Neil Humphreys will lead a walking tour around Marina Bay to locations featured in his crime thrillers Marina Bay Sins and Rich Kill Poor Kill. The tour will cover spots such as Fullerton Hotel and the Marina Bay Sands rooftop and finish with a lunch at Lau Pa Sat.

    WHERE: The Fullerton Hotel, 1 Fullerton Square

    WHEN: Feb 25, 10 to 11.30am

    ADMISSION: Free. Go to bit.ly/2kOdZZP


    In this tour by Janus Education, participants will be hosted to morning tea in an original 1950s home, stroll through the estate and end the tour with a chicken rice class at Pow Sing.

    WHERE: Serangoon Garden Market and Food Centre, 49A Serangoon Garden Way

    WHEN: Feb 25 and 26, March 4, 11, 18 and 25, 8.30am to 12.30pm

    ADMISSION: $30 (includes copy of Heritage Journeys: No Place Like Serangoon Gardens). Limited to 20 persons a session. Go to bit.ly/2k9OKz6


    Epigram Books is leaving 50 books - from picture books to graphic novels to literary fiction - across Singapore's heartland. Once you find one, tag Epigram Books on Facebook and Instagram and post the serial number on the book to get an e-voucher for your next Epigram purchase. WHERE: Ang Mo Kio, Telok Blangah, Bugis-Bras Basah, Tampines, Clementi. Google maps at bit.ly/2kVAONO will be updated with every new batch of hidden books.

    WHEN: Friday to Feb 26



    Teams have four hours to hit bookstores across the island in search of books containing clues that will lead to the next location. Teams can be a family with at least one child in primary school aged eight to 12, or students in secondary school aged 13 to 16. The winners get an iPad Air pre-loaded with 20 Malay e-books.

    WHERE: Central Public Library, Plaza, 100 Victoria Street

    WHEN: Feb 25, 10am to 2pm

    ADMISSION: Free, but participants need to pay for the books in the competition. Vouchers to subsidise costs will be given to the first 10 teams to register. Send applications to pustakaislamiyah@me.com before Feb 20. The programme will be in Malay.

    •For more information, visit buysinglit.sg

Humphreys will be regaling those on his tour with the stories that inspired his crime thrillers Marina Bay Sins and Rich Kill Poor Kill, as well as dish out career advice to wannabe writers.

He chose Marina Bay because he feels it is a place where the divide between rich and poor in Singapore, an issue in his books, is heavily apparent.

"It's a different world," he says of the glossy towers of Marina Bay Financial Centre. "I created a serial killer from that world."

Murder also makes an appearance in another #BuySingLit tour, an otherwise sedate walk around Serangoon Garden.

The tour, based on the book Heritage Journeys: No Place Like Serangoon Gardens, will pass through Chepstow Close, where three businessmen were beaten to death for 120 gold bars in 1972.

Less grim stops include small mall myVillage, the site of the former Parliament Theatre cinema, and Pow Sing Restaurant, where participants can try their hand at making chicken rice.

The tour will be led by the book's editor Catherine Khoo, 58, along with a retired Serangoon Garden resident. The book was co-written by six authors aged 13 to 18, who are alumni of Janus Education, which Ms Khoo founded to teach kids creative writing.

"We hope the tour will generate interest in such books," she says. "It shows that even though they're books, they're also alive in a way."

For families with young kids, Armour Publishing is holding two nature walks at the Botanic Gardens, based on its children's book Timmy And Tammy At The Botanic Gardens.

Both tours are sold out.

Tour guide Grace Lim, 52, of educational consultancy CreativeKids, aims to spark a love of local discovery, of both nature and reading, through the tour.

"Most children's books on nature talk about temperate forests and the four seasons," says Ms Lim, a former biologist. "They don't have what we need to teach our kids about what's happening right outside."

Meanwhile, local publishers and distributors are dangling free books through scavenger hunts.

Publisher Epigram will be hiding 50 books in public places such as walkways, parks and void decks across Singapore, from Ang Mo Kio to Telok Blangah.

In another scavenger hunt by Malay distributor and retailer Pustaka Islamiyah, participating teams must race among bookstores around Singapore, searching for books with a clue to the next location.

Teams stand to win an iPad Air loaded with 20 Malay e-books.

Pustaka director Syed Ali Semait says: "We thought the iPad would be something that would attract the millennials. But we have also loaded it with e-books, which we hope they will read too."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline On the trail of murderers. Subscribe