So what do you get for your money?
The White Rajah is based on the life of James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak in the mid-19th century. He was a fascinating man: a merchant-adventurer who bought a ship, ostensibly to trade in the South China Seas but really in the hope of extending British influence in an area dominated by the Dutch. He extended British influence even more than he had planned, involving himself so thoroughly in the politics of the local Malay rulers that he ended up ruling his own country: Sarawak in Borneo.
It’s a tale of adventure with battles and plots and midnight raids, but it’s also a more serious story about colonialism and how, even when seeking to do the best for the natives he thought of as “his people” the sudden intervention of Europeans from an alien culture had some unhappy unintended consequences.
James Brooke did an enormous amount of good in Sarawak and even today some people look back on the time of the White Rajahs as a Golden Age. But when his rule was threatened he could be utterly ruthless.
Evil white colonialist or a good man who spent most of his life (and practically all of his fortune) building a peaceful and prosperous society where there had been little but poverty and war? Or is the truth (as truth so often is) somewhere in the middle?
James Brooke’s life will soon be in the news again because a new film based on his adventures is about to be released (straight to DVD sadly, because of covid). Having seen the trailer, I’m not expecting a lot of discussion of the rights and wrongs of colonialism or the moral underpinning of his rule but, like my book, I’m sure it will have pirates and hairsbreadth escapes and heroic deeds with Jonathan Rhys Myers buckling the odd swash (or maybe firing an authentically period pistol). I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping it might generate some interest for my book, too. Other, non-fiction, books about James Brooke are also available but can honestly be quite hard work. (His diaries are brilliant, though.)
If you want to know more about what it’s like, I wrote a spin-off short story, which I seriously considered putting into this edition of the book as a new chapter. Instead it’s been published on Smashwords as The Tiger Hunt. It’s priced at 99p (the cheapest you can sell on Smashwords) but for this week it will be free. Why not download a copy and see what you think? If you enjoy it, come back at the end of the week and buy The White Rajah.