The Sampan Girl
Pacific North West Conference 1995:
Third Place, Adult Non-fiction winner.
The Sampan Girl is the sequel to The Black Pit ... and Beyond, and takes place in the Pacific war theatre. Gordon is the sole radio officer on a small tanker involved in the Malayan beachhead landings and the postwar clean-up operations in 1945-46. A series of adventures takes him ever closer to Hong Kong, where awaits him the best adventure of all. Having survived the trauma of war and childhood abuse, Gordon finally finds love and compassion in the arms of Anni, the sampan girl. They want to marry, but Anni is not free. When she was a child, her parents sold her into prostitution, and now she belongs to the madam. This is just one of the obstacles that they must overcome.
In 1945, Gordon joined the MV Lubbock, and sailed to the Pacific via Trincomalee, India, and Bangkok, as they approach their ultimate destination, the Malayan beachhead landings. Tensions heighten when the convoy is ordered to wait off the Nicobar Islands. The Japanese surrender, and, after landing the troops aboard, the ship's role changes. They become involved in the clean-up operations, acting as a supply ship for minesweepers off Borneo. When they resume their peacetime role, however, they still cannot return home but assume the role of a China coast trader.
Gordon is now nineteen and has experienced the horrors of war at sea, but not had the normal encounters with girls and young women, which are a part of normal life in peacetime. He is now becoming aware of his sexual awakening. In Bombay, he is taken to see the "cages" in the notorious Falkland Road, and in Bangkok sees his first "blue" movie. When the ship reaches Hong Kong, he meets Anni, one of the sampan girls, falls in love and wants to marry her.
The small group of officers have been confined together for almost two years, and are like a dysfunctional family. In Anni, Sparks finds an escape from the ship and the realities of life. But the ship itself is his security to which he feels compelled to return. The growing enmity between Sparks and Frank, the electrical officer, is particularly bitter, and in the end even his so-called friends turn against him and his intended marriage to Anni. This is a seaman's memoir with a difference; it is more about the psychology of growing up than salty yarns.
During World War Two, many young men and women became involved romantically, despite anti-fraternization and other regulations. Sometimes, the woman was the "girl next door" or one who lived near the camps, or she could be someone from an allied country or occupied enemy territory. Large numbers of war brides, mainly British and European, came to America and Canada after the war. In some cases, particularly when a woman was thought to be "unsuitable," obstacles were raised to separate the lovers, and many never found one another again.
ISBN: 1894263405 | 6" x 9" | 190 pages and maps | $24.95 CDN
Also available as UK Special offer. Applies only to purchases sent to the UK and paid in £ Sterling (GBP)
Pacific North West Conference 1995: Third Place, Adult Non-fiction
"A moving story of life, love, and loss... It amounts to a very personal--and often poignant--telling of tales and experiences few men would share as Mumford does. That alone makes The Sampan Girl worthwhile.
Gary Watson, in Canadian Book Review Annual, 2001.
"This was a thoroughly good read. It is a good sequel to The Black Pit. The story of Anni is poignant, compelling, and beautiful. The sexy bits were tastefully and realistically drawn."
"More than anything, Mumford's books are honest--they tell things the way they were. Nothing is spared.
Article by Lori Pappajohn's review in Royal City Record.
Also reviewed in QSO (newsletter of Radio Officers Association)
Battered, but with no serious damage from the typhoon, the Lubbock chugs slowly into Hong Kong harbour under cloudless skies. The heat haze simmers off the land in the afternoon sun. A shout rings out from the bridge, "Stand by, Mr. Mate, to drop the anchor." The pilot lines up his marker buoys visually as we enter the anchorage between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. "Let go for'ard," he yells.
An answering shout, "Aye, aye, sir," is partly drowned by the rumbling of the chain racing through the hawse pipe as the three-ton anchor hits the sea below the slow-moving bow. The bridge telegraph rings for full astern and the ship shudders as the propellers churn the water into foam. Slowly the Lubbock moves back as the anchor flukes bite into the seabed. The pilot pushes the bridge telegraph levers forward to the stop position and a sudden quiet descends over the ship.
The voyage is over. The Lubbock is anchored, held in position by the heavy link chain stretched out taut against the harbour currents that tug at the ship. It is early June 1946. My last contact with the coast station was recorded in the radio log at 1200 hours as we approached the harbour entrance. Underneath is the cryptic note: Arrived Hong Kong. Station closed.
"Well, Sparks," says a voice behind me, "we've arrived." I turn and grin because I recognize the voice; it's the captain. I like him; he's cynical, but kind. He smiles, and I feel his dark, deep-set eyes boring into mine. "I think you'll like it here, Sparks. Hong Kong is quite a place." He pauses, and then adds knowingly, "In more ways than one."