Volcano day – The Coercion Game publishes

It’s here! We actually launched a little earlier than planned but I really like the fact that the real first day of sales is the 29th of February – a day that only exists once every four years.

It’s already had one published review, and here’s a sample from the reviewing team at Readers’ Favorite:

“Magnus Booth’s international thriller, The Coercion Game: Umbra Sumus, Book 1, is deceptively smooth and quite easy to get thoroughly wrapped up in. Set in the late 1990s, amidst the turmoil surrounding the return of Hong Kong and Macau to mainland China, this story boasts an intricate and labyrinthine plot and the perfect noir hero to puzzle it out. Fans of Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s literary thriller, The Dumas Club, and John Le Carre’s Cold War novels will find their appetites teased and provoked by this work that captures the distinctly different genres of each and somehow blends them into something marvelous and magical. The setting in Macau is inspired, and I loved following Chris Lee as he chases the faintest of leads in his quest to avenge Annie’s death and find the cache of gold that is at the heart of the mystery of the book. I read this book slowly and deliberately, not wanting to miss a thing as Chris works out codes, tests his mettle against a host of formidable opponents, and manages somehow to be world-weary and dynamic at the same time. The Coercion Game is a marvelous read filled with action, intrigue and mystery, and it’s most highly recommended.”

You can grab your copy here and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to leave a review on Amazon’s book page and if you do post a review elsewhere then please let me know. MB

TheCoercionGame eBook Final


Meet Me in Macau

I set my first novel in Macau for a number of reasons that seemed obvious to me at the time but seemed to confuse almost everyone else I pitched the story to. Then again people who buy thrillers (and espionage in particular) are discerning readers who demand a higher standard in facts and figures so here’s the who, what, where, and why on Macau.

What is Macau? Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China (SAR) that joined the Republic in 1999 at the conclusion of the treaty between China and Portugal. Like the former British colony of Hong Kong it operates on a one country, two systems principle that aims to preserve the distinctive aspects of Macanese law and culture while still making it a part of the China state. Back in 1995, when The Coercion Game is set, the handover date is starting to loom large in everyone’s mind but perhaps not as large as the handover date for Hong Kong (1997). Anyone who remembers that period will recall a lot of hysteria about the encroaching Chinese menace and the prospects of economic collapse in Hong Kong and the wider region.

Where is Macau? It’s a peninsula and island network near the mouth of the Pearl River Delta, situated about 37 miles southwest of HK and 90 from Guangzhou in China. It’s always been deeply connected with trading and the sea and the name ‘Macau’ is derived from the Temple of A-Ma, goddess of fishermen. The present and technically more correct Chinese name for Macau is “Àomén” (澳門) which translates as either ‘Bay Gate’ or ‘Inlet Gates’.  A quick tour around of the place to see the many docks and small jetties confirms the essential truth of that name.

Who are the Macanese? The peninsula was settled by Portuguese traders in the sixteenth century and became a trading port, originally as a safe harbor to berth their ships, and later gaining the right to erect structures on shore, then the Fort, and finally run the place. Their descendants have a unique blend of Portuguese food and customs with the best of classically Chinese cuisine. You can choose between pan de leite, pork buns, or noodles as you wish. There’s also a local language (Patuá) that reflects that blend but realistically Cantonese and Portuguese are the most commonly spoken languages. The closer you get to the casinos the more English you’ll hear as well. That blend of mercantile spirit and its position across the historic border with China means that today Macau actually brings in more gambling money than Vegas.

When is the story set? I set The Coercion Game in nineteen-ninety five because it’s a key year for Macau. There’s a definite escalation in Triad violence, the old weather station at the Fortaleza do Monte becomes a museum, and the authorities stepped up their efforts to clear up crime and corruption in Macau before the handover. The airport in Macau starts flying to Europe as well, rather than just the Asian region, although at this time most travelers would have gone to Hong Kong for international flights.

So why did I pick Macau? Well the story of the Umbra Sumus arc is that there are people out there who were deeply concerned about the decline of western influence balanced against realists who wanted to move on into the modern world. Macau was the perfect setting for that story, contrasting the student riots of 1966 with the fallout from Portugal’s own transition to democracy following the overthrow of the Estado Novo dictatorship in 1974.

It’s this potent blend of cultures, people, and the transition from one order to another that makes Chris Lee’s job that much harder in The Coercion Game. MB.

It’s real. It’s happening.

One of the weirdest parts of being an author (for me at least) is picking the cover of my work. When you’ve spent months crafting the text to go inside the shiny wrapper it’s really strange when your Publisher gives you a call to discuss the visuals, colour schemes and what readers really want to see.

The Coercion Game is set in Macau so I knew I wanted to make some reference to that on the cover, which basically meant either the bay, the casinos, or the ruins of St. Paul’s. I also debated Fort Monte – the ancient base of the Jesuits and later army base for the Portuguese governors of old Macau – but it didn’t really give the sense of what the novel was about (until you’ve read it of course).

Colouring too was going to be really important. With Macau being part of the People’s Republic of China we had some good options around Chinese lettering, red and gold colours, and a fantastic orange cover that really caught the idea of the sun setting over the peninsula but it just wasn’t quite right. This isn’t a tourist book – it’s almost the opposite. Our man goes to Macau to see an old friend hoping for a few days of rest and relaxation but what follows is anything but relaxing.

That called for something darker, the grays and greens of a storm rolling in rather than a beautiful sunset reflecting off the glass and steel of the big casinos.

So here you go…


I’ve still got the galley proofs to check but it’s here. It’s real and it’s being published on February 29th. And this is just the start of Umbra Sumus and the adventures of Chris Lee. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as i’ve enjoyed writing them. MB.