In the 1950s, the street boys of Singapore caught and bet on their wrestling spiders, gaining not only money but also power and prestige as they won. Backgrounded against age-old vices, superstitions, urban legends, as well as a dangerous world of youth gangs and a tumultuous period in Singapore’s history, Spider Boys is a moving and sensual story that draws the reader into turning its pages as if by a beguiling, hypnotic force, alternating arousing and repelling him. First published by Penguin, New Zealand, in 1995, Spider Boys has been re-edited to not only retain the flavour of colloquial Singapore English in the dialogues, but also improve the accessibility of the novel for all readers by rendering the narrative into grammatical Standard English.
“Spider Boys draws us into an exotic world which becomes increasingly familiar and engaging with every page. In Ming Cher’s hands, the hybrid dialect of Singapore street youth becomes uncannily evocative and poetic. At times I was reminded of S.E. Hinton, but this is a highly original novel—gritty and tender and thoroughly fascinating.”
—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and Brightness Falls, of the William Morrow 1995 edition of Spider Boys
“Haunting and sexy, Spider Boys is an astonishing book. Ming Cher’s jagged English pulls no punches. Spider Boys will remain with you long after you finish reading it.”
—Peter Hedges, author of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, of the William Morrow 1995 edition of Spider Boys
“Impressively confident in tone, Cher’s arresting first novel details the lives of street urchins and petty criminals in the Singapore of the 1950s. [… It is] a notable debut in which Cher mines the abbreviated, hard-edged local street slang to yield prose of stunning emotional impact. The narrative moves among its characters in quick cuts, but the exposures go remarkably deep nonetheless, revealing this exotic milieu as the universal world of any child growing into adulthood.”
“A bare-bones, gritty, and entertaining first novel about street kids in 1955 Singapore...Although Ming's is a familiar tale of coming of age within a criminal organization, his unique setting and raw, quick pace keep the tale compelling...an interesting voice on an age-old theme.”
—Kirkus Review of the William Morrow 1995 edition of Spider Boys
“The work is innovative, challenging in many ways and a valid, if not seminal, contribution to the history of Singaporean literature in English.”
—Emma Dawson Varughese in Beyond the Postcolonial: World Englishes Literature
“The publication of Spider Boys under a major imprint comes out of a recent trend in the West to pay more attention to minority cultures...Exotic is 'in', from beauty pageants to books, and Cher's good timing has put Singapore on the world literary map.”
—Koh Buck Song, The Straits Times
About the Author
Born in Singapore in 1947, Ming Cher was a street boy in the manner of the characters in this book. The 1995 recipient of the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship, he has also been a construction supervisor on a hospital project in South Vietnam, a merchant seaman, and an importer and retailer of Indonesian goods. Ming Cher wrote his first novel, Spider Boys, in an attempt to explain his life in Singapore to his son, Marco. He has lived in New Zealand since 1977.
Size: 130 x 200mm
Published: September 2012