Date: 29th September 2008, Singapore & Malaysia
By Paul Leslie Smith
Published by Marshall Cavendish Editions
Subtitled A Borneo story, the narrative is set in and around Miri between 1937 and 1946.
It follows the experiences of a young British oil company engineer, who arrives in an almost idyllic Miri, senses a war looming and survives the Japanese Occupation.
The author is an expatriate engineer who worked in Miri long after the war, but it becomes clear as one reads the book that he researched his subject thoroughly.
Smith interviewed many Miri old-timers who lived through the war. He also went through many historical archives, documents and reference books.
Many of his characters are fictional, but the major historical events in the narrative are all accurate, some even illustrated with original photographs.
The story follows the Japanese takeover of the oil wells and production facilities, and how the hero, Portas, retreats into the rainforest of interior Sarawak and with the help and support of the local population, wages a hit-and-run battle against the Japanese.
Actual events such as sabotages, massacres and instances of the incredible suffering and bravery are woven into the plot.
A gripping story, a love story too, and filled with fine details of the countryside and its people.
But more than this, it’s a valuable and fascinating insight into events that happened in Sarawak during the Japanese Occupation.