419, OR THE ART OF SCAMMING

At his year’s writers’ conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, I met an author I liked so much personally that I bought his prize-winning book 419 as soon as I returned home. Prize-winning? Will Ferguson has actually won a slew of prizes, so the Giller Prize for 419 was just one more cherry in the pie,

You’ve all seen it: emails soliciting money for the unfortunate niece of a friend stranded in Timbuktu or some other remote place. Ferguson’s book, 419 begins “Dear Sir, I am the son of an exiled Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help . . .” In western Canada, Laura’s father falls victim to the scam and dies as a result. Unwilling to accept the advice of the police to “just let it go,” Laura sets off for Africa to find the scammer. In Nigeria, she risks her life to right the wrong. Naturally, there’s a surprise ending.

The author takes readers behind the scenes of the world’s most insidious internet scam. However, scam or not, I will never think of Nigeria (or any other African oil-producing country) the same again. Not only was this an exciting read, but an education for me.

Ferguson was born in the fur trading post of Fort Vermilion, Alberta, 500 miles north of Edmonton, closer to the Arctic Circle than to the United States. He has traveled extensively which surely helped him bring the country of Nigeria to life. After experiencing his ability to “paint a scene” I feel like a fledgling in my attempts at writing. He is also a master of metaphor. Take a look at his other books at https://www.willferguson.ca,