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Lies that Blind
  • Published: 19 October 2021
  • ISBN: 9789814954426
  • Imprint: PRH SEA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $29.99

Lies that Blind

A Novel of Late 18th Century Penang



1788, Penang, Malaya: A young man desperate to prove himself becomes enmeshed in the web of deceit woven by an ambitious adventurer whose double-dealing imperils the island's inhabitants.

Malaya, 1788:
Aspiring journalist Jim Lloyd jeopardises his future in ways he never could have imagined. He risks his wealthy father's wrath to ride the coat-tails of Captain Francis Light, an adventurer governing the East India Company's new trading settlement on Penang. Once arrived on the island, Jim-as Light's assistant-hopes that chronicling his employer's achievements will propel them both to enduring fame. But the naïve young man soon discovers that years of deception and double-dealing have strained relations between Light and Penang's legal owner, Sultan Abdullah of Queda, almost to the point of war. Tensions mount: Pirate activity escalates, traders complain about Light's monopolies, and inhabitants threaten to flee, fearing a battle the fledgling settlement cannot hope to win against the Malays. Jim realises that a shared obsession with renown has brought him and Light perilously close to infamy: a fate the younger man, at least, fears more than death. Yet Jim will not leave Penang because of his dedication to Light's young son, William, and his perplexing attraction to a mercurial Dutchman. He must stay and confront his own misguided ambitions as well as help save the legacy of a man he has come to despise.
Inspired by true events, Lies That Blind is a story featuring historical character Francis Light (1740-1794) who, in an effort to defy his mortality, was seemingly willing to put the lives and livelihoods of a thousand souls on Penang at risk.

  • Published: 19 October 2021
  • ISBN: 9789814954426
  • Imprint: PRH SEA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $29.99

About the author

E.S. Alexander

Elizabeth Smith Alexander was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1954, although her family moved to England a few years later. Her earliest memories include producing a newspaper with the John Bull printing set she was given one Christmas. She wrote and directed her first play, Osiris, at age 16, performed to an audience of parents, teachers, and pupils by the Lower Fifth Drama Society at her school in Bolton, Lancashire. Early on in her writing career, Liz wrote several short stories featuring 'The Dover Street Sleuth', Dixon Hawke for a D.C. Thomson newspaper in Scotland. Several of her (undoubtedly cringe-worthy) teenage poems were published in An Anthology of Verse.
Liz combined several decades as a freelance journalist writing for UK magazines and newspapers ranging from British Airway's Business Life and the Daily Mail, to Marie Claire and Supply Chain Management magazine, with a brief stint as a presenter/reporter for various radio stations and television channels, including the BBC. In 2001 she moved to the United States where she earned her master's degree and Ph.D. in educational psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.
She has written and co-authored 17 internationally published, award-winning non-fiction books that have been translated into more than 20 languages.
In 2017, Liz relocated to Malaysia. She lives in Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang where she was inspired to embark on one of the few forms of writing left for her to tackle: the novel.

Praise for Lies that Blind

As the author to Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, I find it refreshing that a European author, E.S. Alexander, has completed such a vast amount of research about Malay culture in the late 18th century. As a self-proclaimed nerd, I am duly impressed that she even drilled down to reading an important book entitled The Hikayat Abdullah, written by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, a Malacca-born Munshi of Singapore, first published in 1849, as part of her research. Having lived in Penang for several years, E.S. Alexander has shown a deeper sense of place than someone writing purely from their imagination or desk research. As an interculturalist who studies power distance, I was intrigued by the inclusion of Malay 'peribahasa' or proverbs, as well as insights into how sultans and chiefs wielded power over the 'rakyat' or general populace during that point in history. It is a pleasure to read a historical novel that looks beyond the 'usual suspects' of Tudor England or the Revolutionary War period, one that brings to life a story inspired by true, chronicled events and will expose Western readers to a fascinating time and place: Malaya in the 18th century.

Sharon Schweitzer, JD, Cross-cultural consultant, Access to Culture, and award-winning author

Lies That Blind transported me to another time and place, like any good historical novel should, but it also gripped me with intrigue, wonderfully flawed characters, and masterful storytelling. E. S. Alexander has pulled off a visual and dramatic powerhouse that pulls you in and never lets you go until it’s had its complete way with you. But, isn’t that what every reader wants from a memorable story?

- Jeff Lyons Author of Anatomy of a Premise Line and Rapid Story Development, screenwriter, and film/TV story consultant

Having read E.S. Alexander’s Lies that Blind, it strikes me as strange that I hadn't been more interested in Penang's history. As far as the administrators in my native Singapore were concerned. Penang was the free-port to beat. It's businessmen were more savvy. It's Peranakan Chinese food and culture more refined. Until Lies that Blind, however, I guess there just wasn't a good enough piece of historical fiction to tempt me to delve deeper. For me, historical fiction is always the best introduction into the history of a place. E.S. Alexander's book does just that. The macro-events recounted in the book are based on meticulous research and drawn heavily from Captain Francis Light's letters, so one isn't left wondering if the author is confabulating. But, this is not just a story about the early days of Penang and Light's skirmishes with the Sultan of Kedah. We are also given a coming of age story from an interesting angle, a young Englishman who questions both himself and the unsavoury details of the colonialism his country was exporting. There are far too many stories of this period, written from a white-saviour's viewpoint, with little regard for the experiences of 'the natives'. E.S. Alexander has managed to give us as unbiased a picture of the period as possible, while still maintaining the POV of a Englishman. Once I accepted that I'd be seeing the world from that Englishman's viewpoint, everything else fell together. The prose is masterful. I was swept through the political and commercial negotiations, the adulting pangs, the sieges and sea battles, towards an entirely satisfactory ending with no trouble at all. I think I'm going to read some non-fiction about the period now. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in the history of Penang.

Audrey Chin, author of The Ash House

Liz (E.S.) Alexander has successfully transported us back to an important and interesting period in the history of Malaya with great fervour and personal perspectives. As a student of this history in the ‘70s myself, I find the story that Liz weaves around the main characters, Light and Lloyd, which we learnt from the history books, provides an intimate and personal dimension to otherwise faceless men during a colourful period of adventure and discovery. Reading this book is truly an enjoyable experience.

Datuk Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President & CEO, Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology

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