When Reality is Stranger than Fiction
I've been knee-deep in marketing the release of my first novel, a political/spy thriller called A DAY IN FALL (Pre-order Here). Selling a book, especially a debut novel, is difficult, so I apologize if my marketing strategy has been a bit overwhelming.
But I wanted to take a break from all that and write about a true story that became the basis for my latest manuscript, The World Market. It's crazy, but don't take my word for it.
I don't want to assume everyone has heard of Huawei, but many of you probably have. They're the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world (smartphones, laptops, tablets etc.). In the past decade they've overtaken companies like Ericsson, Samsung, and Apple. Just to give an idea of their size, in 2018 Huawei's total revenue was $108 billion. One of the world's 50 largest companies. They came to the attention of many Americans during the trade war between the U.S. and China started by our former president in 2019.
But the story isn't about Huawei. It's about the company's founder, Ren Zhengfei, and that man's family. And it's about another man, a Canadian, seemingly unrelated to the telecom giant. I promise it all ties together.
Just to add some quick clarity, the World Market is my term for what others call the Global Shadow Economy, or the illicit economy that has mixed so flawlessly with our legal, worldwide economy that black and white have permanently morphed into a shade of gray. It operates in plain sight. Legal and illegal commerce exist side by side in every corner of the world, in every single bank, and they both touch each of us whether we realize it or not. Globalization and deregulation of financial markets made this a reality in the 90's, and while it can be fought, the World Market is here to stay.
Anyway, let's get back to the story.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was a Canadian citizen living in China. He (allegedly) worked as a drug smuggler, and in 2014 was arrested while attempting to move 222 kilograms of methamphetamines from China to Australia. Schellenberg tried to flee to Thailand when he discovered the police had been informed, and after his arrest claimed he was framed by a drug dealer named Xu Qing.
Schellenberg was found guilty by the Chinese and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. That took place in 2018.
But that isn't the end of the story. Not even close.
Eleven days after Schellenberg's conviction, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei's founder, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport. Known as the 'Princess of Huawei', Wanzhou acted as the chairman of Skycom, one of Huawei's subsidiaries, and was accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of bank and wire fraud, among other things. Her arrest in Canada came at the behest of the Americans, and in the months following they pushed for her to be extradited to American soil. (She is still currently under house arrest in Vancouver).
So, the Americans pressured the Canadians to arrest the daughter of the founder of China's largest private company. How did the Chinese respond?
By abruptly retrying Schellenberg and sentencing him to death (along with confiscating all his property). Clearly, the Chinese did this to pressure the Canadians into releasing Wanzhou. Canadian overtures to overturn Schellenberg's sentence, coming from as high as the Canadian prime minister, were met with stony silence. To this day the standoff continues. To our knowledge Schellenberg hasn't been executed, and neither has Meng Wanzhou been released. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg is caught in the middle of an international situation that he was nothing to do with. It boils down to veiled hostility between the United States and China, with Canada acting as proxy for the Americans. Meanwhile, a man faces death.
And that's where The World Market takes over the story. In my version of events Schellenberg (naturally) wants revenge on the people who got him sentenced to death. And he has a much closer tie to Huawei (my fictionalized version) than anyone can imagine. I attach characters to the three-way conflict between America, Canada, and China, and tie them all into the world of international crime. It becomes a story of greed and revenge, all spawning from a drug smuggler getting caught on his way to Australia.
Thanks for reading. Right now The World Market isn't attached to an agent or publisher, so don't look for it on bookshelves quite yet. Please comment below or reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to subscribe to my site and Pre-order A Day in Fall!
- Charles Harned