The Smog Did It: Bureaucrat's Polluted Whodunnit Goes Viral

By | Jan 22, 2015 02:36 PM EST
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smog novel

Inspired by the pollution-choked skies of China, an environmental bureaucrat has written a novel that has gone as viral as the Beijing smog.(Photo : Reuters)


Inspired by the pollution-choked skies of China, an environmental bureaucrat has written a novel that has gone as viral as the Beijing smog.


Bureaucrat-turned novelist Li Chunyuan has drawn on his experience as deputy director of the Environmental Protection Bureau to create characters and scenes for a crime novel that takes place on the streets of smog-shrouded Langfang in Hebei province.

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Using the polluted skies as his cloak, a masked burglar in "Smog Is Coming" exploits  the nightly blanket of haze to cloud security camera lenses as he commits a string of break-ins. It was a scenario that Li said he took from real life.

Published last June, the novel touches on fraud and bureaucracy and their impact on air pollution, and according to China Daily, online excerpts have received tens of millions of page views.

"It is easier to tell people something through a novel than through boring lectures," Li told China Daily.

Li said that it only took him a little more than three months to write the novel, which he did during evenings and weekends. He intends for the book to be the first of a trilogy once he has enough material from his work, reports Reuters.

Hebei is an apt setting as any for a smog-themed novel as the province holds seven of China's 10 smoggiest cities, and has been under pressure to cut dependence on heavy industries such as coal, steel and cement. However, the province as has struggled to find viable alternatives for growth, according to Reuters.

The city of Langfang was the sixth dirtiest city among 74 mainland municipalities monitored by China's Ministry of Environmental Protection in 2014, according to rankings compiled by Greenpeace, which is based on ministry data.

Air pollution has literally and figuratively been hanging over people's heads in China, where observers say years of double-digit economic growth have put the country in a serious environmental crisis. Major cities are constantly blanketed in a heavy hazy film, and half the groundwater in the country has been tainted by pollution.

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