Time for a Tiger

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Time for a Tiger
First edition
Author Anthony Burgess
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Long Day Wanes
Genre Colonial novel
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Followed by The Enemy in the Blanket

Time for a Tiger is part one of Anthony Burgess's Malayan Trilogy The Long Day Wanes, "the first panel of a triptych" set in the twilight of British rule of the peninsula.

Dedicated, in Jawi script on the first page of the book, "to all my Malayan friends" ("Kepada sahabat-sahabat saya di Tanah Melayu"), it was Burgess's first published work of fiction and appeared in 1956.

The title alludes to an advertising slogan for Tiger beer, then, as now, popular in the Malay peninsula.

The action centres on the vicissitudes of Victor Crabbe, a history teacher at an elite school for all the peninsula's ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese and Indian the Mansor School, in Kuala Hantu (modelled on the Malay College at Kuala Kangsar, Perak and Raffles Institution, Singapore).

Characters and plot[edit]

Victor Crabbe, a resident teacher at the Mansor School, seeks to tackle the threat posed by a boy Communist who appears to be conducting clandestine night-time indoctrination sessions with fellow students. But the headmaster, Boothby, scoffs at Crabbe's warnings.

Nabby Adams, an alcoholic police lieutenant who prefers warm beer ("he could not abide it cold"), persuades Crabbe to buy a car, enabling Adams to make a commission as a middleman. This is despite the fact that Crabbe will not drive because of a traumatic car accident in which his first wife died and he was the driver.

Crabbe's marriage to the blonde Fenella is crumbling, while he carries on an affair with a Malay divorcee employed at a nightclub. A junior police officer who works for Adams, Alladad Khan, (who has a secret crush on Fenella) moonlights as a driver for the couple. Ibrahim bin Mohamed Salleh, a (married) gay cook, works for the couple but is being pursued by the wife he has fled from after being forced to marry her by his family.

The threads of the plot come together when Alladad Khan drives Crabbe, Fenella and Adams to a nearby village, along a route where they face possible ambush by Chinese terrorists. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they return late to the school's speech day and an unexpected chain of events follows that transforms the lives of all the main characters.