It's an all-too-familiar story in Asian soccer: the foreign import who never quite made it in his own country becomes a superstar in an exotic, faraway location before being sucked into a world of sex, drugs and corruption. Match Fixer is a cautionary tale of Chris Osbourne, a former West Ham United apprentice striker who starts a new life in Singapore before running foul of illegal bookmakers with disastrous consequences. It's fiction, not fact, but British author Neil Humphreys paints such a convincing picture that you swear you're reading about a real-life scenario played out by familiar characters whom you feel sure you know. Humphreys wrote his sixth book based on observations and experiences garnered over a decade working as a sports journalist in Asia. Was this rollicking ride of celebrity parties, clandestine meetings and shady ultimatums away from the stadiums over the top? If anything, he says, it doesn't go far enough. 'Perhaps I was naive, but I was shocked by the corruption and extent of match-fixing in some parts of Asia,' Humphreys said. 'And since Match Fixer came out, I've been doing additional research for a TV documentary which shows that match-fixing is more rampant and more widespread than I could possibly have imagined.' Following the old adage that you should always write about what you know best, Match Fixer starts in east London where Humphreys grew up, on the training pitches of his favourite club, West Ham. Failing to cut it as a professional with the Hammers, Osbourne is given one last throw of the dice and reluctantly accepts a contract with Singapore club Raffles Rangers. In the novel, Osbourne becomes entangled in the murky world of betting around Singapore's S-League. But Humphreys says that while he believes illegal gambling on AFC competitions does exist, he asserts that far more Asian cash is spent on overseas games. 'As we speak, there are Asian bookies' runners in the air, heading off to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, with a bag full of money and a plan to fix a game in any of these leagues .... I am sure of that,' he said. 'The domestic Asian leagues are less relevant now, I suspect, because, sadly, there just isn't enough interest in them from either the bookies or the punters.' But Humphreys adds that past betting scandals in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and China have clouded people's perceptions of local leagues even if match-fixing, in reality, may be more prevalent in Europe. 'There is a stubborn perception, going back decades, that the local leagues are kelong or fixed, it's difficult to shake off that mindset, even if it's not warranted,' Humphreys said. 'Throw in the fact that most footballers across the region are paid little, which makes them susceptible to a bribe, it only fuels the average fan's cynicism. So it's hardly surprising that the average fan switches on the TV and watches Manchester United.' While Match Fixer is mostly a product of Humphreys' vivid imagination, some of the incidents in the book were inspired by true events. After falling foul of bookies, Osbourne is bashed by a man wielding a baseball bat, mirroring a real-life attack with hockey sticks on British midfielder Max Nicholson a decade ago while playing for S-League club Woodlands FC. Nicholson would later testify as a witness in a match-fixing trial in 2000 that saw two S-League players given jail terms. Having lived in a public housing estate in Singapore for a decade, Humphreys knows the quirky island state well and is happy to poke fun at its government's renowned efficiency and planning, following on the theme of three of his earlier books. But Humphreys' observations about the excesses of the city's expatriate population - skilfully weaved into Osbourne's journey through Southeast Asian life - make the most absorbing reading. His lead character encounters the temptations of the SPG's - Sarong Party Girls - who are looking for the step up in lifestyle offered by having an Ang Moh (expat) boyfriend or husband. And then he meets an all-too-familiar imported media identity called Danny Spearman, who combines junior coaching with a pan-Asian TV career as a highly paid pundit despite a nearly non-existent soccer CV. As every season goes by, the long-passed playing days of 'The Spear' sound better and better as he rests his considerable posterior on the studio couch. 'In some cases the likeness between my characters and real people is intentional, but in other cases it's purely coincidental,' Humphreys said. 'I get outlandish conspiracy theories including readers saying they know who the main gangster in my book is, which is impossible because I made him up!' In whatever fashion it came together, Match Fixer is wickedly entertaining because it is so close to the bone and seems more like a journalist's documented findings than a tall tale. And Humphreys, whose first book is called Notes From an Even Smaller Island, is quick to admit he could be walking on dangerous ground with the subject matter, even with a disclaimer at the front, declaring it a 'work of fiction'. 'Everyone knows the illegal football gambling and match-fixing are a reality so let's chat about it openly and tackle it,' he said. 'But if I keep going around the world talking about it so much, my next book will be called Notes From An Even Smaller Hospital Bed!'