For decades, the Hong Kong Police has been known as “Asia’s finest”. Before the handover, the Royal Hong Kong Police (RHKP) helped Hong Kong become one of the safest cities in the world. But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the mid-1970s, corruption had become so serious that after several failed attempts, Hong Kong finally found a way to clean up the police force with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The police force didn’t just suddenly change overnight, as Nigel Collett shows in his new history book, A Death in Hong Kong.
Literature comes in many forms; sometimes it is sung.
Since the cinema that served as modern Hong Kong’s introduction to the world was such a hodgepodge of triad gangsters, crooked cops, ghosts, prostitutes and clueless romantics—sometimes all in the same film—one should hardly be surprised when a literary anthology shows the same genre-busting proclivities. Hong Kong Noir, the latest in a lengthy list of urban “Noir” collections published by Akashic Books, will surely raise the hackles of genre purists much as Hong Kong movies of the 1980s and ’90s initially did with filmgoers abroad. “Such a classic crime scene,” you can almost hear them say. “Why drag in the ghosts?”
The daughter of a Jewish Azerbaijani father and a Russian mother, Sophia Shalmiyev grew up in 1980s Leningrad hearing her grandmother recite anti-Semitic jingles, ruffling Sophia’s hair as if this act of act of affection could erase the sting of her words.
Many potential readers of James Griffiths’s new book well have had direct experience of the “Great Firewall of China” of the title. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find the book useful. Griffiths stitches events and issues, most of which are—individually—reasonably well-known, into a coherent narrative. The result is a readable, well-documented history of the internet in China.
Fans of political skulduggery will appreciate this satirical tale of double-dealing, media manipulation and murder among the ruling classes of West Bengal.
Expat memoirs set in a plane-ride away in Asia have, well, taken off. Some, like Peter Hessler’s River Town, Michael Meyer’s The Last Days of Old Beijing, and Michael Levy’s Kosher Chinese, are written by former Peace Corps volunteers. Others like Rachel DeWoskin’s Foreign Babes in Beijing and Susan Jane Gilman’s Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven address the sometimes harrowing experiences of American women in China. And Tracy Slater’s The Good Shufu and Lisa Fineberg Cook’s unfortunately-titled Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me relay family struggles when these American writers follow their husbands to Japan.