Peter Humphreys – Hong Kong Rocks (Proverse Hong Kong, 2019)
Strange times in the vertical city. Reality continues to leapfrog literature.
Peter Humphreys’ Hong Kong Rocks is set in an alternative version of that troubled city where, rather than the massive crackdown currently being pushed by Beijing, the CCP are instead being more subtle, and only targeting expats.
The novel follows a rag-tag group of deadbeat Brits. Four middle aged men living on booze and regret. The four are shepherded along by their long-suffering pub landlord, Jeanie, who is a pro-democracy activist.
The narrative begins with a picture of expat life on HK. Paul tries to teach English to stroppy kids. Nick is bullied by bankers in his running club, “Pure Hash”. While Fenton, relic of Empire, has holed up in his compound, waiting for one last showdown with the commies.
Our expats receive their expulsion orders and a death swiftly follows.
From here we are led into the murky world of spies and counter-spies, Triads and White Lotus cults, the pro-democracy movement and the post-democratic radicals of Occupy. Everyone is in everyone else’s business. In contrast to this, the shiftless expat life is revealed as fragile, endangered.
The novel does an excellent job of taking us from the apolitical centre of this city of commerce, into its highly politicised underworld. It is a touch overwritten in parts, but moves along apace; especially once the action kicks in. More than anything, you come to really feel for the characters.
Published by Proverse Hong Kong – a small publisher well-worth supporting – this is a fun book, a good holiday read, and, we hope, not a prediction of worse things to come in the fragrant harbour.
– Joe Darlington