Memoirs

King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong

Reviews and testimonials

“A remarkably accessible depiction of life under British and Japanese control … it effectively exposes the sordid underbelly of colonial society as we’re led down a path of scandal, corruption, drugs, espionage, and of course pirates, providing a fascinating alternative to the often stuffy discourse on the subject. The book is an incredibly informative read, and a must for all Hong Kong enthusiasts.” – Sam Burrough, HK Magazine

King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong

Scandal and corruption, drugs and pirates, triads and flower boats; the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and the Communist takeover of Canton. Peter Hui was there. He knew everybody and saw everything. This is the real story of Hong Kong, told with the rich flavours of the street.
If Peter had been only a little bit different he could have been an important man. But this is a riches to rags to riches to rags story. As we follow Peter’s life – his ups, his downs – we see in sharp focus what it was like to be a Chinese man in the British territory of Hong Kong through most of the years of the 20th century. And yet this book is not just one man’s tale. It is the story of a time and place – colonial Hong Kong, Portuguese Macau and the South China hinterland – seen from the unique point of view of a man who was at home at all levels of society. This is the bizarre story of a man who really did, for a very short time, once own all the opium in Hong Kong.
From the start of the Korean war to the end of the Vietnam war, Hong Kong was a major R&R Centre for soldiers and sailors. And there were thousands of local people who made their money making sure these visitors had a good time and got the suits and the girls they wanted. In fact they didn’t just wait for their customers to arrive – they sailed out in a flotilla of small boats to greet the ships as they entered the harbour. And then, when the ships had anchored, they shimmied up the anchor chain to be the first to get the orders for shirts and trousers. These were the tailor shop order men. Peter Hui was one of them.
But who was Peter? What was his story?
Well, before he took to being a tailor he had been a famous kung fu fighter; a rich playboy, a frequenter of the pleasure houses of Macau; a gambler (he had run three gambling joints in Canton when the Communists walked in); the brains behind a gang of armed robbers (he alone escaped arrest when their third robbery went wrong); an associate of triads – and, before all that, he had been the owner of the biggest string of Mongolian ponies at the Hong Kong Jockey Club – that was during the war years when he was a leading collaborator of the Japanese. He had once, for a very short time, owned all the opium in Hong Kong!
Later, after his tailoring days had gone flat, he was paid by a CIA officer to report on events in China. This was during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guard factions fought amongst each other.
Some periods in history are best illuminated by the stories of men and women who lived through them. This is one of those stories. As we follow Peter’s life – his ups, his downs – we see in sharp focus what it was like to be a Chinese man in the British colony of Hong Kong through most of the years of the 20th century. This is the true, bizarre story of a man who knew everybody and saw everything. He wasn’t a wicked man. He was just trying to get by, like everyone else. This is his truly fascinating story.
And yet this book is not just one man’s story. It is the story of a time and place – colonial Hong Kong, Portuguese Macau and the south China hinterland between Hong Kong and Canton – seen from the unique point of view of a man who was at home at all levels of society. There are, for example, no other published accounts of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong as seen from the non-combatant Chinese perspective.

The World of Suzie Wong was a best-selling novel in the 1960s – and this story is its background. If Suzie had been a real girl, Peter would have known her.

King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong

Reviews and testimonials

"This may be the most moving story you will ever read." - Sunday Telegraph

Wordjazz for Stevie: How a Profoundly Handicapped Girl Gave Her Father the Gifts of Pain and Love

How could a girl born with a genetic defect - who later suffered brain damage leaving her blind, epileptic and physically handicapped, and who lived only eight years - change the world? Wordjazz for Stevie is a letter written to Stevie by her father after she had died to try to explain to her (and the world) the meaning of her life. This is a book that everyone should read. It could change your life too.

Review

If you had to choose just one book that celebrates life in the face of extreme adversity, make it Chamberlain's loving paean to his beloved but departed daughter, Stevie. --South China Morning Post, March 6, 2011

From the Publisher

In 1986, Jonathan Chamberlain and his wife Bernadette had their first child, Stevie, a daughter. Stevie was immediately diagnosed with Down's syndrome. A few months later it became clear that she had a serious heart defect that required a `hole in the heart' operation. Something went wrong during the operation and Stevie suffered a momentary lack of oxygen that left her severely brain-damaged. For the remaining seven and a half years of her life she was blind, epileptic and unable to sit, let alone walk. She was profoundly handicapped.

Wordjazz for Stevie is the story of Jonathan's life with Stevie and the deeply beneficial impact she had on his life. It is a story of great love. It is also the story of how this almost overwhelming surge of loving energy led Jonathan to found first the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association, and then later another charity to take into China the same idea that the key to supporting children like Stevie is to support their parents - and to see the problem as one involving the whole family.

The story that Jonathan tells is made even more poignant by the fact that it deals also with his wife's unsuccessful battle with cancer. In the end Jonathan is left to bring up his son Patrick as a single father.

This is a short book but intense and deeply moving. "This may be the most moving story you will ever read," said Britain's Sunday Telegraph.

Jonathan invented the word `Wordjazz' for the title as a shorthand to express a complex of ideas. "I wanted a word to convey the sense of celebration - this book is a celebration of Stevie's life," he said. "Through me, Stevie has changed the world. That needs to be celebrated. And at the same time I want to give a sense that this book is not a straightforward linear telling of the story. It is simply the only way I could tell it. It is a story from the heart. I doubt I will ever write anything better. This is the core and essence of my experience with Stevie and Bernadette."

Wordjazz for Stevie is Jonathan Chamberlain's third book in three years to be published by Blacksmith. His two previous books are King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong and Chinese Gods.

King Hui: The Man Who Owned All the Opium in Hong Kong

Reviews and testimonials

“Such a heartwarming book, cried start to finish - inspirational. Made my 12 year old read it and he's not complaining...must read for everyone.” - Lesleyx66 Amazon UK

The Amazing Cancer Kid

This is the incredible (amazing! wonderful!) story of Connah Broom who has lived with 'terminal cancer' for the last seven years.

The doctors couldn't cure him and after two courses of chemotherapy he was sent home. That was seven years ago. At that time he had eleven tumours in his body. The doctors expected him to die but today Connah is not only alive and well, he is robustly healthy.

He loves to dance and play football. But he still has cancer. He still has one tumour. The battle goes on. How did this happen?

How has Connah gone from having eleven tumours to just one?

That's what this book is about. This is also the story of two amazing grandparents, Jim and Debbie. Without their stubborn persistence Connah wouldn't be here today. This book is about the power of love and total commitment in the face of cancer. Every kid, and every parent, should read this book. It is important.

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