When I learned about Feng Chi-shun’s new book, Hong Kong Noir (Blacksmith Books, 2012), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This week it arrived from Hong Kong. And just as I expected, it was a page-turner.
Feng Chi-shun wrote the memoir, Diamond Hill (Blacksmith Books, 2009), which chronicled his exciting childhood in a poor Hong Kong neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s. He is certainly a captivating story teller, both in his memoir and now in Hong Kong Noir.
This new book is composed of fifteen true stories, divided into three sections. Some of the tales are chilling (dismemberment, serial killing, torture), while others are down-and-out stories of a former high-ranking civil servant who hits rock bottom and ends up living in Kowloon’s notorious Chungking Mansions, and of a gambler who loses millions on a dangerous addiction.
Many of the stories are ones of survival: a seemingly innocent sauna worker who cons a naive Hong Kong man into giving her his life savings; a young boy who can’t leave his junkie mother’s side no matter what; and a 7-Eleven employee who becomes the prey of a low-level triad foot soldier.
Hong Kong has an international image of being ritzy with the most Rolls Royces and Mercedes per square mile. But it also has an underworld made famous by gangster movies in the 1980s and continuing today. Feng Chi-shun was raised in Hong Kong and still lives there. A pathologist by training, he has seen both sides of Hong Kong: the privileged and the poor. Lucky for us, his books show unique looks into Hong Kong of yesteryear (Diamond Hill) and that of the near past and present (Hong Kong Noir).
I’m curious to see if he will write another book about this most fascinating city.