For an arresting mosaic of the great and complex metropolis known as Hong Kong – and an insight into what the people of the city live by and die for – a reader need look no further than the Collected Hong Kong Stories of David T. K. Wong.
Wong, a native son of this once British Crown Colony and now Special Administrative Region of China, has drawn upon his own experiences as a journalist, educator, government official and businessman to assemble a range of memorable characters for his tales. They range from barmen to labourers, from jockeys to expatriate bureaucrats, from scholars to tycoons, and each is infused with insights into the collective soul of the edgy, anomalous and perplexing place he finds himself.
These 18 stories are carefully crafted in the grand tradition of O. Henry, Maugham and Saki. Each has been individually published in a magazine or broadcast over radio in Britain, the United States, Hong Kong or elsewhere. They can be dipped into and savoured separately or feasted upon all in one go. Either way, the result can only be satisfying.
“David T. K. Wong’s prose, spare and clean, occasionally rises to eloquence. Sometimes I found myself pausing to replay a paragraph, marvelling at how nicely he lays words down on the page. .. . For English readers starved for something more penetrating than tourist-snap fiction, this writer comes across as a convincing storyteller.” – Joel McCormick, Window magazine
“Wong is an exceptionally fluent writer whose compelling stories cover a wide range of themes. His talent sparkles, inveigles and mesmerises.” – Sylvia Tankel, Editor, Short Stories International
“David T.K. Wong sends us on exciting journeys between East and West and challenges our perceptions of what has been gained and what could be lost in the process … An exceptional read.” – Pam Fraser Solomon, Senior Producer, Short Stories, BBC Radio 4
“At last a Hong Kong ‘voice’ in English.” – Literary Companion to Southeast Asia.
“Wong has been hailed as a Hong Kong ‘voice’ in English. .. . Perhaps most impressive of all is Wong’s studied refusal to sensationalise a culture chiefly known to fiction for its flamboyant characters and settings.” – Robert McCrum, The Observer
“Clean, direct and subtly understated … an instinctive grasp of the short-story formula.” – South China Morning Post
“The author has a delightful ability to find the extraordinary in ordinary people.” – Sunday Standard.
Paperback copies of Collected Hong Kong Stories are available from Blacksmith Books at US$15.95 per copy plus P & P.
FORWARD BY PUBLISHER
Everyone has their own way of discovering a new city. When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I would use all my spare days to explore my new home by taking the first bus or tram wherever it was going, then switching to a random ferry or minibus and taking that to its destination, all the while watching the people around me to see what they were doing and how they were interacting with each other.
A crossing point for many of these excursions was the old Star Ferry pier in Central, and here in the tiny, crowded South China Morning Post bookshop I picked up an anthology of short stories by one David T. K. Wong – stories which explored the relationships between Hong Kong people. It was the first book of locally written fiction I had found, and it was a great help to understanding the local psyche.
Wong had an unusual route to publication. Most writers build up a fan base in their own countries and then, after they have gained a reputation, their works get translated and published elsewhere. But because there are so few outlets for literary fiction in Hong Kong, Wong took the bulk of his stories with Hong Kong settings to outlets in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia.
The fact that so many overseas magazines and radio stations accepted his stories suggests that there was something about Hong Kong they thought their own readers and listeners could relate to.
Cities change, and Hong Kong changes at a quicker pace than most. That well-loved pier and its bookshop are long gone. But the essentials of human interaction remain constant, and so I am pleased to present this expanded collection of Wong’s short stories that have been individually published and broadcast around the world over the past 30 years.
If you are reading these tales for the first time, I hope you gain the same sort of insights from them that I did.
Review titled CRAFTING AUTHENTIC FICTION by Terence Netto in the Malay Mail of March 25, 2017
A good short story should keep the reader off balance, in the dark and grappling like the protagonist with the solution to its dark mysteries.
The trick is not to confuse the reader too much and lose him completely in an overdose of intricacy.
David T. K. Wong’s Collected Hong Kong Stories walks the line with admirable flair.
Hong Kong-born Wong, who for the past seven years has lived in Kuala Lumpur where he finds healthcare costs affordable and Cantonese widely spoken, has the good reporter’s eye for detail and the novelist’s ear for the cadences of conversation.
Review by Tessa Chan in South China Morning Post website on 16 February 2017
Collected Hong Kong Stories – love, shattered dreams and pursuit of wealth in the vertical city. Drawing on his broad experience and knowledge, author David T.K. Wong takes us on a vivid tour through Hong Kong’s back alleys, and abroad, in this eye-opening and varied collection written over 30 years
Review by Joel McCormick in WINDOW magazine in Hong Kong in November of 1996
This enjoyable collection of short stories is peopled with colonial blusterers, scamsters, occasional heroes, fabulous and not so fabulous women and all sorts of other characters, including the reassuring Szeto, a pillar of strength and proprietor of Szeto’s Bar.
Its sweep, not including ancestral serendipities, runs from the stirrings of civil war in China to more or less the present. The stories run to a baker’s dozen in all, featuring people struggling in relationships and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. In some cases, luckier losers discover late-breaking paths to redemption…
Review by Robert McCrum, literary editor of the Observer in Britain in 1997
Someone once said that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. This formula, plus trade and the Bible, explains the global spread of the English language, at least until the Fifties. The force that now distinguishes English from previous world languages is what might be called its supranational momentum. Take away the soldiers and sailors, the flag and the imperial counting houses, and you find that English survives, and even flourishes, in ex-colonial possessions.
It is this, the English of what the former Oxford lexicographer Dr Burchfield calls ‘the rim’, that has recharged the batteries of the language with the voltage of innovation. From the Krio of West Africa, the ‘nation language’ of Jamaica and the Caribbean, the dazzling Indian-Englishes of the subcontinent, and even the ‘Singlish’ of a tiny island-state like Singapore…