Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU
Foreword by Peggy Cater
Among the small eclectic group of Colonial Cadet officers, considered by themselves and others as the elite, which led the post-war Government of Hong Kong, Austin Coates stood out as a most unusual, multi-talented addition to their ranks. Coming from a famous family and having served as an Intelligence Officer in the RAF, he found himself in the early 1950s posted to work to KMA Barnett, acknowledged leader in the halls of academe, in particular Sinology, in possibly the least sophisticated area of Hong Kong’s population as a District Officer, New Territories (Islands). ...
When I was in New York in the autumn of 1956, my publishers, Harper & Brothers, suggested that it was time I wrote a novel. I had already written a travel book, Invitation to an Eastern Feast, which had received a warm critical welcome. My second travel book, Personal and Oriental, was about to come out to, as it transpired, an equally warm welcome. Not caring much for the prospect of writing a novel, I decided on a tactic. ...
Sylvia, an intelligent woman, stretched herself out indecisively in a canvas chair, and wondered why the Acting Governor had invited her to the launch picnic. The dullest possible wives of colonial civil servants could be invited to launch picnics -- as the Acting Governor obviously understood, having included Mrs. Webb, the wife of the Deputy Director of Public Works. A launch picnic was one of those occasions on which one could dispose of the otherwise unentertainable. There were diversions. ...
...He sighed as he put the phone down, and, opening a bottle on his desk, swallowed a pill, with half a tumblerful of water, to steady himself. The entire occasion filled him with foreboding and distaste. If only he had been more sensible, he would never have asked the woman to speak. What could she possibly have to say of interest on the Contemporary Novel?...
When he received Dirty Joke Wong's letter asking him to meet him at Ha Tsuen, Fai felt pleased and proud. Old Liu of Sheung Tsuen, returning home from Wireless Bay in a trading motor vessel, brought the letter with him, and before the evening was through, everyone in both villages knew what it was about, Fai deriving considerable face as a result. Dirty Joke was coming with a group of government officials, he wrote. Ha Tsuen laid in a stock of beer and aerated water for the occasion, and on the day of the visit one of the younger women was ordered by Fai's father to walk over the hills to O Mun to buy fresh cakes. ...