1997 Narratives

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Pierce, Alan B. (1996). Cheung Chau Dog Fanciers’ Society. Hong Kong: Asia 2000.

A quasi-thriller story about a down-and-out financier, Will Sears, living on the margins of Hong Kong expatriate society and finding himself in the midst of a drug smuggling operation that involves the Hong Kong police, a member of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) and shadowy triad figures. In contrast to many expatriate-authored novels about Hong Kong, Pierce’s text provides a quirky and ironic commentary on expatriate life from the periphery.

Most of the action in the novel takes place on Cheung Chau, a location that supposedly complements Sears’ washed-up status. The anti-hero Sears is the opposite of the domineering anglo-american protagonist-adventurers  of James Clavell’s fiction, and is more acted upon than agential.  He is an average, not-too-successful, financial advisor who becomes implicated in an international drug smuggling investigation conducted against one of his chief clients, Hong Kong Chinese millionaire Ronnie Pak. Sears is treated ambivalently by the police – partly as a suspect, partly as an important informant.       

Sears’ relocation from Hong Kong Island to Cheung Chau is forced upon him by the police who want to both protect him from the Pak family and monitor his movements. During his desultory existence on Cheung Chau,  Sears forms an unlikely relationship with a group of eccentric dog lovers, ‘the Cheung Chau Dog Fanciers’ through his friend Mundy, a journalist who is angling for the potential scandal surrounding Sears but is also genuinely interested in his welfare. Through a series of drunken and bungling misadventures, Sears begins to discover that Cheung Chau ironically might be at the centre of Pak’s drug smuggling operation, and that corrupt police officers, an ICAC official with links to the triads, and the triad boss of Cheung Chau himself are all after him. The story ends with the Dog Fanciers and Elena, the daughter of Kau the triad boss, helping Sears escape the murderous clutches of Brian Merrick, the bent ICAC official.

Foregrounding Cheung Chau and an eccentric cast of characters allows the text to cast a satiric sidelong glance at Hong Kong Island and the typical, high-power business-driven expatriate culture associated with it. The novel also largely avoids stereotypical/essentialist characterisations of Hong Kong Chinese culture and people. Published immediately before 1997, it does carry some fears of an authoritarian and corrupt mainland bureaucracy and its implications for Hong Kong but this is largely in the background. The novel also inverts the colonial/expat-playground image of Hong Kong—as a failed gweilo, Searsbecomes comic entertainment for the locals of Cheung Chau. This novel is another rare example of satire on Hong Kong, and bears comparison with the other successful example - Timothy Mo’s The Monkey King. (HR)

 

 
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