Williams, Alan. (1992). Hong Kong Nemesis. Sussex, England: The Book Guild Limited.

Hong Kong Nemesis is a typical thriller novel that uninventively mimics generic aspects of its genre. It has long fighting sequences and long descriptive accounts of the locations in which the action takes place—Hong Kong, Macau and Canton.

The hero, Dr Markham a geologist by training, is portrayed as intelligent, courageous, and highly skilled in martial arts and the use of firearms—a quasi-James Bond type figure. Markham is an undercover agent for an elite United Nations drug enforcement agency that has been established to disrupt the international heroin trade. He is personally motivated for this task because his sister died from a heroin overdose and his mother committed suicide as a result.

The story begins with Markham deliberately intercepting a drug deal aboard a yacht in Hong Kong offshore waters which ends with his girlfriend being shot dead and the deaths of a Chinese and European drug runner. Markham subsequently delivers the yacht along with its haul of heroin to the Hong Kong Police. News of this incident makes Markham an instant celebrity in Hong Kong but he soon becomes the target of a number of assassination attempts which leaves several policemen assigned for his protection and a quite few of his friends either dead or wounded. The Hong Kong police are suspicious about Markham’s true identity but never discover his real role.

Readers discover that Markham intercepted the drug deal in order to establish contact with a PRC government linked heroin smuggling operation. He manages to successfully pose as a Union Corse (Mafia-type organization) representative and strikes a deal with Mr. Luk, the PRC official in charge. Markham’s plan is to trick the PRC officials into striking a long-term deal to supply drugs which the PRC officials believe will be marketed widely in the US through the Union Corse network. However, the heroin once procured is to be used for medicinal purposes and thus prevented from entering the market.

Markham succeeds in securing the deal but on his return from Canton aboard a junk, Mr Luk attempts to murder him. Readers discover that the Chinese man Markham had killed in his original drug-deal interception was Luk’s brother. Markham however overpowers Luk and his two aides and kills them all. The deal remains secure because the PRC officials in Canton never learn the true circumstances of Luk’s death and Markham undergoes a prison sentence in Hong Kong for manslaughter in order to maintain his cover.

The text is predictably orientalist in its depiction of Chinese culture. This is apparent in a sequence where Luk offers his niece, a western educated Chinese woman, for Markham to sleep with once their deal is finalized. Markham’s moral qualms are overcome by the woman’s seductive allure but later he questions Luk as to why he would willfully allow his own niece to be exploited in this manner. Luk’s response is an oblique reference to how westerners are unable to fathom oriental culture and that such things are part of established tradition. This bizarre sequence is given a further twist when we discover that Luk had arranged this sexual encounter as part of Markham’s destiny as a man condemned to death. The idea of an officially-sanctioned heroin operation also obviously portrays mainland China as highly corrupt and a threat to the rest of the world. Scenes set in Canton also provide a predictable portrayal of a rigid, highly disciplined and colourless communist society. (HR)


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