PCEC visits Hong Kong circa 1857

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Hong Kong circa 1857 was an exciting and dangerous place. This was the message to the Pattaya City Expats Club on Sunday, January 22. Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg called on fellow member Harry “Sig” Sigworth to introduce the Club’s guest speaker Dean Barrett.

Dean has lived in Asia, mostly Hong Kong or Thailand, for over 25 years. He is the well known author of over a dozen books, mostly mystery, with a Thailand or China theme.

PCEC member Harry Sigworth, a.k.a. ‘Sig’, introduces master wordsmith Dean Barrett to fellow members & guests. Dean introduced his book ‘Hangman’s Point’, a novel set in 19th century British Hong Kong. PCEC member Harry Sigworth, a.k.a. ‘Sig’, introduces master wordsmith Dean Barrett to fellow members & guests. Dean introduced his book ‘Hangman’s Point’, a novel set in 19th century British Hong Kong.

Dean previously spoke to the Club in September 2010.  On that occasion he spoke about getting books published, especially those with a Thailand theme. Dean Barrett has published his most recent novel, Permanent Damage, a sequel to Skytrain to Murder, and is currently hard at work on his new novel, a sequel to Hangman’s Point. As always, Dean proved to be a very interesting speaker whose great sense of humor was much appreciated by the audience.

MC Richard Silverberg updates all on coming events for Pattaya and surrounds.MC Richard Silverberg updates all on coming events for Pattaya and surrounds.

Dean said that for his current talk, he would be speaking about China as he thought it an appropriate topic as it was the start of the Chinese New Year. But first, he wanted everyone to know that most of his books are now available on Kindle and Nook and a few other gadgets.  He confessed that he doesn’t use any of these gadgets, and initially was concerned about what impact it would have on his printed books; but discovered that there are apparently two different markets – print media and electronic media.

Dean then described Hong Kong in 1857, the period in which his book Hangman’s Point takes place. He points out there was a Hangman’s Point in Hong Kong where hangings took place in the former British colony.  Dean considers this to be one of the most exciting periods in Hong Kong’s dramatic history.  To place things in perspective, he read several news articles of the time by the Times of London and other publications; none were complimentary of Hong Kong or British involvement there.

To further explain the cultural differences between the “foreign devils” and the Chinese, he explained some of the terms each used for the other.  He described 1857 Hong Kong as a dangerous place and, at the time, Hong Kong only consisted of the original island that Captain Elliot landed on in 1841 when the British were expelled from other areas of China during the first Opium War.  In 1857 there were about 1,000 foreigners and 25,000 Chinese living in Hong Kong.  Most men did not go out without being armed.

Dean shares excerpts of Hangman’s Point with PCEC members.Dean shares excerpts of Hangman’s Point with PCEC members.

Dean said that traveling outside of Hong Kong was even more dangerous. It was also the time of the Taiping Rebellion that resulted in the death of more than 20 million Chinese. It was also a time when Chinese pirates attacked a mail steamer and beheaded 11 foreigners and the “Bread Poisoning” incident. Chinese conspirators in an attempt to poison the expatriate population of Hong Kong, laced the bread prepared at the main bakery with 10 pounds of arsenic; which proved too much as it made people sick and they vomited the poison out.

Dean also gave a brief description of the Chinese slave trade and the use of pigeon English. He described how pigeon English was used including several examples and pointed out that the Chinese often used pigeon English among themselves because different regions spoke different languages such as Mandarin and Cantonese. Thus, they used pigeon English as a common language.

At the conclusion of Dean’s talk, there were many questions from the audience about the events he described as well as about his own career as an author. For more information on his mystery books, you can visit http://www.deanbarrettmystery.com/ and to get an idea of his humor you should visit www.deanbarrettthailand.com/welcome_to.htm.

Richard Silverberg called on Roy Albiston to update everyone on upcoming events and to conduct the Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand and Pattaya in particular. The Pattaya City Expats Club meets every Sunday at the Amari Orchid’s Tavern by the Sea Restaurant. Read more about the Club’s activities on their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.