“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Hunting the South China Tiger – From the 1900s to Mao…

Posted: November 11th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

An article by me on the hunting of the South China Tiger in Fujian, Hong Kong and throughout South East Asia as well as a few other escaped tiger tales from Shanghai, Stanley and Singapore in the South China Post Magazine – https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/3036511/american-hunter-who-hastened-demise-south-china

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Doug Clarke at Vibe Books on Lantau – Saturday 9th November

Posted: November 6th, 2019 | 1 Comment »

War, riots, rebellion, sedition, corruption, assassinations, murder, infidelity, and, even, a failed hanging.  These were just some of the many challenges faced by the British and American courts that operated China, Japan and Korea for close to a 100 years.  Established in the mid 19th Century under treaties signed when foreign gunboats forced all three countries to open to the outside world, the foreign courts had the sole right to try their own nationals to the exclusion of local courts.

This book tells the 100 year history of this system of extraterritoriality.   Based on original research through original archives and hundreds of trial transcripts, it tells not only the story of the courts and how the locals reacted to them but also the fascinating lives of the judges, lawyers and parties before the courts.

Extraterritoriality had a huge impact on the modern development of both China and Japan.  For China, the period is the “Century of Humiliation”; for Japan the same era is celebrated. If you want to understand how both countries view the world – and each other – this book is a must read.

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Sanmao’s Stories of the Sahara

Posted: November 3rd, 2019 | No Comments »

Fascinating to see this translated….

When I first arrived in the desert, I desperately wanted to be the first female explorer to cross the Sahara. The thought of it used to keep me up all night.
Sanmao: author, adventurer, pioneer. Born in China in 1943, she moved from Chongqing to Taiwan, Spain to Germany, the Canary Islands to Central America, and, for several years in the 1970s, to the Sahara.

Stories of the Sahara invites us into Sanmao’s extraordinary life in the desert: her experiences of love and loss, freedom and peril, all told with a voice as spirited as it is timeless.

At a period when China was beginning to look beyond its borders, Sanmao fired the imagination of millions and inspired a new generation. With an introduction by Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti, this is an essential collection from one of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures.

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Midnight in Peking at the Architects Underground, RIBA, London – 30/10/19

Posted: October 24th, 2019 | No Comments »

Next Wednesday evening I’m talking true crime, Midnight in Peking, old Beijing architecture from hutongs to the Fox Towers to the Legation Quarter, atmosphere and architecture, investigations and locations as well as a little “dark tourism” at The Royal Institute of British Architect’s excellent new weekly club, Architects Underground, in the beautiful RIBA building on Portland Place in London. There’s also drinks, music and a talk on Stephen King’s movies too….tix at Eventbrite….https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-architects-underground-halloween-special-tickets-74979221871

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Witchhunters: Scandal, Secrets, and a Death That Shocked 1970s Hong Kong

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 | No Comments »

A new look from Nury Vittachi & Simon J. Blake at the infamous (and now with about 3 other books on the subject) MacLennan murder/suicide in 1980 and the issues around the continued criminalisation of homosexuality in Hong Kong until 1991….

Hong Kong, 1980. A British police officer minutes away from being arrested by colleagues for sex crimes is found dead in his locked bedroom. There are multiple wounds to his chest; his used service revolver by his side. There’s only one possible conclusion: suicide. Yet a painstaking reinvestigation uncovers a different story: one involving a secret pedophile ring servicing the city’s most powerful men, high-level cover-ups, international geopolitics and the involvement of a secretive unit of police officers tasked with tracking down and arresting homosexuals–the Witchhunters. The operation ultimately resulted in the tragic death of police inspector John MacLennan–a watershed moment leading to the eventual decriminalization of homosexual acts in Hong Kong in 1991. For decades, many people have suspected that the young officer died because of information he possessed. This book reveals for the first time what MacLennan knew.

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Dunlop Tyres in old Shanghai

Posted: October 16th, 2019 | No Comments »

Tyres for cars and for rickshaws – Dunlop’s on the old Avenue Edward VII (Yanan Lu)….1930s…

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A Carl Crow Billboard for Mark Woody Motors, 1931

Posted: October 14th, 2019 | No Comments »

A Carl Crow, Inc billboard advertising American motorcar dealer Mark Woody outsde The Metropole Hotel under construction, 1931…

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Opium on the French Riviera in the 1920s & 1930s…

Posted: October 12th, 2019 | No Comments »

Just read Anne de Courcy’s Chanel’s Riviera in which the English artist Sir Francis Rose comments on the opium culture of the French Riviera in the 1920s and 1930s…

Francis Cyril Rose, also Sir Francis, 4th Baronet of the Montreal Roses, was an English painter vigorously championed by Gertrude Stein who spent a lot of time on the French Riviera with his esteemed travel writing wife Dorothy Carrington. In the 1920s he referred to opium as “the gentleman’s drug”, ‘We Europeans of the 20s and 30s only smoked opium bought in sealed purple tins, which were smuggled from Indo-China where it was openly sold by the French in the same way that Benares opium was sold by the British government in all the tobacco shops in Hong Kong.’ Rose noted that if the purple tins weren’t available then the Bohemian denizens of the Riviera  had to buy raw opium which looked like a great clot of mud and involved days of cooking and filtering and a produced a smell some loved and others detested.

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