The Years of the Hungry Tiger John Gordon Davis (Joseph) To start with a quote from the opening 200-word sentence of John Gordon Davis' The Years of the Hungry Tiger: 'In Hong Kong in the summer-time the sun burns down humid maddening hot on the South China Sea and the harbour and the ships from all around the world and the junks junks junks (sic) and on the narrow teeming streets...' You get the idea. The book falls somewhere between - chronologically, thematically, stylistically - The World of Suzie Wong by Richard Mason and James Clavell's Noble House. It was written at a time when a Hong Kong magistrate could refer to Mao Zedong as 'that bally feller over the border' with barely an eyebrow raised in court or out. Tiger is both hypermarket fiction and an entertainingly eccentric timepiece. Set in the 1960s, the action loosely follows a love affair between Jake McAdam, a British police officer, and a communist Chinese schoolteacher against a background of refugees pouring over the border and riots in Central. The author's claim that 'the characters are fictitious' is disingenuous. Tales of such a romance were more than rumour at the time. Davis, a government lawyer, is understood to have spared no effort on research in police messes, simultaneously absorbing alcohol and anecdote. Many of the latter found their way into the novel regardless of the plot, such as the police inspector who was ejected naked from his irate girlfriend's flat at the height of a typhoon, and forced to put on his clothes piece by piece in the corridor, starting with his tie. The prose frequently veers to exotic hues of purple, the characters are thinly sketched, and the action is more than a little melodramatic. Why should Tiger concern readers 35 years after its first publication? The answer: its historical value, and because it captures the zeitgeist of colonial Hong Kong during tempestuous times. The New Territories really were rural, rather than a swathe of container yards and new towns, when McAdam was in charge of Ta Ku Ling police station; Aberdeen was home to 5,000 fishing (as opposed to pleasure) junks; and Little Red Books contained political thoughts rather than a list of financial transactions. Written primarily from an expatriate standpoint, Davis was by no means oblivious to what could be a brittle, impermanent and self-seeking society, whose yardstick of success and status was money. Most importantly, he writes with a passion for Hong Kong. Davis clearly loved the place: 'Shops shops shops and the money-making everywhere and the lucky Chinese names on the signboards and the neon signs everywhere and the sweatpots and fleshpots and the bars bars bars and the many many smells'. Oops, there we go again.