Book review: 'Of Gods and Mobsters', edited by SCC Overton

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 7:02pm

Of Gods and Mobsters: Classic Tales Retold in

Hong Kong

edited by S.C.C. Overton

Inkstone Books

For the past eight years, the Hong Kong Writers Circle's annual anthologies of themed short stories and poems have reminded us of the city's thriving literary scene. Its latest is a well-written, entertaining read that offers 24 refreshing takes on our city, and highlights the depth of its writing talent.

This year's theme incorporated characters from myth, legend and fiction, and the images of Greek gods, Humpty Dumpty and Sherlock Holmes in Hong Kong suggest the writers' imaginations have gone into overdrive. Some readers may wonder who Hephaestus, Demeter and Cerberus are, but the stories in the anthology are all readable in their own right, largely thanks to the thoughtful story selection and S.C.C. Overton's tight editing.

A few authors show bestseller potential. Reena Bhojwani reveals a yen for chatty chick-lit with From Mount Olympus: Hidden in the Night, a bubbly account of young Artemis and Apollo's excursions into their Hong Kong hotel mini bar. Bhojwani shows she can speak "teen", and expertly taps local tastes for farce and family conspiracies. She impishly portrays Zeus scanning his Blackberry for his Shenzhen girlfriend's texts during his anniversary dinner with Hera.

S. McKenna delights with Malice Domestic, an engaging reminder to pushy tai-tais to be careful what they wish for.

Journalist Jane Wallace highlights the hedonism of Sai Kung expatriate life, with an intriguing twist, while lawyer Simon Berry's entertaining Expatriate Experience is based on the legend of Persephone, and has Charon, the former ferryman of Hades, picking up the Beetlejuice-like recently dead in a speeding Hong Kong minibus, an ideal setting for the author's snappy dialogue and local colour.

Peter John Humphreys' Dion focuses on Mid-Levels emotions and Lan Kwai Fong excess, and is so beautifully written that readers won't need to read up on its classical influence, the mythological relationship between Dionysus and Prosymnus. Humphreys expertly scans the detail of the bar vibe, and his succinct expression of his characters' feelings identify him as an author to watch.

Maths teacher Ian Greenfield's To Hell with Love draws on the Orpheus legend for an enticing relationship drama between the infatuated Owen and the alluring Helen, while book reviewer Laura Besley's The Lucky Coin embraces the fickle promise of rags-to-riches success in Hong Kong. Philip Y. Kim shows how brevity can set a mood in Forgetting, about an Iraq veteran's search for his old buddy. Vaughan Rapatahana, Pik Ki Luk and Mike Bishop add clever poetry.