HK Magazine: What inspired you to write about “King” Hui? Jonathan Chamberlain: I was brought up in Hong Kong, but returned as a 26-year-old after a long absence, and found my own relationship with the city had changed. I was bored with the stories of British colonial officials and prisoners of war. What about the Chinese experience? I met the man I knew as Peter Hui when I first moved to Cheung Chau. He stopped me one day in the street and told me his life story. That is what makes Peter’s story important. It’s the story of Hong Kong from the streets. HK: So who was Peter Hui? JC: He was a playboy, gambler, kung fu fighter, Japanese collaborator, corrupt police interpreter, associate of triads, defender against the triads, political prisoner, CIA spy and a great deal more. HK: Did he really own all the opium in Hong Kong? JC: Opium is so bound up with the history of Hong Kong that it is fitting Peter’s life should contain that interesting and true detail. Yes, he once owned all the opium in Hong Kong - he didn’t own it for very long, and it didn’t do him any good, but he did own it. HK: Why did you choose to write it in the first person voice? JC: It was the only way to tell the story because we get a far more intimate connection with the man himself. He is damned out of his own words, as it were. HK: How much of the book is fact and how much is fiction? JC: What is fact? What is fiction? I think it’s better to say that the events Peter tells us really happened, but they’re transformed through Peter’s memory. But whenever I check a detail, I’ve found him to be a good source of information. For example, his explanation of how Lee Hysan was killed and who did it (which is one of Hong Kong’s unsolved mysteries) is more precise than the printed story, and he was telling me something that had happened 70 years earlier. At the end of the day, this is a true story and the truth of it adds a very important weightiness to the narrative. HK: Why bother writing a story of old Hong Kong? JC: Hong Kong often seems to me to be a vehicle hurtling mindless of its past into an unknown future. But unless we have stories like this we won’t know where we’ve been, what we’ve lost. I enjoy early morning visits to Wan Chai market, but will it still be here when I come back? Or will it be a gleaming tower of glass, steel and sterility?