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Hong Kong culture

Eunice Lam, Hong Kong novelist and former sister-in-law of kung fu legend Bruce Lee, dies at age 75

Celebrity writer was believed to have died of cancer in hospital after collapsing at home

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 9:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 1:24pm

Celebrity romance novelist and media personality Eunice Lam Yin-nei, who was said to spray perfume on her writing paper while working, has died of cancer. She was 75.

Lam, a prolific writer who was also well-known to film fans as the former sister-in-law of kung fu legend Bruce Lee, was believed to have died recently in a Hong Kong hospital after collapsing at home.

Family friends said Lam’s son, Oscar, wanted to keep her death low profile and declined to give media interviews or further details.

In Hong Kong, she was much remembered for her romance with famed Canto-pop songwriter James Wong Jim. Lam and Wong lived together for 14 years, from 1976 to 1990, but never married.

Her brother, Lam Chun-keung, who died in 2003 of blood cancer, was also a household name as a Canto-pop lyric writer and columnist.

Fellow writer Mer Lee, who had known Lam since the late 1970s, said on Tuesday: “We heard of the sad news from her distant relatives a couple of days ago. It is very sad. We used to meet quite often. But in recent years, her health had not been very good, and neither was mine. So we seldom had time to get together.”

Private grief of the one Uncle Jim loved best

She recalled Lam as a “straightforward no-nonsense type of woman”.

“I still remember the first time I met her, she was having afternoon tea with James Wong at The Peninsula hotel. James introduced me to her and said I was a close friend of his. Lam gave me a bitter smile and did not say anything. I still remember the scene after all these years.”

Much like the characters in her novels, Lam had always liked to pursue pure love, according to Lee.

“I think she liked to live life like a princess in which everything was perfect and she was eternally embraced by love. I think she did live a colourful life.”

Lam published more than 80 books and had been writing a column in the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao. The column published on Tuesday was about her recent dreams in which she said she and her doctor were standing together looking at her own body.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post in 1998, Lam also shared her views about death.

“I don’t care if I die at this moment … Longevity is not life. I don’t associate that with living. I hope old people don’t mind me saying so, but if I lived to 120, my world would already be dead.”

At 21, she married Bruce Lee’s elder brother, Peter. The marriage lasted about five years and produced a son, Oscar. Peter Lee died in Australia in 2008.

Her affair with Wong, whose marriage broke up as a result of it, started while they were both working at television station TVB. The pair later set up an advertising agency which they sold in the late 1980s.

They had planned to marry on New Year’s Eve 1988, with renowned writer Louis Cha Leung-yung as witness, but the ceremony was never registered.

“I’m happy to make the point that James Wong never married me. James asked Mr Cha to be a witness and he was happy to do that, and our friends were so enthusiastic … But Mr Wong lost interest. I don’t want to say anything more about him,” Lam said in the 1998 interview.

Wong, who died in 2004 aged 63, married again. Lam did not.

She said: “I have failures – everyone has in love and in career – but I have no regrets. All those heartaches and frustrations are worth it because they come together with ultimate happiness It’s like a twin.”

Lam was the eldest daughter in the family and had two brothers, who both died of cancer in 2003. Their sister died of lymphoma in 1981.