Hong Kong and southern China in 1857. An exotic world of crinolines and top hats; opium dens and clipper ships; betrayal and sudden death. Rich in detail, Hangman's Point brings to life a shocking murder, a sensational trial, a mass poisoning, a cruel slave trade and the desperate schemes of Chinese trying to the hated "foreign devils." The novel's main character, Andrew Adams, a ne'er-do-well American seaman, gambler and part-time smuggler, manages the Bee Hive tavern in the raucous Chinese section of Hong Kong. To avoid a long prison term, he will enter southern China in search of pirates who have beheaded eleven foreigners. To escape a hanging, he will attempt a daring prison escape and disguise himself as a Chinese. To rescue the woman he loves, he will risk everything.
“Setting is more than a backdrop in this fast paced adventure story of mid nineteenth century British colonial Hong Kong....A riveting, action packed narrative....Chinese scholar, linguist, and author of previous books, Barrett draws on his vast knowledge of southern China during a time of enormous change and conflict, providing richly fascinating detail of the customs, fashions, ships, and weapons of the times.”
-- ALA Booklist
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About the Author
Dean Barrett first arrived in Asia as a Chinese linguist with the Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War. He returned to the United States and received his Masters Degree in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii. He has lived in Asia for over 30 years, 17 of those years in Hong Kong. His writing on Asian themes has won several awards including the PATA Grand Prize for Excellence. Barrett is the author of several novels set in Asia, including Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior; Hangman’s Point – A novel of Hong Kong; Kingdom of Make-Believe: A novel of Thailand; Permanent Damage - three novellas with Chinese themes; Don Quixote in China: The Search for Peach Blossom Spring; and A Love Story: The China Memoirs of Thomas Rowley, an erotic manuscript set in 1862 China. His New York novel, Murder in China Red, is set in Manhattan starring a Chinese detective from Beijing. Other novels include detective novels set in Thailand: Skytrain to Murder and Permanent Damage. His latest is Pop Darrell's Last Case, a detective novel set in NYC but with a Chinese theme. He first became interested in China’s boat people in the 1970’s and wrote the text for a photobook on them entitled Aberdeen: Catching the Last Rays. Several of his plays have been staged in New York City and elsewhere and his musical set in Hong Kong, Fragrant Harbour, was selected by the National Alliance for Musical Theater to be staged on 42nd Street. Before returning to live in Thailand Barrett was a member of: Mystery Writers of America; Dramatists Guild; Private Eye Writers of America, BMI - librettist/lyricist.
Read an Excerpt
Hangman's Point is set in Hong Kong in 1857, one of the most exciting periods in the former British colony's often dramatic history. Its main character, Andrew Adams, is a ne'er-do-well American ex-seaman who manages a tavern called the Bee Hive in the raucous Chinese section of the colony. He lives above a Chinese medicine shop with his American barmaid girlfriend. On the side, he is involved with various Chinese underground secret societies (Triads) and activities such as clandestine gambling and the smuggling of weapons into China.
Adam's New Year prank in the harbor inadvertently results in the burning of an imperial Chinese warjunk which had only recently been captured by a British Admiral. To avoid a long prison term, Adams agrees to aid the Hong Kong police by entering southern China in search of Chinese pirates who attacked a mail steamer and beheaded eleven foreigners. Adams offers the police two advantages: his fluency in various Chinese dialects and his friendship with local rebel groups inside China to whom he supplies arms and ammunition. Unknown to Adams, nothing is as it seems and he is being set up by an old enemy to be killed.
Adams becomes involved with the beautiful and cunning wife of a leading British tea trader. When her husband disappears and a trail of blood is found on the floor of his office-boat, Adams is framed by her for the murder and finds himself at the center of one of the most sensational murder trials the rough-and-tumble colony has yet seen. When an anti-American British jury finds him guilty, in order to escape a hanging, Adams engineers a prison escape. As Hong Kong police comb the colony to find him, he disguises himself in the one occupation they will never suspect - as a Chinese collector of "nightsoil," i.e., human waste.
As this main event progresses to its dramatic conclusion at Hangman's Point, in the background, several interrelated subplots unfold: the Chinese coolie slave trade, a bread poisoning attempt on Hong Kong's entire foreign community and a pirate attack on Hong Kong. The novel depicts the brutality of prison life of the period including the use of the detested tread wheel as well as the horrible treatment of Chinese coolies aboard slave ships sailing from Southern China to South America.
Many of the events in the novel are based on historical incidents. For example, the arsenic poisoning of the foreign community by Chinese bakers is the only recorded mass poisoning of a community in world history. The period's language, dress, customs and objects have been thoroughly researched and fused into the writingfrom crinolines and top hats to punkahs and pidgin English to opium dens and clipper ships.
Hangman's Point will transport the reader into an exciting and turbulent Hong Kong caught between the dragon and the lion: Imperial China and Victorian England.