Thursday, March 6, 2014

Author Greg Strandberg ('Tarot Card Killer') on the hidden Hong Kong

The Hidden Hong Kong

What do you know about Hong Kong? Sure, you know the name, and that it’s somewhere in China, but what else?

Maybe you think of tall buildings and big business. Maybe you also think of shady activities and terrible underlings doing dastardly deeds. Corruption, greed, violence, and sex – Hong Kong’s got all that and more.

My Backyard

For 5 years I lived right next door to Hong Kong, across a bay in a city called Shenzhen.

I visited the city often, read its news, and walked its length and breadth from the hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails it has. I also poked about in the seedier alleys and dive bars. And for every one strange thing I saw, there were ten even stranger I heard from others.

Here are a few of the hidden aspects of Hong Kong.

Human Cages

Hong Kong is packed. There are 7 million people crammed into 426 square miles, a very small area. And people keep coming. They reclaim land from Victoria Harbour, building even taller banking buildings. Many who do that work, however, live in cages.

Yeah, they have these small Hong Kong cages they can rent and sleep in. It’s better than sleeping on the street, I suppose, and many of the rooms set aside for maids and housekeepers the rich employ aren’t much larger.

Police Corruption

Hong Kong used to be one of the most corrupt cities in the world. Back in the 1970s, which is when my novel Tarot Card Killer takes place, nearly every officer was on the take. They had a system where if you wanted an officer to come look into a problem, you had to give him money, or “tea leaves” as they were called.

It stretched up to all levels of the department, and into government as well. One officer, Peter Fitzroy Godber, got away with $4.3 million Hong Kong Dollars, and he’s in the novel. Because the problem was so large, then Governor Murray MacLehose had to just issue a blanket pardon for all crimes.

Triad Gangs

There are several Triads in Hong Kong. These are like gangs, although much more sophisticated and with longer histories than the gangs we have in the US. What’s more, many of the larger have influence that stretches overseas.

One of the notable gangs, and one that plays a large part in my novel, is the Wo Shing Wo Triad. Many of these guys would come over from mainland China and contribute to the corruption. There’s some good shootout’s involving them and my detective in the novel.

Prostitution Bars

If you walk down to Wan Chai you’ll see a lot of seedy bars, most with pictures of girls dancing in the windows. Believe me, these streets are a lot cleaner than they used to be, especially back in the 70s.

It’s those bars from the 70s that I profile a bit, and where a lot of the love story in my novel takes place. So what do those places look like today? Well, maybe you’ll just have to hop on Air China and see for yourself.

Why not take a copy of Tarot Card Killer along, huh?

Tarot Card Killer

by Greg Strandberg



Jim Sharpe is sick of life, sick of being a cop, and most of all sick of Hong Kong. He’s one of the few not on the take, yet he’s being charged with corruption. By the end of the week he’ll be kicked off the force – no matter what.

All that changes when a dead body’s found next to Victoria Harbour, a bloody Tarot card in its hand. Jim’s called onto the case, and what he discovers promises not just to upend his world, but the whole city as well.

Read an excerpt:
2 – Action Near Dawn

Suddenly the Barracuda passed in front of him, going at a regular pace. Obviously the driver thought he’d lost the unmarked car with the flashing red light, but he’d been mistaken. Jim slammed on the gas and headed quickly down the hill.

He made it just half a block when the Barracuda spotted him and sped up, high-tailing it faster toward Connaught Road, three blocks ahead of him. Jim reached it easily, cutting straight through one lane of onrushing traffic and taking a hard right onto the busy street. There, just four blocks ahead of him, was the Barracuda.

They were speeding down Connaught and farther up ahead Jim knew it’d turn into the busy interchange with Des Voeux, branching off in two directions. This time of the morning and Jim knew it’d be clogging up fast with early commuters, and he wanted to end this chase now before it became dangerous. He slammed on the gas and closed the distance between the Barracuda and himself, and had another two blocks before the change.

He got closer to the car, but also closer to the turn up ahead. There was a barrier, forcing the traffic to go either right or left, and Jim could tell there were cars backed-up.

Suddenly he saw the passenger side window of the Barracuda roll down and an arm with a handgun extend. Jim tightened his grip on the steering wheel, waited, and then swerved to the right.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Greg Strandberg was born and raised in Helena, Montana. He graduated from the University of Montana in 2008 with a BA in History.

When the American economy began to collapse Greg quickly moved to China, where he became a slave for the English language industry. After five years of that nonsense he returned to Montana in June, 2013.

When not writing his blogs, novels, or web content for others, Greg enjoys reading, hiking, biking, and spending time with his wife and young son.


Greg will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Follow the tour for more chances to win!


  1. Thanks for the chance to be on your site today, Andrea!

  2. Holy crap Greg, you've done your research! I have to admit, it was this post that has me hooked and made me add this to my shopping cart on amazon. Hopefully some of that corruption you speak of has fizzled out. I'm going to be heading to Hong Kong to teach next year and don't want to have to worry about any "tea leaves" if I have a problem!!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

    1. Never saw any tea leaves when I was there, but there sure were a lot of stories. Now the police are pretty much clean but you hear lots of stories of corrupt businessmen.

      And I'm sure you heard the story of the HK billionaire that offered $1 million to any man that would marry his daughter. She was a lesbian and I don't think anyone ever collected that.

  3. I truly can't imagine living in Hong Kong with so many people, but that must make for some interesting interactions throughout your days. Love the sounds of your book. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. Walking on the streets of Kowloon or Hong Kong Island can give you a headache there's so many people.

  4. Interesting place

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  5. The "hidden Hong Kong" sounds scary.



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