Friday, December 9, 2011

Chris Thrall

Something momentous happened in Hong Kong this week: Chris Thrall returned. Chris is the author of Eating Smoke, a book that is part addiction memoir, part love letter to a volatile year in Hong Kong. You can read my review here and go on my walking tour of the triad infested clubland that was Chris's stomping ground in the mid-90's. Without giving away everything that happens, Chris writes at the end of his memoir that he never returned to Hong Kong. Until now.

I follow Chris on Twitter, and I found out he was going to be in Hong Kong literally the moment he arrived. The ongoing success of his book inspired him to finally reopen the Hong Kong chapter of his life. I attended his book signing at the Bookazine in Prince's Building, hoping to ask him some interview questions for the blog. Instead, he remembered my walking tour and I got to hang out with him and witness this powerful moment in his life.

Chris told me he had spent the last few days almost in shock. He had been revisiting his old haunts and marveling at how Hong Kong has changed. One of the attendees at the signing was the widow of Chris's dear friend Vince, a prominent character in the book, who he hadn't seen in 15 years. He spoke with tears in his eyes as he described entering the Wan Chai clubs where he became addicted to crystal meth, a copy of his bestselling book in his hand. Earlier that day, he took the long walk from Wan Chai to Kennedy Town that he had taken in desparation so many years ago. He has been on an incredible journey that is finally coming full circle.

The book goes into his memories of Hong Kong in great detail, and I asked how he was able to capture those experiences and the flavor of Hong Kong after so much time. He said that he truly wrote down everything he could remember for this story. This was not a matter of picking and choosing the best moments or the best narrative, but of pouring out every detail of a dark, but vivid time.

Chris was eager to talk with the people who came to the signing. He shared memories, found mutual friends and common experiences, and hugged almost everyone he met. He had returned to Hong Kong on a new sort of high, redeeming his connection with the city he loved.

If you're in Hong Kong now, you can meet Chris Thrall at the Dymocks' in IFC on Saturday. Otherwise, you can find his extraordinary story on Amazon (the Kindle edition is now available) or at his publisher's website.


  1. This is amazing! I felt like I was there, too, during the time it took me to read your post. What a great experience to be at his first book signing in HK. I heard there's going to be a SCMP profile on him this Sunday. Oh, if only that site was free!

  2. Sounds like it was a very cool experience for you; thanks for sharing about it!

  3. Shannon,
    I discovered your blog while researching what expatriate life is like in Hong Kong. I live in San Diego, California now. There is a possibility that my family will relocate to Hong Kong in 2012. I am a writer who is interested in gaining intimate knowledge of the Hong Kong literary scene. Your blog fulfills my need. Thank you.

  4. Susan, thanks so much! I'm glad I could bring you here for a few minutes. I forgot to pick up an SCMP on Sunday, but I'll see if I can get you a copy of the feature.

    Rebecca, thank you for your kind words about my blog. If you do end up moving here please send me an email ( I'd love to meet up. You should also check out the Women in Publishing Society (


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