One of the really fascinating periods in history for me is the early 20th Century in China, Shanghai in particular. I’ve come across a new acquaintance who shares that fascination and, more importantly, has done something about it.
Quick, what’s the Tony Henderson story?
Born near London, and since leaving home as a teenager I’ve lived more than half my life overseas, in Spain and Hong Kong. I earned my living designing computer systems, but on retirement ran a Spanish estate agency with my wife for eight years. I spent a couple of years researching my family back to the 18th century and found ancestors with the British Army fighting in the Opium Wars in China, the Crimea, India, and even fighting with the Spanish against Napoleon. So I was far from being the first in my family to travel to the Far East and Spain. I now write novels to keep my brain ticking over, and play golf badly to try and keep fit. The third novel is now released under the series name, ‘Chinese Circles’, but the first book is The Shanghai Circle..
With a series, I always like to start with the first book. In a nutshell, what’s it about?
Briefly, The Shanghai Circle can be summarized as – Taipan meets Triad in Pre-war Shanghai.
Davina Guest, a young and feisty Taipan, must help steer the family trading house through tumultuous times in 1936. The imminent Japanese invasion and the rise of Communism threaten her beloved company, but unbeknown to her another deadly menace lurks in the shadows.
As heir to the Sung Society, Joseph Cheung must learn the ways of the triad. Vice and violence dominate Shanghai’s criminal world, but for Joseph, a personal vendetta remains unfinished business. Irina, a young beautiful stateless Russian woman, unwittingly falls into the clutches of the triads and fights to escape.
What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?
My ten years living in the Far East was one of the best experiences in my life, so I chose Shanghai in the 1930’s as a city with all the ingredients for a fascinating
story. My life in Asia meant I experienced working for an old British trading company, living among 6 million Chinese, being in frightening typhoons, but especially what it was like to be an expatriate in a Chinese environment, with all the noise, smells and the amazing colourful people who live in this magical part of the world.
Why Shanghai? The authoress, Stella Wong, said of Shanghai, “no city in the Orient, or the world for that matter, could compare with it. At the peak of its spectacular career the swamp-ridden metropolis surely ranked as the most pleasure-mad, rapacious, corrupt, strife-ridden, licentious, squalid and decadent city in the world.” When I researched this amazing city I found she was right.
Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?
Probably writing about the actual typhoon which hit Hong Kong in 1937, killing 11,000 people including one of my characters.
If you’re interested in learning more, here are some links to find Tony and his work. Just don’t bother him on the golf course.