Sai Kung’s emerging author, Paul Letters, is one of those rare people who can’t stop smiling. Yet he gets around on a mobility scooter.
Paul was struck by peripheral neuropathy at age 33, in 2006. He had been hiking on the Dragon’s Back near Shek O when “an explosion of pain” struck. The condition is due to an undiagnosed nerve disorder where the main symptom is pain in the feet and legs. Paul can stand and walk but only for a short time. Hence the scooter on which he is seen in Sai Kung.
“People say, ‘What a nice toy’,” he said. “‘Where can I get one?'”
Paul published his first book two months ago with its Sai Kung launching held at Dymocks. “Ursula Huber (owner of Dymocks) was very helpful. She advised on quality printing – which has to be done abroad – and was very good with promotion and display.”
He doesn’t know yet how many copies of A Chance Kill have been sold. “150 plus in Hong Kong, but how it’s doing overseas I haven’t a clue.” It’s on iBooks, Nook, Amazon, Book Depository, printed on demand by Ingrams.
Paul has been resourceful in promoting the historical novel. When Page One in Harbour City was reluctant to do a book launching, he organised “a flash mob”. With social media he arranged a gathering of friends and former students at the store. They tucked into a cooler of wine and the crowd attracted a bigger crowd. “I sold 48 books.”
Book writing is a part-time interest. Paul, who is English, teaches at KGV. His Scottish wife Joanne is also a teacher, at Shatin College. They have a son James, 5. “I miss being able to kick a ball around with my son.”
His campaign to promote the new novel has produced unexpected rewards. RTHK’s Radio 3, for example, has given Paul a regular slot as historian to Noreen Mir’s 1-2-3 Show. Paul can be heard once a month on Wednesdays at 2.30 discussing “this month in history” with Noreen.
He also writes for the South China Morning Post and other publications while campaigning on disability issues. Because of his disability and the mobility scooter, difficulties often occur. “Horrible scenes” at the Airport, Ocean Park, Disneyland and others. Poorly trained officials say, “You can’t come in here on that.” A scene results, sometimes with the family crying. “We always get in, but it can take twenty minutes of protestation and waiting for the right employee to call the right middle manager to call the right boss.”
The escapees raced the boats to Mirs Bay, scuttled them, met Hong Kong Chinese resistance fighters and in the weeks following made their way overland through Japanese-occupied China. Paul’s book The Slightest Chance will be a fictional retelling of one of Hong Kong’s great stories.
Paul said he is getting help from local historians, Tony Banham (who wrote Not the Slightest Chance about the battle for Hong Kong) and Sai Kung’s Bill Lake, “who is knowledgeable and has extensive archives. Bill has given me a lot of time since he realised I was serious.”
https://www.facebook.com/AChanceKillPaulLetters or his twitter feeds @LettersPaul