Peter Mann, the latest local author to burst into print, may be the most debonair man in Sai Kung. He is a former police officer who moved into the administration and became a District Officer. That is the image he still affects: The impeccably turned out DO.
“The Sheriff of Wanchai” is the newest in a long line of colonial police memoirs. It follows the one by Sai Kung’s ubiqitious Guy Shirra, “The Accidental Prawn”. Peter’s book is not as revealing as Guy’s. The latter wrote, for example, about how his father had committed suicide when Guy was 10. Peter is more circumspect, disclosing only that he has an eye for attractive women. What normal man, doesn’t it? The police anecdotes in the “Prawn” are more entertaining. Peter writes with restraint, Exeter College, Oxford, stiff upper lip in evidence.
“The Sheriff” is strongest in its recounting of recent colonial history. It should find a readership among Hong Kong exiles, nostalgic souls who no longer live here and want to be reminded of their youth and the place they grew to love. The best section in the book may be the one about Hand-Over Day 1997. Peter writes about the approach of midnight as he and his future wife Zoe and friends watched from the top floor of the Furama Hotel. (At the time memorably this reviewer was necking beers on the bridge of HMS Chatham.)
“At around 11pm Chris Patten and his family boarded Britannia, clutching the Union Jack from Government House. Prince Charles was already on board, talking to Tony Blair. Looking down on the harbour, we saw Britannia and HMS Chatham preparing to cast off (we must have been evicted from the frigate’s bridge by then.) Before the convoy sailed into the night, the guns of HMS Chatham gave a mighty salute, which echoed off the mountains on either side. As this was taking place everyone was choked with emotion. It was such a moving moment that almost all present, including the toughest men, had tears in their eyes.”
If you like books that evoke memories of British Hong Kong, this is one that will do it for you.