Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On Borrowed Time - Graeme Hall

I'm at my mother's dog sitting and hoovering for the foreseeable future whilst she recovers from a hip operation. It's both really nice to be in somebody else's spacious, warm, and comfortable home complete with hot and cold running dog, and a little bit weird. Both of us are very used to living alone and I keep wanting odd bits of paper, books, or balls of yarn which are back in town. Mostly it's just great to have the company and to be able to help. 

It's also why I said yes to this preview tour - the book sounds interesting (I have Hall's 'The Goddess of Macau sitting at home waiting for me to pick up next time I go over to check up on everything) and Isabelle Kenyon from Fly on the Wall is really hard to say no to. I can't think of many people as indefatigable as she is in helping and promoting her writers far beyond the things her own press is publishing, I find it really inspiring. 

On Borrowed Time’

by Graeme Hall


On Borrowed Time is set in Hong Kong and Shanghai over the period 1996/1997 - including the handover of Hong Kong to China. The novel explores the choices that people have to make; in particular between doing what is easy and what is right.


In Hong Kong, Emma Janssen discovers the truth behind the death of her brother four years earlier. Meanwhile, in Shanghai, a PhD student meets a woman with an unusual degree of interest in his research. These storylines converge at the time of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and Emma finds that she has to choose between revenge or the future happiness and safety of both herself and those close to her.


While being a work of fiction, On Borrowed Time is rooted in the author's own experiences of living and working in Hong Kong from 1993 to 2010, in particular the final years of British rule and the transfer of sovereignty back to China.


About the author


Graeme lived in Hong Kong from 1993 to 2010 and still keeps a close connection to the city. His first novel was set in Hong Kong and Shanghai over the period 1996/97 and most of his writing comes from his love of that part of the world. Graeme first visited Macau in 1993 and he quickly became fascinated by the oldest European settlement in Asia. His short story collection, ‘The Goddess of Macau’ was published in August 2020 by Fly on the Wall Press.



On Borrowed Time by Graeme Hall

Excerpt 2



‘I heard there was mainland money involved?’ Rob looked at Sam inquiringly, his estuarine accent rivalling Cantonese in tonal complexity.

‘Where did you get that from?’

‘Just some gossip from a trader I play football with. He was surprised that the government would allow it.’

‘Well it’s nonsense. It’s a Bahamas-registered company for a start,’ said Sam.

‘Which – as you well know – means fuck all.’

Sam did know only too well, and for a moment a number of bad memories briefly surfaced.

‘It’s just an investment company Leung Hing-wah has set up. You know he’s looking to get into telecoms. That’s all.’

Sam and Rob were on the top deck of the junk belonging to McShane Adams, the law firm they both worked for. It was half-eleven on a Sunday morning and they were on their first beer of the day. Kate joined them, making her way unsteadily as the boat pitched and rolled in the wake of a passing tug.

‘God, can’t this thing keep still? Are you two talking work?’ she said. ‘It’s a glorious Sunday morning, we’ve got the whole day ahead of us and I don’t want to be trapped on a junk with a pair of corporate lawyers who can’t talk about anything else. If you’re going to talk shop I’m going back down to the others.’ The rest of the party were sensibly in the shade on the main deck.

‘I love the way she talks about lawyers,’ Rob said to Sam. ‘To hear her speak you’d never guess that she was one as well.’

‘Not on a Sunday I’m not. Now, which one of you two is going to be a gentleman and rub sun-cream on my back? Sam?’ Sam took the proffered bottle. ‘Thanks … don’t miss under the straps … You’ll make someone a great husband one day, Sam. Who knows, the way things are going it may yet be me.’

Kate and Sam had started at McShane Adams on the same day three years ago and had worked together ever since. They were good friends who offered each other a shoulder to cry on when romantic liaisons were not working out. Only once had the mutual comfort gone further and they’d kissed, before they both pulled back not wanting to spoil a friendship. But one night, after a party and at least one margarita too many, and when they were both more maudlin than normal, they’d vowed to get married if they were still single when they hit forty.

‘Oh that’s nice … Has anybody ever told you you’ve got great hands?’

‘Sam,’ said Rob, ‘you should come to Manila with us next weekend. Play some golf.’

‘No thank you.’

‘Why not?’

‘Well, for one thing I don’t like golf.’

‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

‘And that’s the other reason. I know you’re not going for the golf.’

‘Now, boys,’ interrupted Kate, ‘no fighting on my birthday.’

‘That’s not until tomorrow,’ Rob protested.

‘Close enough.’

Another roll of the junk in the swell caused them all to hold on to a handrail until the boat steadied itself again.

‘So why haven’t we been invited to your birthday bash tomorrow?’ asked Sam.

‘Girls only, I’m afraid. It’s Ladies Night at Carnegies and a bunch of us are going. No men allowed, or at least no men that we might have to meet again the next day. It’s a bummer it’s a Monday though.’

‘I wish I hadn’t asked now.’

‘Don’t be a prude, Sam,’ said Kate, ‘you should try it sometime. Just not tomorrow.’ Kate lay back on the deck, sunhat covering her face.



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