//Hong Kong On Air

Hong Kong On Air

10.13

by Muhammad Cohen

As the Hong Kong handover boom fizzles into the Asian economic bust, a young American couple’s marriage and careers tumble into a maze of television news, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie.

TV news veteran Muhammad Cohen’s engaging, often hilarious novel captures the mood ahead of the July 1997 handover when Hong Kong reigned as the centre of the universe, a multicultural melting pot bubbling with pure gold. As the Asian crisis abruptly ends the party, mainland China emerges, eclipsing Hong Kong. For everyone whose job or business falls under China’s lengthening economic shadow, Hong Kong On Air presents a fresh angle on how it all began. For media watchers, Hong Kong On Air broadcasts the backstage secrets of television news the way The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay illustrated the dark side of comic books.

For newspaper reporter turned TV producer Laura Wellesley, the morning show at Franklin Global Networks Asia means going to bed before dark and swallowing the first rule of broadcast news: the anchor is always right, especially when it’s American-born Chinese egomaniac Deng Jiang Mao. The station’s fortunes and Laura’s outlook improve with the arrival of Peter Franklin, the 28-year-old son of FGN’s billionaire founder. But Franklin’s eye falls on mainland-born graphics drone Pussy, Laura’s control room nemesis, and a butterfly emerges from the web he spins.

For Laura’s husband Jeff Golden, the production line for his Golden Beauties lingerie runs through a cagey mother minding their stores on Long Island, cookie tins stuffed with cash smuggled over the border, and hot tubs in Hong Kong’s Jewish Community Club and mainland brothels. Cut out of his own multi-million dollar deal, Jeff’s consolation prize is Yogi, a Japanese banker with a yen for “Jew food” and men raised on it.

During Hong Kong’s pre-handover boom, FGN Asia becomes a hit, a star is born, and mistakes are easy to overlook. But the economic crisis ripens relationships for treachery, creates opportunities for revenge, and moves China centre stage, triggering a great leap forward for some, a long march to failure for others.

ISBN: 978-988-99799-7-3 Category: Tags: , ,

Description

As the Hong Kong handover boom fizzles into the Asian economic bust, a young American couple’s marriage and careers tumble into a maze of television news, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. TV news veteran Muhammad Cohen’s engaging, often hilarious novel captures the mood ahead of the July 1997 handover when Hong Kong reigned as the centre of the universe, a multicultural melting pot bubbling with pure gold. As the Asian crisis abruptly ends the party, mainland China emerges, eclipsing Hong Kong. For everyone whose job or business falls under China’s lengthening economic shadow, Hong Kong On Air presents a fresh angle on how it all began. For media watchers, Hong Kong On Air broadcasts the backstage secrets of television news the way The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay illustrated the dark side of comic books.

MEDIA ATTENTION

“Muhammad Cohen’s novel Hong Kong On Air pierces the crazy world of morning television, where there is no such thing as stress, the anchor has an enormous ego, there is lots of running around at the last minute and somehow every day Laura manages, by the seat of her pants, to put the programme out… His book at times is hilarious.” Annemarie Evans, Sunday Morning Post

“In this irreverent comic novel, The World of Suzie Wong meets CNBC’s Squawk Box, and sweatshop lingerie proves a harsh mistress. Hong Kong On Air is a multicultural comedy of manners, a witty, gritty backstage look at intersecting worlds during extraordinary times that all can relate to, no matter where we live.” Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl 

“…a truly hilarious satirical novel that reveals many of the mysteries taking place behind the set in the fast-paced world of television reporting.” Erica Lyons, Jewish Times Asia

“…an often comic romp through the frenetic world of television news at the time of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Kent Ewing, Asia Times

“…peppered with quick-repartee dialogue and richly larded with TV newsroom jargon and local patois, Cohen mercilessly and cannily nails many of the cultural foibles of both expats and local Hong Kongers.” Lois Iwase, Macau Business

It is often said that expatriates in Hong Kong can be divided into two groups: those who have arrived in the last 10 years or so and the ever-shrinking crowd of 1997 handover holdovers. Hong Kong On Air is a fun read, particularly for expats who may find more than a little of themselves and people they know in its pages. China Economic Review

Muhammad Cohen made the TDM evening news in Macau following the launch of Hong Kong On Air at Bookachino. Watch the three-minute segment on Youtube.

“The fast-paced novel takes the reader along for an exciting ride of betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie, while also giving the reader an insider’s look at what really goes on behind the newsroom’s closed doors…” Michele Cempaka, Jakarta Post

“For local readers, Hong Kong On Air is a great way to remember what life was like when our fair city was the centre of the universe, and see that while some things have changed, Hong Kong’s uniqueness hasn’t.” LeeAnn Bennet, HK Magazine

“It’s a book that manages to encapsulate everything that was Hong Kong during that crucial time, and immediately afterwards, in the case of the Asian economic crisis.” Kimberly Johans, Macau Daily Times

“The mishaps, betrayals, coincidences and other twists and turns add up to an often-raucous comedy of errors, including much of good, laugh-out-loud standard.” Hemlock’s Diary

“Hong Kong is no longer at the center of the universe and it is time to redefine itself, according to American-born TV news veteran Muhammad Cohen. Speaking ahead of the release of his first novel, Hong Kong On Air, which looks back at the media frenzy during the 1997 handover, Cohen said the city needs to find out what is unique about itself…” Una So, The Standard

“I would have been unhappy, had it not been for the copy of Muhammad Cohen’s Hong Kong On Air that came my way thanks to Pete Spurrier of Blacksmith Books. My 15 minute bus ride was soon transformed. Autocue, studio crew, harassed producer, prima donna anchor, under-dressed starlet, gosh, the life I imagined I’d barely stepped out of was leaping out of these pages. Autocue, panel, charts, crosses, everything was so alive that I barely noticed I was past my bus stop…” Deepika Shetty, readatpeace

Small and medium-sized publishers are blossoming in Asia, which is great news for writers here. Check out the website of Blacksmith Books – these guys are on a roll. I can’t wait to pick up their latest production: Hong Kong On Air by Muhammad Cohen. It’s a novel about a couple working in the TV media during the late 1990s, written by a former TV station staff member. I met the author some years ago, and look forward to seeing how this insightful writer turns his hand to fiction. Besides, who can resist checking out a book by someone whose very name appears to be culturally impossible? Nury Vittachi, Mr Jam’s Diary

“A frenetic, obsessive, compulsive tale of people from all ends of the world who converge on a congested, self-absorbed epicentre of political upheaval. Muhammad Cohen’s tale about the chaos in the lives of players during Hong Kong’s handover in 1997 brought back many memories to an old hat TV anchor like myself, who lived through that moment in history… it’s uncanny how much of my own dysfunctional life I saw in his prose.” – Bernard Lo, veteran Hong Kong news presenter

Hong Kong On Air captures the soaring pulse of Hong Kong ahead of the handover and China’s rise from the crash that followed. It reveals timeless truths about television news as seen from the hot seats on both sides of the camera. Muhammad Cohen is a darn good writer. His sharp insights and pointed wit will change the way you look at news anchors, bankers, 28-year-old heirs to media empires high on nicotine gum, and Japanese food.” – Lorraine Hahn, broadcast journalist

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Muhammad Cohen to the fraternity of old China hands. If you’ve never set foot in the Pearl River Delta, Cohen is the perfect guide to a landscape that’s at once completely unique yet fully integrated with the world. If you know the region and its unique slice of Chinese culture, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for Cohen’s sharp eye for the local scene. His cast of Chinese and expatriates is alluring and exotic, yet completely accessible and wonderfully human. Network boss Peter Franklin stands out as the model son of a media mogul.  In Hong Kong On Air, Cohen is the first to make the literary connection that it wasn’t the handover but the Asian economic crisis that was mainland China’s coming-out party. Combining real history and captivating characters with insider knowledge of media, finance and mainland manufacturing, leavened with cynicism, wit and genuine heart, Hong Kong On Air is the great American Hong Kong handover novel.” – Laurence E. Lipsher, past president, American Chamber of Commerce of the Pearl River Delta

“Muhammad Cohen was a well-placed insider during the tumultuous Hong Kong handover. Only a thin veil separates his account from what really went on during that historic time.” – Dalton Tanonaka, veteran Asia journalist

“Three, two, one… A witty, clever and all-too-accurate peek at personalities in a (barely) functional television station. Hong Kong On Air is as much One Country, Two Systems as it is One Great Read, Two Thumbs Up.” – James Chau, television news anchor

 

Additional information

Dimensions129 x 198 mm
Pages

456

Binding

Paperback

About the author

Native New Yorker Muhammad Cohen moved to Hong Kong for six months in 1995 to work on the startup of CNBC Asia. He stayed and became a permanent resident in 2004. In Hong Kong, Cohen has also been an editor at The Standard and Bloomberg News. His writing on Hong Kong and the region has appeared in Time, Columbia Journalism Review, International Herald Tribune and Asia Times.

A graduate of Yale and Stanford’s creative writing program, Cohen is currently a special correspondent for Macau Business magazine and writes guidebooks for Lonely Planet. Before Hong Kong, Cohen was a TV news producer at CNN in Washington and a US diplomat in Africa.

www.muhammadcohen.com