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Friday, 30 September 2011

This Year's Fastest Seller - How it All Came About by Keith Hockton, one of the Authors

As I've mentioned in this month's newsletter, this book has been a surprise best seller of the month and certainly the fastest selling book at The Penang Bookshelf this year. Keith Hockton, one of the authors, has kindly agreed to contribute a small piece explaining how the book came into being.

The first time that I came to Penang was with my parents in 1970. I was seven years old at the time and the only thing I remember vividly was a Chinese family that used to babysit me, and playing pick up sticks on their veranda with their children. We would play for hours. Few people had TV in those days, there were no DVD’s, and the intranet was a thing of the distant future.

More than 20 years later as an adult, living in London, Sydney and Hong Kong I came back with my wife infrequently to Penang for holidays. I was always amazed by the changes that had taken place. Penang would always be Penang, but it had moved leaps and bounds from what I remembered as a child.

In 2008 we came for a longer holiday, and in early 2010 decided that it was time for a change. We moved to Penang from Sydney and happily took out MM2H, Malaysia My Second Home.

George Town is a captivating city and when combined with Penang’s natural beauty history and heritage homes, it is a fascinating place to be. Despite there being a number of very good historical books on the market, the information that I wanted and craved, about it’s mansions, parks and monuments wasn’t available in a concise, easy to access form. More than anything I yearned for peoples stories, stories that actually gave the mansions and places of interest life.

Walking down what was once Northam Road, now Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, I stopped at every grand mansion and asked myself the same questions: who lived there, how did they make their fortune, who lives there now and what happened to the family?

A serendipitous encounter with Howard Tan, a Penang based photographer who over the years had taken some of Penang’s most lasting and memorable shots, led us to collaborate on the book that you are now reading. His gift in capturing the essence of places and my restless searching for people’s stories resulted in us addressing many of my unanswered questions.

We make no claim to cover the full richness of the island but we have managed to document some of its intriguing history. More importantly we have documented stories that give the mansions life. Stories that had we not recorded might well have been lost to future generations of visitors to Penang and Penangites alike.

It’s been an interesting journey and I hope that you have as much fun with the book as I did researching and writing it.  

Keith Hocton, Penang, September 2011.

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