Write Lah!

The Mesmerisings of Tunku Halim

Debate Challenge

I was a judge at the 2nd Tunku Abdullah Debate Challenge which is held and organised by St John’s International School. I judged both the Under-15 and Under-18 Categories.


With Tunku Zain Al’Abidin and Tony Collinridge

The teams were extremely good and I was most impressed. They worked well as a team, were articulate and had researched their material well. The only area for improvement is for the teams to speak at a slower rate so as to fully engage the audience. This is, of course, quite understandable because of the youthful energy and urge to win on both sides.


Flanked by Dato’ Steve Day and Datin Raja Mazuin

I felt a bit conflicted was one of the topics of the debate was whether vegetarianism is beneficial to human health. I think you know where I stand on that issue!

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience.

Speaker: Kiwanis Club of Klang

I spoke to the good members of the Kiwanis Club of Klang recently on my new topic of Horror, Health and History: A Writer’s Journey.  It was, I believe, well received and I enjoyed giving it.


The members were kind enough to provide lots of delicious seafood as they knew that I didn’t eat meat. They were also a very friendly bunch.

Do email me at should you like me to give a talk at your club.

Goodbye Mama

My mother passed away yesterday at the age of 88.

She has not recognised any of us, her children, for the past 7 or 8 years. She has been in hospital for the last 2 years where the doctors monitored her daily and could fix any complications. She has been there in a semi-conscious state where the only sound we could hear was of her pitiful breathing.

So it is a relief that she is now gone. If she was conscious at all of her existence she would have been suffering terribly in her incapacity. I had always hoped that this was not the case and preferred her to be in a vegetative state where she was unaware of anything.

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. It slowly robs you of your memory. You unlearn everything. It then robs you of your dignity. They call it the “long goodbye”. I’ve been saying farewell to my mother for many years as she’s had the disease for almost 20 of them.

But her passing is still a full stop. One at the end of a long sentence.

She always wanted her own story written but I never got a chance to hear it all properly. The one I particularly remember though is that how as a little girl during the war she used to take the train to another town to buy bags of sugar. She would take them home and re-pack it into small packets to sell. She was a good businesswoman.

Mama and I

She was hardworking too. Other than the stockmarket, which was one of her passions, she loved gardening. We had lots of fruit trees. She liked property too and I’m typing this in a house in KL, one of six which now sits on a piece of land she had bought almost 50 years ago.

There were 13 children in her family, from 2 mothers. There were 5 kids from her own mother, who passed away when my mother was still a small girl. Her father than re-married. She told me that it was no happy childhood.

I’m not able to write her biography. But I did write fragments of her life on bits of paper which I can no longer find, but you may find traces of her in some of my stories.

All stories, all life, comes to an end.

So let’s make our stories good ones.

A Prince Called “Charlie”

Just wanted to let you know that the 20th anniversary edition of my father’s biography has just been published and is out in the shops. It has a new, much-friendlier, name: A Prince Called “Charlie” which I’m sure my father would have liked.

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The book is mosly unchanged but does cover the last decade of his life. There’s also a new introduction from me and a Foreword by Dina Zaman.

2018-10-20 Cover copy

As you can see, the book has received several great endorsements. My father did live a remarkable life and, by writing it and republishing it, I want to share his story as widely as possible. I do hope you get to read it.

For as Tun Mahathir says:  “Not to record his riotious life would be a pity.”

The Rape of Nancy Ng : 13 Nightmares

On Saturday, I launched my 5th collection of short stories at the Georgetown Literary festival: The Rape of Nancy Ng: 13 Nightmares.

Unfortunately, because Anwar Ibrahim arrived an hour late for his talk (due to his flight being delayed) my book launch was moved to 6.30 pm instead of 5.45 pm.

Because of the late hour, we kept the launch short but sweet.

I was fortunate that both my son and daughter was also there this time, so it was bit of a family occasion. Although, from the book’s dramatic title, you may well guess that its contents can hardly be called family friendly.


Amir, my publisher, pointed out that technology or, rather, the dangers of technology appear to be a theme in this collection. I agreed with him. As he also mentioned, religious fundamentalism was another presence in the book. But to know for sure, I suppose you just have to read the stories.

My first short story collection, The Rape of Martha Teoh and Other Chilling Stories came out 21 years ago. This collection is, in a way, a sequel to that collection.


It took me 3 years to write the thing with most of the stories being tapped away in Chiang Mai where I was living at the time.

It includes the novella, Lodger. For David Bowie fans, you might recall his album of the same name. One of my stories written 21 years ago also took its name from a Bowie song. I also quoted him at the beginning of my novel, Dark Demon Rising. So, I suppose you can guess, that I’m a fan.

I do hope you enjoy these tales. I enjoyed writing them although the writing process took a lot longer than usual.

Launching The “So Fat Lah!” Cookbook!

“You’re written a cookbook?” she asked, eyebrows raised.

“Yes, I have,” I reply with a grin.

“You write horror stuff and now you’ve come out with a cookbook?”

I nod. For indeed,  I have.

People who know me for my fictional work are surprised that I write non-fiction. People who are familiar with my non-fiction stuff and taken aback at my dark writings.

This is a special month for me, for I’m launching one of each. That’s 2 books, one fiction and the other non-fiction. I’ll tell you about the former in another post, but for now let’s focus on the non-fiction one.

Yes, it’s a cook book and it’s co-authored by Chef Christina Hiew. We’re launching it on Thursday, 8 November at MPH Nusentral in KL.

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This one is a very different kind of book launch for me as there’ll be food. And, from what I’ve tasted of Christina’s cooking, it’s going to be delicious!

I hope to see you there!

That Time of the Year …

Yes, Halloween is upon us again.

I was asked to write an article for Unreserved magazine and so I did. It’s about ghouls that are common to South-East Asian. There are the 2 perfect Ps: these are the penanggalan and the pontianak. The article is out in the October issue.

So do have a read!

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Concert Review: Suzanne Vega 3/8/18

I first saw Suzanne Vega in concert in London when I was 21. This time, in Melbourne at the Palais Theatre, I went with my daughter, who is right now of the same age, 21.  Life can have strange coincidences. Life too, as we all know, moves incredibly fast.

As for Suzanne Vega, she seems to have hardly aged, from a distance anyway. Her vibrant, smoky voice sounded the same and she connected with the audience, telling them ever so often about how she came about writing each song. She mentioned that “Gypsy”, a tuneful  number, filled with vulnerability, was mostly written when she was 18. She talked about influences on her music including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Peter Gabriel.


She opened with Tom’s Diner, which immediately mesmerised the audience, followed by her hit “Luka”. She unwaveringly played songs from her albums “Solitude Standing” and “99.9 Fº”, as she said she would.

The louder numbers were from the “99.9 Fº” album, especially “Blood Makes Noise” which was interesting and, instead of Dylan going electric, was Vega going industrial.

After the encore,  she capped off this enjoyable concert with “Marlene on the Wall”, “Left of Center” and “Tom’s Diner”.

The audience loved it. But I was left wondering why she chose to focus on these 2 albums and left out significant songs like “The Queen and the Soldier”, “Caramel” and “Tired of  Sleeping” … but that, I suppose, is what artists do. They challenge you.

It was certainly good Suzanne Vega again. I hope I don’t have to wait till my grandchild is 21 though to see her again!

Toilet Talk

I was boarding a Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur flight when I fell into a conversation with a woman behind me. She was Thai and married to a Malaysian. I asked what she thought of KL. She said she didn’t much like it as it was a just a big city like Bangkok. I understood perfectly as Chiang Mai, although it could be busy with traffic snarls and over-building, was not cut off from nature. It is only a short ride to lakes, waterfalls, paddy fields, pristine streams and temples built into caves. Then she said, “I don’t like the toilets. Dirty!”

It was all too true. Why are Malaysian toilets so dirty? It’s not because we sometimes use the bidet spray, for Chiang Mai toilets use them too. The toilets at KLIA can be appalling and a sad welcome for visitors to Malaysia. Why is it kept in such a bad state? Is it all the foreign workers here who can’t use the facilities properly? I doubt it for I recently ventured into a wine bar and found to toilets to be awful and not a foreign worker in sight.

Perhaps with the new government, attitudes might change. We can start making our country better in all aspects. 

It begins with those responsible for the toilets, whether it’s the operator of the mall, airport or shop. Then the users have to respect the facilities. Perhaps awards can be given for the best and worst toilets within a certain vicinity. Anyone like to start handing out these awards?

I’m not the first one to talk about our toilets:

All operators  need to follow a standard operating procedure (SOP) in maintaining clean toilets and up-lifting Malaysia’s poor image:

Perhaps regular inspections by the local authorities are needed. Perhaps they should fine those that have unsightly, dirty facilities.

I’m writing this at an upmarket cafe in an office building in Damansara Height. The ceiling above the urinals in the food court below had been demolished which means no downlight and so it was dark. Water pooled on the floor.

I just felt like fleeing from the place . . . and writing this blog.

Well, that’s enough of the toilet talk.

I now need to (sadly) go to the loo!

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