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Hong Kong On Air Paperback – November 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


A truly hilarious satirical novel that reveals many of the mysteries taking place in the fast-paced world of television reporting. -- Jewish Times Asia, October 2007

An exciting ride of betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie... an insider's look at what really goes on behind the newsroom's closed doors. -- Jakarta Post, September 23, 2007

An often comic romp through the frenetic world of television news at the time of Hong Kong's handover. -- Asia Times, September 29, 2007

Muhammad Cohen's novel Hong Kong On Air pierces the crazy world of morning television... his book at times is hilarious. -- South China Morning Post, October 14, 2007

Peppered with quick-repartee dialogue, Cohen mercilessly nails many of the cultural foibles of both expats and Hong Kongers. -- Macau Business, September 1, 2007

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, Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl and Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl

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"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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Blacksmith Books (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9889979977
  • ISBN-13: 978-9889979973
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,023,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Totally globalized Muhammad Cohen was born in New York City, served as a US diplomat in East Africa, masqueraded as a city planner in Queens, and wrote about baseball in the Bronx, Washington and Baltimore before moving to Hong Kong more than a decade ago.

Cohen got his big break in TV news when he called CNN for a job the day bullets began flying in Gulf War I. In 1995, Cohen came to Hong Kong for six months to assist the startup of CNBC Asia; he stayed and became a Hong Kong permanent resident in 2004. In Hong Kong, Cohen has also worked as an editor at Bloomberg News, The Hong Kong Standard and South China Morning Post, as well as Asia regional communications manager for a US multinational.

A graduate of Yale and Stanford's Creative Writing program, Cohen's work on business, politics, media and culture in Hong Kong and Asia has appeared in Time, Columbia Journalism Review, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Slate and Salon. His fiction has been published in Asia Literary Review and the Hong Kong Writers Circle's Love and Lust collection. Cohen also edited The Poker Face of Wall Street (John Wiley & Sons, 2006) for author Aaron Brown. Cohen is currently special correspondent for Macau Business magazine, columnist for Asia Times ( and The Guardian (, and an author for Lonely Planet, including the inaugural Lonely Planet Guide to Borneo, and the ninth Lonely Planet Guide to Indonesia.

Hong Kong On Air, a tale of the 1997 handover, television news, betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie published by Blacksmith Books (, is Cohen's first published novel. One reviewer calls "the great American Hong Kong handover novel." He has given readings in Hong Kong, New York, at the Kuala Lumpur International Literary Festival, and the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali, where he also blogged for (

Since the late 1980s Cohen has taught writing academically and to working professionals. Combining his experience in the classroom and corporate communications with his multicultural perspective, he developed Writing Camp (, interactive seminars that help writers at every skill level communicate more effectively.

Born Jewish and married to a Muslim princess, Cohen addresses religious and civic groups on "Muhammad Cohen's Jewish Identity" and works with New Foundations for Peace ( as a global advisor to build bridges between Muhammads and Cohens.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Aaron C. Brown TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
Jeff Golden leads an unexamined life. Everything is a surprise to Jeff, not because unusual things happen to him, but because he doesn't think ahead. Living on Long Island, Jeff seems destined for a life of uncomprehending mild misery. But moved to Hong Kong in 1997 where (as the book jacket pants) "handover boom fizzles into Asian economic bust," he is energized by history. While other characters try to tame or fight events and are swept away, Jeff's passivity allows him to float atop the wave. At his lowest point, abandoned by his girlfriend, betrayed by his mother and scorned by his wife; he awakens and surfs into the sunset.

Jeff's problems with women are all on his side of the ledger. He doesn't understand his mother, he treats her as a helpless stereotype. He finds himself on the wrong side of her in business because he didn't ask what her side was. His wife is smart and loving, but isn't going to treat Jeff with more respect than he feels for himself. His girlfriend values only actions, not words, and Jeff is not an actions kind of guy. All three women tolerate Jeff when he does what they tell him, and ignore him when he doesn't. Meanwhile, the women in the book not involved with Jeff are blossoming is all kinds of surprising ways, while the men mostly crumble.

Beyond the characters, the book has a lot to say about the nature of Asia. The setting in 1997 allows Cohen to explore deep aspects that are only apparent in times of crisis and change. The ideas and characters are wrapped in a glorious web of language. The scope for punning is awesome when you mix English, Chinese (with two main dialects and many variants), Hebrew, Yiddish, Japanese, Hong Kong pidgin and slang, and technical television production terms.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rich on September 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was an American expatriate who was fortunate to have been working in Hong Kong during the 1997 handover. Reading Hong Kong on Air brought back much of the excitement and pageantry of the era. This well-crafted novel, with its fascinating story, kept me up many nights as I recalled walking (driving is maddening) through the various sections of the city. I knew nothing about the TV industry so Muhammed Cohen's descriptions of the goings-on behind the camera I found especially interesting. Bottom line: I loved the book.Hong Kong On Air
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joann B. Powers on September 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
I loved this book! Light, serious, funny! Just when a character seemed dismissable as two dimensional, he/she proved insightful and very human. Bravo, Mr. Cohen
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