Interview with Bob Halloran, author of "White Devil" at Hei La Moon :Part one

If you don't know what book I am talking about, click here and buy it on Amazon.


I got a chance to interview Bob Halloran, author of White Devil today and I learned a lot. I think there might be a knee jerk reaction from a lot of people in Chinatown when they see that someone wrote a book about John Willis.
Some things that I have heard are,

"He wasn't that big a deal."


or


"They are just writing a book about him because he is white and this book is just glorifying what he did and perhaps exaggerating it."

I didn't hear anyone one come out and say this (because I didn't really ask any activists or educators about the book) but I can imagine someone complaining that this book will perpetuate the idea that Chinatown is a dangerous place.

First of all, not really, because Chinatown has changed since the early 90's and people know that.
In many ways this book documents a street life that is gone. Some would argue a street life that had already started to disappear before John appeared on the stage. (the book does deal with that, mostly in the middle)

But also, Chinatown really WAS like that. You cannot deny the history.

Having finished the book, I have a very positive view of the work the author did. Bob does touch on a lot of the issues mentioned in the book but you won't pick up on that if you just skim it.

Some people say that actually the Ping On days were over way before John Willis even started hanging out in Chinatown. But in one line of the book John Willis says that "It's not like we were printing T shirts that said Ping On" and that maybe the group wasn't exactly Ping On any more, but all those guys had been, and de Facto they were what was left of it.

The book does not aim to glorify John at all. Bob Halloran says that by telling his story that does make him more famous, or infamous. But you have to understand that the White Guy being par of the Asian gang is the hook to get people to read it. But after they read it they will learn a lot about John'S worldview, which ultimately, is very close to the Chinese worldview regarding Yi Hei, which a concept and a belief system which runs through both gang like, and regular business and every day Chinese culture, especially in Chinese communities resistant to by communist ideals.

Bob argues with this worldview (or the gangster version of it) in the pages of the book, and although John Willis at times comes off as sympathetic (which the author did no intend) there is a lot to be learned here about a sharing of culture. I feel like Bob and I touched on similarities between things that are rooted in his childhood, things that were ingrained in John in his teen years, and things that were instilled in me through my Kung Fu training.

Pretty much anyone reading this book will find a human  story that they will probably be able to relate to. But at the same time, they will be peeking into the world of Chinese gangs. By finding something in common with someone like John,  the reader will see a fuller picture of Chinese gang life than they would if they watched a police drama where the characters are nothing more than background and are often very shallow caricatures of human beings with strange haircuts and mannerisms.

Even if you know John Willis, don't write this book off. Really read the whole thing, don't judge the book by it's cover! Some details may be different than your account but isn't that true of any story? You may learn something knew about John.

And besides how many books are written about Chinatown?

How many books about Chinatown even mention the fraternities that are so essential to Chinatown culture?

How many books are written about the gangs?

I haven't heard of any others. This may very well be the first.

Of course if you have please let me know because this is the Boston Chinatown Blog after all.
But a book this mainstream?

This is going to be a big deal historically.

I'll try to post the video and audio of the interview because Bob had a lot of interesting things to say both about this book and his others.

Again, whether or not you like John, I think you enjoy reading his story.

0