John Harding’s book, Escape from Paradise – Paperback and Kindle Versions


Now, available in Kindle and Paperback! Free Kindle if you purchase Paperback. After buying Paperback, go for the free Kindle!

It took me two and a half evenings to complete your un-put-downable is a unique contribution to the appreciation of a life in Singapore. Thank you for having written it. C. V. Devan Nair, former President of Singapore.

Bought the book from Select this weekend and can't put it down! It's a great read! And so nostalgic for me—the good old days! Glen Goei, writer and director of the Miramax film That's the Way I Like It and who played the title role opposite Anthony Hopkins in the London production of M. Butterfly. Mr. Goei's latest film is The Blue Mansion - Click for the trailer!

It is a remarkable story and so full of intrigue that it reads at times like fiction.Jonathan Burnham, Editor in Chief & President, Talk Miramax Books.

“It's quite a story The legendary Alice Mayhew, Vice-President & Editorial Director, Simon & Schuster.

This book out-Dallas, Dallas. No one has written so well of the other side of paradise,Francis T. Seow, former Solicitor General of Singapore

Escape from Paradise – the Promotional Trailer

Escape from Paradise – Now the Movie!

The movie version of Escape from Paradise, which is based on the best-selling book of the same name by John and May Chu Harding is now in production.

The production company is Thunderball Films and the producer is Mario Domina.

Further information is available on IMDB.

Bai Ling, who starred opposite Richard Gere in Red Corner, has accepted the part of the lead role and will play May in the film.

Bai Ling was born in Chengdu, China and became a nurse in the Peoples Liberation Army. After her service with the army, Bai Ling joined People’s Art Theater of Chengd, and later won first movie role in On The Beach (1985). In 199, she attended New York University’s film department as a visiting scholar. She became a U.S. citizen in 1999. For Red Corner, in which she starred with Richard Gere. She won the National Board of Review Awards (NBR) Award for Breakthrough Female Performance. Other NBR winners include Meryl Streep, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney and Emma Thompson . Ling also won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress.

News flash – the buzz begins:

August 18th – Google searches for bai ling up 234% in past week!

(Bai Ling will be playing May Chu in Escape from Paradise, the movie)

Escape from Paradise is a contemporary and true woman’s story that involves Singapore’s famous Tiger Balm family, and a wealthy and mysterious family from Brunei.


Cast sort by:


Character List for Escape from Paradise

May Chu May Chu

May Chu

May Chu

May Chu was born into a wealthy Singapore family. However, she encountered difficulties with corrupt lawyers and one possibly bribed judge in Singapore which made her divorce extremely difficult. This was further complicated by the wealth of her ex-husband, the owner of X10.
May Chu’s escape from her marriage takes place in Singapore, Brunei, Australia, and England. It touches on some powerful people in Singapore, as well as CIA agent Dan Arnold, and the United Kingdom’s former Lord Chancellor Alexander Irvine.

Actress: Bai Ling

Bai Ling with Richard Gere  in Red Corner

Bai Ling with Richard Gere in Red Corner

 Hin Chew (Chung Hin Chew)Hin ChewHin ChewThe ex-husband of May Chu, Hin Chew Chung, the owner of X10. He was detained by the Brunei police for one full year. The revelations of Escape from Paradise derailed X10’s NASDAQ IPO leading to its bankruptcy and dissolution.

Actor: James Kyson

James Kyson

James Kyson

JACKIE LEE (Lee Teng Jin) Jackie Lee was born into wealth, grandson of Aw Boon Par, one of two brothers known as “The Tiger Balm Kings.” He was raised in luxury in the family beach compound on Pasir Panjang Road in Singapore. Jackie was father of the bride, May Chu, as well as heir, lover and bon vivant! He was however a bit tight when it came to spending money – on others.

Maybell Lee and Cliff Robertson

Maybell Lee and Cliff Robertson

Maybellle Lee, was the beautiful, witty, strong-willed, and flamboyant wife of Jackie Lee, and May Chu’s mother.Maybellle fought to control her destiny, a difficult, if not impossible task for a woman in Asia.A major player in Escape from Paradise, she could be little more than a minor player in life. Still, she overcame her humble origins and the dark secret that, in a Chinese-biased society, she was half-white.

S.P. S. P (Chung Shih Ping)

S. P. Chung

S. P. Chung

S. P. Chung was born in Brunei, the number one son of a Chinese shopkeeper. Being the eldest son, his father sent him to China for University studies. S. P. returned to Brunei to become a schoolteacher for the equivalent of $2 a day – a decade later he was a very rich man.For the wedding of his son, Hin Chew with May Chu, S. P. spared no expense. From Escape from Paradise: “For the Brunei guests, S. P. chartered two Royal Brunei Airline Boeing 737s, scheduled to depart from Brunei at 6:00 P.M., the Friday before the wedding, returning the following Monday at 7:00 P.M. The guests would be put up either at the Shangri-La or Mandarin, a single hotel was not large enough.”S. P. Chung is a major player in Escape from Paradise. S. P., as he likes to be called, is a Machiavellian schemer. He is astute, bright, polite, and ruthless, even with his own family (and daughters-in-law), making him a real winner. His mysterious connections with Dan Arnold, former CIA station chief in Bangkok didn’t hurt…but later S. P. Chung was forced to flee Brunei and was on the run.At the time of Hin Chew’s one-year arrest and detention in Brunei, S. P. and his wife, Lillian, disappeared for several years, on the run from country to country. A year later, S. P. surfaced briefly for a Hong Kong meeting with ex-CIA agent, Dan Arnold, and then disappeared again for another year. Only once during this period did May Chu see S. P., her father-in-law.

Lillian Chung Lillian ChungLillian was not from China, not even from Brunei, she was from Sarawak across the border from Brunei, and was born while the White Rajahs were still in power.
When the time came for S. P. to marry, S.P.’s mother, Ah Por, sought out a matchmaker, who advised her that there were good brides to be found, just across the border from Brunei in the town of Miri, in Sarawak. Ah Por traveled to Miri, where she was shown an array of prospective brides. She watched them cook, sew, and took stock of their bones, hips and teeth. Ah Por needed an obedient girl, a hard worker who could take care of S. P., and who would be of good breeding stock.Finally, Ah Por chose the very best candidate of all, a Miss Yeoh Noy Heok-now known as Lillian. Voilà!This was lesson number two for us, teaching us the wifely virtues of cooking, sewing, and good hips, that the bride does not choose-she is chosen, and that Lillian was the cream of the crop!
JAMES CHUNGJames Chung, at six feet two, was a good head taller than Hin Chew. You could see right off that he was also a kinder soul, not driven, but a beta-wolf. Lynn was ideal for him. She was blonde, diplomatic, cautious, and strong.

Lynn on right

Jim Chung’s wife, Lynn, was a resourceful strong-willed English girl from a relatively modest background. She was working as a nurse when she met Jim.
Peter Chung

Peter Chung is on the left

Peter Chung was tall, slim, and the only one of S. P.’s sons able to grow a real mustache. He was considered, even by himself, to be the best looking of S.P.’s four sons. He was very politically correct with his father, S.P., and it paid off.
Rosita Chung

Rosita Chung is on the right

Jim’s wife, Rosita was direct, dominating, fearless, and foolish, nothing like Lynn. Her in-your-face attitude would not serve her well in a Chinese household, and Lillian couldn’t stand her. Rosita’s chain smoking, seemingly a small thing, annoyed both S. P. and Lillian, especially since Peter had taken up the habit, as well.Rosita, being three years older than Peter, and strong-willed, was the dominating force of their partnership. They met at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Lynn graduated, Peter didn’t.
Paul Chung
Lee Chee Shan (Kong Kong)

Lee Chee Shan

Lee Chee Shan on right

Aw Cheng Hu (Mamak)

Lee Chee Shan

Aw Cheng Hu on left

John  John HardingFrom Escape from Paradise
John and I met at the American Club. I’m not sure who spotted whom first, but I had noticed a person whom, by his behavior, I took to be an American. He was in his late forties, or beyond, and was getting a great deal of attention from an Asian girl, who must have still been in her teens. What a fool to be pursuing a child. Wasn’t he a bit old for this nymphet? Were we witnessing a philanderer in action, or what!From Escape from Paradise:I pressed on, choosing my words carefully, “Who was that young girl you were talking to before.”
“No one, just a girl here at the club that I know,” he answered unblinkingly. I moved in for the kill, “And your wife?” John looked at the ground-I was waiting to see what sort of tale he would concoct. He looked up and said, “Well, recently my wife left me. I’m living on my own with my two teenage sons.” The way John said this was not confessional, but in a natural and direct way. Given his prior performance in the bar, with the young girl, his honest answer seemed surprising.
Joan Joan Lai

May Che with Joan on the right.

May Che with Joan on the right.

Joan is May Chu’s best friend, and was the brides-maid at her wedding.

Lim Swee Cheong (Swee Cheong) Lim-Swee-Cheong
Dan Arnold We were able to track down only one photograph of Dan Arnold, which is reproduced in Escape from Paradise, under license from the Associated Press, but for print, only.The press service caption for that photograph reads, “Daniel Arnold, former Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Bangkok, answers questions at a news conference in Bangkok on Thursday, January 25, 1996. Arnold and two other former U.S. government officials came to the defense of a Thai politician who has been denied a visa to the U.S. because he is suspected of drug trafficking.”Shortly after May Chu’s husband, Hin Chew, and his brother, Jim, were detained in Brunei, Jim’s wife fled to Singapore. There, Lynn was summoned to the apartment of a third Chung brother, Peter, to meet with the shady and sinister ex-CIA agent, Dan Arnold.From Escape from Paradise:”At Peter’s apartment, Lynn was surprised to find that a meeting with a third person had been arranged for her. It was someone she knew, an American named Dan Arnold. Lynn was alarmed over the presence of this outsider, as Jim had confided to her previously that Dan Arnold was in the CIA, and that he was a business associate of the Chungs. Dan Arnold introduced himself to Lynn explaining that he was an American, and further established his credentials by saying that he was an ex-CIA employee. All this Dan Arnold conveyed in somber tones to emphasize his importance and credibility. Dan Arnold explained to Lynn, in even tones, that everything would be all right, and that “things were being done, including the possibility of a helicopter rescue” to get her husband and Hin Chew out of Brunei.”
Lord Alexander Irvine of Lairg The then Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Alexander Irvine of Lairg (aka “Derry”) was hired by ex-husband, Hin Chew, to sort things out. This was immediatly after the meeting with CIA’s Dan Arnold. Derry Irvine was a Queen’s Counsel then, and pal of Tony Blair & wife. Did he and pal, QC Richard Field, have CIA connections? Did CIA agent, Dan Arnold put Hin Chu in touch with “Derry.”
Was Derry Irvine’s firing due to revelations in Escape from Paradise?
May Chu as a child May Chu as a child

Characters still to be added with photos and descriptions

AH NGOH – May Chu’s Chinese nursemaid
Dennis Singham – May Chu’s lawyer – Indian, median height, good looking.
GOH BOON KOK – Chinese accountant – works for S.P. Chung
JOLLY – Driver for Jackie Lee – Malay, short.
JUDGE LAI – Singapore judge. Chinese, distinguished.
JUDGE SINGH – Singapore judge. Indian, slim, tall.
MARC – May Chu’s son – a chubby Chinese child.
SAM – May Chu’s brother – as a child and as a young man (tall, 6’2″
SOON PENG – Chinese lady teacher at the Chinese Girl’s School
TIEN HUA – May Chu’s other lawyer. Chinese, short, heavy-set.
WARREN – May Chu’s younger son. Chubby.
WILLIAM – John’s son. Good looking, tall.

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