Nigel Collett (born 1952 in Swindon, Wiltshire, England) studied modern history at St Peter’s College, Oxford from 1970-1973. He took a master’s degree in biography at the University of Buckingham, winning the University’s prize for biography in 2002.
He is the author of The Butcher of Amritsar, a life of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, the perpetrator of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, India, published by Hambledon and London in 2004. In 2013, Signal 8 Press published his Firelight of a Different Colour, a biography of the Hong Kong mega-star Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing. He followed this in 2017 with A Death in Hong Kong: the MacLennan Case of 1980 and the Suppression of a Scandal, published by Hong Kong City University Press and winner of the Royal Asiatic Society’s Hong Kong History Book prize. His most recent book was also published by the Press, in 2022; entitled Developing the Heart: E.M. Forster and India, it is an account of the novelist’s love affair with the sub-continent.
Collett served for twenty years in the British Army between 1974 and 1994. From 1991-1993, he commanded 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles in Hong Kong and Brunei, where he also commanded the British Garrison. During his military service, Collett published a Grammar, Phrase Book and Vocabulary of Baluchi in 1984 (with a second edition in 1986), a text book for the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces. For this, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. With two Gurkha Officers, he co-authored A Nepali-English-Nepali Dictionary, published in 1994 as a handbook for the British Army, the Gurkha Contingent of the Singapore Police and the Gurkha Reserve Unit of Brunei. During his Army service, he served in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus, Canada, Oman, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
After retirement from the Army in 1994, he lived for a year in Nepal, where he founded the Gurkha International Group, which finds employment for Nepalese men and women on board cruise liners. The Group also recruits in Thailand and Myanmar. He moved to Hong Kong in 1995, and established the Group’s security guarding company and placement agency for the local Nepalese community.
Collett was a moderator for the Hong Kong International Literary Festival for many years and in 2008 co-founded the Tongzhi Literary Group, which runs a quarterly programme of Hong Kong L.G.B.T. literature readings. He has reviewed for the Asian Review of Books.
He has been a gay activist since 2008, when he became co-founder and Secretary of the Pink Alliance in Hong Kong. He has written articles on L.G.B.T. issues for Hong Kong’s GMag and for many years from 2006 was the Hong Kong correspondent for the online gay news and dating site Fridae.asia, which was Singapore-based. He became an occasional op-ed writer for China Daily’s Hong Kong edition in 2013.
He and his partner of 23 years, Dr. Austin Aloysius Tay, a Fellow and Past President of the Hong Kong Psychological Society, married in England in 2014, and have lived there since 2022.