The Plot: A novel great in its day

The Plot is a novel about a handful of characters trying to recreate their picture of themselves at their best. It’s set against the background of a Paris conference aimed at keeping China from acquiring a nuclear bomb. The Plot: A Novel by Irving Wallace Simon and Schuster, 1967. 828 p. 1967 bestseller #8. My […]

Missing Tai-Pan would be bad joss

Tai-Pan is the story of six months in the life of Dirk Straun, the Tai-Pan (Chinese for supreme leader) of the European trading community in China in 1841. The novel is as complicated as Straun himself. Tai-Pan: A Novel of Hong Kong  by James Clavell Atheneum, 1966. 590 pp. 1966 bestseller #8. My grade: A. […]

The Black Rose sheds light on three cultures

In The Black Rose novelist Thomas B. Costain takes readers back into the Dark Ages with a romantic tale that sweeps from England to China. The bastard son of a Crusader, Walter of Gurnie hopes to make a fortune in the Far East so he can come back to England and be somebody. The Black […]

Oil for the Lamps of China Once Farsighted, Now Timely

Oil for the Lamps of China is a story of a company man in an alien culture. The novel’s detail reflects the lifetime Alica Tisdale Hobart spent in the Far East. Stephen Chase goes to China in 1908 as a sales rep for an American oil company, leaving Lucy, his fiancé, behind: The company frowns […]

The Sand Pebbles shows gunboat diplomacy’s murky underside

In 1925, Jack Holman becomes a Sand Pebble, one of the U. S. Navy seamen assigned to the San Pablo, an aging gunboat that patrols the Yangtze River. Jack’s a loner whose passion is engines. He quickly learns the San Pablo is “a home and a feeder,” where coolies do the work and living conditions […]

Good Earth Top Seller Second Year in Row

In 1932, Pearl S. Buck’s fictional portrait of a Chinese peasant whose backbreaking work and sacrifice made him wealthy took the number one bestseller spot for the second year running.  In an era when being a bestselling author meant more than selling 79 copies of a 99¢ ebook, being top of the bestseller list two years […]