Earl Norman

The Earl Norman books are becoming extremely rare, and publishers don’t seem to be interested in reprinting the series. The only way some of us may ever have all the stories is for collectors to scan and type the stories into PDF to swap with other collectors. I have already completed PDFs of HANG ME IN HONG KONG and KILL ME IN ROPPONGI. I am working on KILL ME IN YOKOSUKA. If other collectors would do the same for some of the other books, we could eventually have PDFs of all ten books. Why not help? I can be contacted at fadingshadows40@gmail.com

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Flower Drum Song

The Flower Drum Song by C.Y. Lee. The generation gap, the age-old story of the battle between the old generation and the new. In this case, it is San Francisco’s Chinese population during the late 1940s and early ‘50s. The House of Wang is headed by Old Man Wang and his sister-in-law, Madame Tang. They believe in the old ways, but Wang’s sons are learning the new ways of America, and the two generations crash. To make matters worse, the older son, Wang Ta is troubled by sexual desires, and searching for a girl to marry, while his father and Madame Tang plan an arranged marriage between families. Things come to a head when a father and daughter team of street musicians land on the doorstep. May Li and her songs capture Wang Ta’s heart, but it goes against the arranged plans of his elders.

The first half of this 244-page novel was slow and boring, but picks up interest in the second half, when May Li and her father enter the story. The novel has received much praise from the Asian community, as it gives a picture of the times by a Chinese-American author in 1957. To be honest, a decade earlier, 1947, Emily Hahn, a Chinese-American woman who achieved success in the early days of 1900s, by obtaining an engineering degree, as well as becoming a professional writer and independent woman of the period, wrote a more powerful story. “Miss Ann of Shanghai” tells the story of a more turbulent time in Chinese history. Other novels, although not written by Asians, yet tell their story in a more powerful setting: “Sayonara” by James Michener, whose Japanese-American wife, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa actually did the research for the book. She had been put in a California internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor, yet eventually completed her education, achieving much success as a Japanese-American woman before she and Michener married. “The World of Susie Wong” by Richard Mason, about a Chinese prostitute in Hong Kong is also a powerful tale about a Chinese woman. There have been many others that, in my opinion, are far better novels than “The Flower Drum Song”. Nor can I imagine the Wang family as the typical Chinese immigrant. Most likely a millionaire when he arrived, his children are treated to the best life money can offer them. Wang Ta, the eldest son, unable to find work befitting his status, goes back to college for another 8 years to become a doctor. He already has one degree. I was more sympathetic to the street musicians, May Li and her father, who earned seven dollars from May Li’s singing and dancing, to pay for a dollar’s room in a bedbug infested room. The average immigrant probably arrived in America with a dream, a skill, and the clothes on their back, not a million dollars. But, again, the second half of the novel saves the book from a failing rating. All the first half does is show the reader the difference between generations at the time, which seems to be played out in every generation, and I didn’t find very entertaining.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Naked Ebony

Naked Ebony by Dan Cushman. Jim Crawford and his African assistant, the giant Botamba, are in a bar to meet Ed Foley. It seems Foley has a scheme to make some money, but wants Crawford’s strong arm to pull it off. He’s to meet a girl in the hotel and take a package to be delivered. However, another man, the Hammer is also after the package. The Hammer, Runkhammer, is a huge, muscular man of great strength, and Foley is afraid of him. Crawford receives the package, and then everything goes wrong. They lose the package, and the girl and her scientist husband disappear again with the package after Crawford removes it from the Hammer’s clutches. Cushman uses the same formula for all his stories, though this one is set in Africa, not Asia. The beautiful girl is Eurasian, a mix of French and Asian. She falls in love with Crawford, naturally. Still, the story could be set in any locale, and it would have worked. The author makes every story an adventure, and the characters are classics. The title may be a little misleading, but a fun read.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Teahouse of The August Moon

The Teahouse of The August Moon by Vern Sneider is set in 1945, and the Occupation of Okinawa. Colonel Wainright Purdy is the commanding officer at headquarters section of Military Government Camp Team C-147 Okinawa, bivouacked in the emerald-green hills between native villages Goya and ancient castle Nakagusuka. He has officers assigned to all the small villages on Okinawa under his command, and they are given orders to supervise the villages. But one of those officers doesn’t seem to be pulling his load. Captain Jeff Fisby oversees Tobiki village, but it appears he has lost control. An elderly gentleman gives him the gift of two Geishas, and they turn the village upside down as they talk the commander into letting them build a teahouse to entertain the village. Colonel Purdy sends a doctor to Tobiki to evaluate Captain Fisby, but the doctor also falls under the spell of the village. There are lots of pulp magazines and comic books around for the men to read, and the colonel especially like ADVENTURE; this will have a bearing on the story. This is a hilarious novel of what can go wrong when America attempts to change the ways of native people in foreign lands. The author was actually the commander of Tobaru village, the model for Tobiki village in the story in 1945, so had first hand experience in the Occupation of Okinawa.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Port Orient

Port Orient by Dan Cushman.  Mr. Leeper from San Francisco loves tea. One day his purchase of tea turns out to contain a bag full of diamonds, which is good because the tea taste awful. A hidden message also mentions millions of dollars in gold, but it’s hidden somewhere in Thailand or China. Quitting his job, and leaving his unloving family, Mr. Leeper heads for Bangkok to pursue the gold, but he has to make contact with someone mentioned in the message. This leads to problems, as it seems others want the gold. Teaming up with two men and a woman, the plans are to reestablish an air route to and from China, hauling equipment and merchandise to and fro from Red China. For the air routs is where the hidden gold is located. A little shorter than usual, but still a lot of fun.