Some little-known China books recommended at China Beat:
1) Jay Denby, (1910) Letters of a Shanghai Griffin, Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh – China books are all so horrendously serious and self-important these days – Denby just made fun of taipans, pompous Shanghailanders and stupid diplomats, venal businessmen, etc. – we need a bit more of that.
2) Jacques Marcuse, (1968) The Peking Papers: Leaves from the Notebook of a China Correspondent, London: Arthur Barker. – a lot of memoirs these days are written by people who spent a year or three in China. Marcuse originally arrived in Shanghai in the 1930s to work for Le Monde and was still representing AFP in Peking in the 1960s. He was a member of the Chunking Contingent during the war but never became a fellow-traveller; though he was not slow to comment on those who did, describing Rewi Alley as “eminently useable rather than eminently useful”, the best description of him to date I think.
3) Ralph Shaw, (1973) Sin City, London: Everest Books – they’ll never be another memoir of Shanghai like Shaw’s – he switches from some useful analysis of the Japan invasion of Shanghai to his wild nightlife and sexual shenanigans in the space of a couple of paragraphs. This really should be reprinted to show all those hacks that write about Shanghai returning to the riotous thirties why they’re talking nonsense.
4) Ilona Ralf Sues, (1944) Shark’s Fin and Millet, New York: Garden City Publishing. – her politics went a bit dodgy towards the end but she has some great stories – interviewing Big Eared Du for instance and getting down among the opium smugglers.
5) Teddy White and Annalee Jacoby, (1946), Thunder Out of China, New York: William Sloane. – Thunder out of China sold by the bucket-load when it was published – over half a million copies at its first printing. White and Jacoby were under intense pressure throughout the war from Henry Luce to big up the Generalissimo and ignore the corruption – after the war they wrote what they’d really seen.