From Publishers Weekly
In 1979, Brando proposed to film director Cammell (Performance
) that they collaborate on a China Seas pirate story. Brando improvised scenes and Cammell wrote a 165-page treatment; in 1982, Cammell worked the same material into an incomplete novel. Brando dropped the project, but Cammell's widow revived it after Brando's death, and Knopf's Sonny Mehta hired Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film
) to gather the extant materials and finish the book. The stylish result will delight readers who love movies, Marlon Brando, sea stories, Chinese pirates or adventure tales. It's 1927, and 51-year-old Brando-esque sea captain Anatole "Annie" Doultry is serving a six-month stretch in a Hong Kong prison, during which he saves the life of another prisoner. After finishing his sentence, Annie finds he's gained the gratitude of that prisoner's boss, the beautiful gangster Madame Lai Choi San. Madame Lai, aka Mountain of Wealth, proposes that Annie join her in the highjack robbery of the British-owned SS Chow Fa
, which will be carrying a fortune in silver. Annie can't resist either the money or Madam Lai, and soon enough he's up to his gunwales in pirates and plunder. Throw in a typhoon, a double-cross, a scorching sex scene, hand-to-hand combat and a mad break for freedom, and enthralled readers will be swinging from the rigging along with the rest of the pirates in this rollicking high-seas saga. (Sept.)
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One of the newest crazes in genre fiction seems to be the posthumous publishing of unedited manuscripts that are serendipitously found lying about after a person dies. Fan-Tan
is actually the work of two dead authors: Marlon Brando, who came up with the story in 1979 with the original intention of it being a film, and director Donald Cammell, who wrote most of the actual manuscript. Indeed, the book reads like a 1940s B-movie (but for the graphic sex and language), with such stock characters as the Great White Hunter (translated from the African jungle to the China Sea), the beautiful yet deadly Eurasian femme fatale, and a bevy of murderous Chinese pirates. The stereotypes abound to the extent that one easily expects a platitude-spouting Charlie Chan to appear at any time. In 1927, Anatole "Annie" Doultry is serving six months in a Hong Kong prison on an arms-smuggling charge when he saves the life of a Chinese prisoner. This earns him the gratitude of the man's employer, pirate queen Madame Lai Choi San, who offers Annie a share in the spoils if he'll assist her in a spectacular heist she has planned. The novelty of Brando's name should give this predictable pirate yarn a robust, but brief, popularity. Michael GannonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved