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Fan-Tan Hardcover – September 6, 2005

2.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Gannon
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400044715
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400044719
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,235,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
You're supposed to be willing to give every book 50 pages or so before giving up on it, right? I seldom give up on novels and usually read the whole thing... usually there is some enjoyment to be had even in a below average book, ya know?

Well, Fan-Tan threw me on the mat and made me say uncle. I can't believe anyone published it. It's like the product of a hundred drunk monkeys with typewriters.

Let me treat you with a portion that really blew my mind.

"His memory was a mess, as full of giant holes as an old sock. Scotland was an accent he loved. On the other hand, he thought a lot about the future. "That is one of my characteristics, Lorenzo," he said firmly to the bum of a Portuguee who occupied the bunk above, all aswamp in his noisome reflections."

You may believe I have taken that passage out of context and this is a great book. You may think I am a simple minded fool who can't handle stream of consiousness writing.

However, I think it is a crime againist humanity that those sentences happened IN A ROW. Also, "on the other hand" needs to have what was in the first hand in the general proximity of the phrase.

I couldn't get very far in this book.
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Format: Audio CD
Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell, Fan-Tan (Vintage, 2005)

There are times that much-speculated, much-discussed books should go to the grave with their late writers. I must say that never, in years of reading and thousands of books, have I ever felt this way about a piece of writing more than I did about Fan-Tan, Marlon Brando's novel that was published posthumously only because Brando would likely have died of shame had it been published while he was still alive. That said, it's one of those books that I just had to keep going with, to find out how much worse it could possibly get, and in this regard, the book never once failed me. In fact, in its final pages, it exceeded my expectations in a way no writer has since the first time I encountered Matthew Stokoe (and for much the same reason, for those few of you who've read Stokoe's wonderfully disgusting first novel, Cows). Politically incorrect purple prose, a ham-handed sense of plotting, silly characters, and a taste for the perverse all permeate this book; if that's your thing, than by all means, have fun with it. (half)
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Format: Hardcover
It looks like the sort of thing you might stumble across in a remainder bin in a used book store. Fan Tan. Ah hah I thought another obscure masterpiece cobbled together by some old alcoholic expat. Judging by the cover (never do that) it looks like a Harlequin romance set in the mysterious East. There's the exotic Asian woman in some sort of silk kimono thing and the besotted Western sailor on the ground wondering what he's got himself into. So imagine my surprise when on closer inspection the authors turn out to be Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell! Brando of course is the well known actor who spent his later years on an island near Tahiti. But what was Cammell's name doing there? Cammell was a film maker who directed `Performance' starring Mick Jagger...a destructive little expletive according to Keith Richards in his autobiography `Life'. Intrigued I picked the book up....bought it and took it home. This could be good.

Well not exactly. It isn't a cliché ridden load of rubbish but it comes perilously close. The year is 1927. Anatole `Annie" Doultry is a middle aged adventurer serving six months in Hong Kong prison where he befriends a well-connected Chinese pirate. Once out he meets and falls in love with Madame Lai Choi San the pirate's beautiful boss. Together they sail around the China Seas on her sampan looking for treasure. They plan to attack a freighter full of silver, the biggest act of piracy the world has ever seen no less. One would think this might provide for some interesting character development. But Doultry is too much like Brando. He's a man of action but his mind wanders all over the place like Kurtz in `Apocalypse Now' and his philosophical musing isn't coherent.
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Format: Paperback
I am not really much of a fiction reader, but I had to read "Fan-Tan" since the story came from the mind of Marlon Brando, himself.

It is sad that both men who originally participated in bringing this story to fruition, Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell, are no longer with us. But, how grateful I am for such works that are part of the legacy of wonderful artists such as they both obviously were. And, how grateful I am that David Thomson did such a wonderful job in completing this novel so that it could be made available to us.

Although fiction is not my favorite kind of reading, I enjoyed "Fan-Tan" so much with its intriguing plot and its twists and turns. I found myself looking forward, page by page, to what would come next.

The book is well-paced and full of intrigue. I enjoyed its unique and eccentric characters, including that of Annie Doultry - a character Brando might have played. The book's content is imaginative and downright spicy in some parts. I found the sexual "escapades" interesting, edgy, daring, and surprising. I also enjoyed the descriptive writing and the vivid settings - I was able to picture each scene in my mind's eye.

I think Marlon Brando fans will enjoy reading this book, if for no other reason, to further savor the genius of Marlon Brando.
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