This book was ok, but clearly not one of Marquand's best. Rodney Johnson is a journalist living in and reporting from China. At that time, China was a vast country ruled by warlords and bandits. The warlords were "generals" of one kind or another. Anyway, super rich financier, Edwin Newall has come to China seeking rare porcelains. He is accompanied by his daughter, the fabulously beautiful Melvina, or Mel, and his junior partner, Paul Steuben, who is basically the dumb jock type. Steuben is hoping to convince Mel into marrying him.
They run into a "westernized Chinese", Philip Liu, who had gone to missionary school and then graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Liu tells them of a very rare porcelain, Ming Yellow. Only a very few pieces exist and they can be seen and purchased only by traveling into the interior. They go there and negotiate with one of the "generals", General Wu. It seems that Wu is trying to buy the allegiance of a local bandit and will use the proceeds of the Ming Yellow sale to forge the alliance.
But of course there's various kinds of skull duggery, complicated by Steuben's blundering stupidity and by Rodney Jones' attraction to Mel. It's one of those pass-the-time books that is ok, but not great. One problem with it for a reader some 80 years after publication is the racist stereotyping of the Chinese and the Chinese mind. I didn't find it hideously racist like Fu Manchu
, but it did get a bit wearying. Perhaps it's just because naked racism has come out into the open again during our current political season. Whatever, I've mostly liked the Marquand books I've read, with the exception of the one he wrote that won him a Pulitzer Prize, the unbelievably boring, The Late George Appley
. This, I think might be my least liked of the eight or so other books I've read by Marquand.