Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Dragon’s Tail

This is an extremely well plotted spy novel…it is a great read with strong and sympathetic characters struggling to maintain their humanity in the midst of the terrible events which engulfed China after 1949. The span of time covers the years from 1950 till 1989. The story covers Chinese labor camps and the bitter betrayals of the survivors. After reading this book, every reader will come to understand China and the Cultural Revolution better. On the human side, we are pulled into the impossible moral choices that those living in totalitarian societies have to make every day.


Outline: Harry Airton is an orphan of old China, the son of a missionary doctor caught up in the turmoil of Japan‘s brutal occupation and Mao Tse Tung’s revolution. His childhood friend is Chen Tao. Innocently, they play together as children with games such as forging blood ties, until political tumult intervenes and Harry ends up being raised by an uncle and aunt in Scotland‘s Outer Hebrides. He trains to become a fisherman, but never loses his love for China or his yearning to return. We’re with Harry again as a private soldier in the Korean War of the 1950s where his knowledge of the Chinese enemy and his subtle skill at dealing with them, bring him to the attention of Julian, a British intelligence agent. China is trying to build a nuclear weapon and Britain needs an agent inside to try and stop it. Harry, brooding, bright, ultimately dangerous, is the man they pick.


As the story progresses, the writer draws us through a tense and real world of betrayal and counter-betrayal that he also blends into a love story of both catastrophe and hope. The destruction of civilized life during Mao’s Cultural Revolution are shocking and depressing; the horrific scenes inside China’s labor camps bring you to a standstill with a need to pause for thought; and the final built up to the Tiananmen Square killings in June 1989 will keep you reading until the early hours of the morning.


In conclusion, this is a beautiful love story that includes much information about the modern history of China. It is also an epic novel worth reading.