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Book Talk: Favorites from the past, part III

With very few exceptions, when a novel is the basis for a movie, I’ve usually read the novel first, then seen the movie, and been disappointed with the movie. However, I’d never heard of James Clavell when I saw the movie “King Rat” in the mid-1960s. King Rat was about an American corporal who “rules” a Japanese POW camp in Singapore by engaging in black-market trade with the Japanese guards and selling rat meat (which he represents as deer meat) to British officers. In this case, the movie (starring George Segal) and the book (by James Clavell, based on his own POW experiences during WWII), were excellent.


Clavell’s ‘Asian series’


Although James Clavell has written other books, movie scripts, and plays, I most enjoyed his “Asian series.” Clavell spent years researching each of the books, and each is instructive of various aspects of Asian culture.


Tai-Pan (1966): Tai-Pan was not the first of Clavell’s work that I read, although it was the first book in his Asian Series. The novel is set in Hong Kong during the 1840s. The principal characters are Dirk Struan and Tyler Brock, owners of two huge trading companies. Each sees the island of Hong Kong as being pivotal in commerce between Great Britain and the Asian continent. Although Dirk Struan is Tai-Pan (the head of his company and the coordinator of all foreign trade), the conflict between him and Brock is the basis for the sequel.

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