All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

J.P. Marquand’s Ming Yellow

Posted: August 21st, 2016 | No Comments »

I’m not sure I could really recommend John P. Marquand’s Ming Yellow (1935), but it is an interesting and mostly forgotten China book. The blurb reads:

WHO was the ruler in this terrible kingdom of death?
Was it the General, a laughing giant who could break a dancing girl’s body in a fleeting moment of anger? Or was it the bandit, a mysterious wraith who could joke in the echo of her screams? Or was it the guide, who juggled four lives while he walked a fragile tightrope of deception?
For the four Americans, helpless strangers in a forbidden land, the answer could be the key to freedom and wealth – or a sentence of death!

You get the idea – American hardboiled in China

We’re in Warlord infested China on the trial of some rare and valuable pottery. Americans are generally good; Chinese (even American-educated ones) generally bad.

However, Ming Yellow is perhaps worth mentioning for two reasons. Firstly, John P Marquand (below), now best remembered as the creator of the Mr Moto series. Ming Yellow just slightly pre-dates the first Mr Moto books indicating Marquand was looking for both a good idea and a money spinner. Moto was to be that. Though generally derided (as well as the movies with Peter Lorre) I would suggest that the last in the series – Stopover: Tokyo (written much later than the others in 1957) is a taught and well crafted thriller that offers distinctly more than the earlier books.


However, some descriptive elements of China ring true in Ming Yellow. Marquand had visited China in 1934 to research “colour” and locations for the book and his Mr Moto series (I’ll blog separately on Marquand’s China trip).

Secondly, the edition of Ming Yellow below got a cover from the pen of Reginald Heade, undoubtedly Britain’s best pulp fiction cover artist. This cover was actually surprisingly subtle for Heade! His work was usually far more raunchy (see a selection here).




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