EXCERPTS from the books

Both Amazon and Smashwords allow readers to "sample" the first 10 percent or more of each book. Please visit the "Books" page for links to those sites. Following are shorter excerpts that I have chosen.


(The JUDGE claps twice; a clerk enters.)
JUDGE DEE: Please bring us some tea.

(The clerk leaves.)
IMPERIAL CENSOR: The Imperial Court has taken note of your efforts to deal with the crimes at your previous position and here at your current one. There are still those at the Court who remember your grandfather, the Imperial Minister, and many more your father the Illustrious Prefect. (Beat.) Some of your cases, however, are thought to be somewhat unorthodox, and the rumors concerning the kind of men, and even a woman, you have employed as your investigators have raised more eyebrows. Hence it was decreed that I should come and observe.
(The clerk enters with steaming tea in two cups on a tray for the two men and leaves after setting the tray on a small side table.)
JUDGE DEE: There were times when the classics and consultation with my fellow members in the Imperial Service shed no light and I had to (shrugs) …improvise. I have much to learn and would be grateful for instruction.
IMPERIAL CENSOR: You came close to scandal with the accusations of Widow Bee. (The CENSOR’S face showed his distaste for such matters.) Elder Hua, the Retired Prefect was initially much annoyed that you proceeded to investigate the death of his daughter-in-law after he had pronounced her death a misadventure. But he is an upright man and soon realized that you, not he, would be held responsible for any wrong-doing that is undetected or unpunished.
JUDGE DEE: The Widow was … is a strong-willed person and was determined to have her way. But I believe we have uncovered evidence that she committed the murder and also her motive for doing so. Inspector Hong is about to confront her with what we know and the witnesses we can bring against her; he should have her confession soon.
IMPERIAL CENSOR (earnestly): That is good, for even the false accusations of a person of dubious morality like the Widow can taint (with emphasis) the reputation of an upright servant of the Imperial Court.
JUDGE DEE (nods to signify his agreement, and then changes the subject): I am pleased to hear that Honored Elder Hua does not hold a grudge. It was a horrible death that his daughter-in-law suffered and for her sake as well as that of her mother I felt it necessary to pursue the truth.
IMPERIAL CENSOR (with a slight hesitation): Ye-es.
JUDGE DEE (calmly and deliberately): If the death had been that of Young Hua the groom, I have no doubt that there would have been an inquiry. (Beat.) If the death had been that of the Illustrious Prefect himself, I am certain that the imperial authorities would have moved heaven and earth to uncover the truth.
(The IMPERIAL CENSOR remained silent but increasingly thoughtful.)
JUDGE DEE (firmly): A young woman of humble birth is not, Your Excellency, any less a subject of his imperial majesty. She deserves no less of our effort to find the truth of her unfortunate death.
(Both men reached for their tea and drank in solemn silence.) 
 (The Spymaster has commissioned an analyst in his agency to find out why a high-ranking Party member has shown hostility towards him.)

 “The Comrade Commissar joined the party just before the Cultural Revolution. He was very young and kept a low profile. He ran errands for the cadre at a group of factories
targeted for their poor performance during the Great Leap Forward. He had the good fortune to marry the daughter of a senior cadre member, so he moved up in the Party quickly during the next few years. He sponsored many young men into the Party. The current Superintendent of Police in Shanghai is one of them, a promising student who was an orphan.”

Wang smiled and poured more tea for himself and for the analyst. He recalled the tendency among some of them to reserve the best for last and fervently hoped that this would be the case. Meanwhile, he composed his mind to be patient.

“There are a few notices that possibly link Jiang and Kong, but nothing more definite in Party records except that Jiang recommended him for membership in the Party as he did for many other men. Since there was no other reference to orphans in his recommendations or in Kong’s files, I decided to look up Kong’s birth certificate. That is in the public records, and it gives his mother’s name but not his father’s.

“I checked Party records for the mother and found that she was criticized during the Cultural Revolution for immoral behavior. Even today, an unmarried woman who becomes pregnant is given a hard time. Kong’s mother received a pretty rough reception, according to the record of self-criticism sessions. Because she refused to name the father of her child, she lost her job at the factory and was briefly imprisoned. She was released on compassionate grounds, the birth of Kong. She did not long survive this event, and her child was looked after by her parents.

“The factory at which she worked was one of those under the care of Jiang’s cadre, and the date of Kong’s birth was just before that of the marriage of Jiang to the daughter of the senior cadre. A simple DNA test would confirm whether or not Kong and Jiang are related.” Owyang closed her file with a barely concealed look of disgust.

Wang sighed and said, “Nothing is simple where the Party is involved. The story you have put together is very sad, but it is better not to judge the man.” He looked up with a wry smile. “Bad karma.”

(The two men eventually meet at a dinner party hosted by a senior Party member.)

Wang and Jiang were seated next to each other, and their conversation was strained and awkward. Wang suggested, “Unless you have a sweet tooth, Comrade Commissar, perhaps you and I can have a quiet word when dessert is served.”

“I do have something of a sweet tooth, Spymaster, but it would be a good time for us to clear things up between ourselves.”

As dessert was served, the two got up to go into a small adjoining office. General Chen held a quick look of concern then noticed that their host, Senior Comrade Commissar Cai, was also looking at the departing men with something like satisfaction on his face.

A servant followed the two men into the office with an ashtray and the unspoken question if anything might be required. She was dismissed as both men gave her a quick shake of their heads.

“Comrade Commissar, let me say I am sorry for not being more sympathetic with your protégé and for not trying harder to seek your forgiveness,” Wang said with a grave look.

Jiang did not respond immediately. He seemed overwhelmed with emotion as he shook his head and said, “It is I who must apologize. How could I have expected you to know how much I loved his mother, when I, myself, would not acknowledge it.” He struggled with his emotions for a minute, coming close to tears. Then, he puffed furiously at his cigarette before stubbing it out as he sat with his head bowed low. Wang allowed himself a distracted clinical thought that the cigarette in the ashtray would suffice for a DNA test, if one should be necessary.

“I loved her, and I could not acknowledge it. She forgave me for abandoning her for my career. She asked only that I look after our son. I was not able to do even that,” said Jiang in between sobs.

“Not even her parents knew I was his father. They were puzzled whenever I showed up with gifts for him … I haven’t even told him that I am his father!” Jiang’s tears flowed. Wang observed with relief, anguish, and embarrassment.

“His schoolmates made fun of him. They called him a bastard, the son of a whore! This taint followed him even through high school.”

Wang was shocked to recognize that this was probably the kind of thoughtless cruelty that his sister had suffered for his father’s political errors while he had been shielded by his sympathetic teachers from small-minded Party cadres and by Old Chen and Old Wen from their thoughtless and silly schoolmates. Without reflection or forethought, his mind wandered and connected with an awareness of his mother’s anguish. He sensed the welling up of a terrible pain, sadness and despair. Tears came into his eyes too. When he looked up, he saw that Jiang was staring at him. What Jiang thought he saw in Wang’s anguish, he did not say.

Neither man spoke for a tense moment then Jiang said, “Forgive me, Spymaster. You could not have known, and yet I held you guilty. I desperately wanted him to be secure in some hierarchy. A police inspector is nothing compared to the deputy spymaster. I thought that if he was made your deputy, it would expunge his past, the past that I created for him. And now he has been accused of this scandal.” After another pause, Jiang spoke without emotion. “I will now do whatever I can to help him out of this mess. If necessary, they can have my head.”

He tapped out another cigarette and smoked it calmly. When it was finished, he stubbed it out in the same ashtray. He stood up and extended his hand to Wang. They shook hands in silence and then Jiang left.



SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Is the fighting serious?

POLICEMAN (self-assured and businesslike):  Of course, that’s why there are all these
hungry villagers.  They have come into the city to escape the fighting. … I have to tell you something.  I have orders to pick up supplies from you.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (staggered):  Supplies?

POLICEMAN:  Supplies--for forty men for two weeks.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (stunned):  We don’t have anything!  This is only a Teahouse, not a restaurant or a grocery shop!

POLICEMAN (sympathetically but firmly):  You have your excuses, I have my orders.

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Officer, you have known us for years; can’t you help us out?  Explain to your chief, it’s impossible.  Here, get yourself something ….

(He slips some cash into the Policeman’s pocket.  The Policeman takes it out and scans it.)

POLICEMAN:  Can’t promise anything, but I’ll see what I can do.  (Beat.)  I remember the noodles you used to serve in this place.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (smiles and smacks his lips):  Ah, so do I….

POLICEMAN:  Lots of customers were unhappy when you stopped serving them… two or three years ago, wasn’t it?  What happened?

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Ai-yah!  Long story, ending also unhappy …

POLICEMAN:  Well, you started it—this is a tea house, why not just serve tea?

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  You know I am always trying to find ways to improve.  Then when I found this chef, it was wonderful.  I didn’t mind that he wanted to live in the back and have his wife and two daughters eat for free.

POLICEMAN:  I remember his wife; she used to help serve.

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Yes and their daughters would play with my sons; they were all around the same age and they created a wonderful spirit around here.  Even with their noisy running around, the customers never complained.

POLICEMAN (knowingly):  Then something happened….

SHOPKEEPER WANG (somberly, at the memory):  Well, first the countryside became more dangerous and the wife’s parents came--with her three sisters!  I told them they could not stay here, but I just could not refuse to feed them ….

POLICEMAN (impressed):  That was very generous.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (in a matter of fact manner):  Who can say?  Anyway, that’s what I did and we had to really struggle to keep the Teahouse going.  Then … the father was picked up by one of the gangs “recruiting” for one of the warlords in the countryside.



SHOPKEEPER WANG (nods and sighs):  The chef’s wife was so upset; the chef finally went to the gang to offer himself in exchange for his father-in-law….  I told him that would be suicidal and not to go, but he felt he had no choice.

POLICEMAN (familiar with stories like this, he says grimly): And the gang sent BOTH him AND his father-in-law to join the warlord’s troops.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (nodding):  We never saw them again.  His wife left her daughters with her sisters and went into the countryside with her mother to look for them.  (Beat.)  We never saw them again either.

(Soldiers enter, Center Rear, noisily.)



(At the end of the book, one of the main characters, Zhou Yu, dies of battle wounds. Zhuge Liang, with whom he had waged a battle of wits even though they had been in an alliance together against a third character, laments his passing.)

Alas, Zhou Yu, to die so young! 

The measure of our days is

Doled out by Heaven, but how I grieve now!

My heart aches as I pour this wine for you;

May your noble soul savor it again and again.

I mourn for the young boy

Who unfailingly respected his elders;

Who was generous to the needy

And himself lived humbly.

I mourn for the young man

Who wrestled ten thousand li with the peng,

Who helped his Lord establish the kingdom of Wu.

I mourn for your steadiness of purpose

At the distant garrison of Baqiu;

A cause for concern to some

And a warning to rebels.

I mourn for your handsome bearing

And brilliant marriage to the younger Qiao;

You became son-in-law to a Han minister

And were worthy to assert yourself at court.

I mourn for your measured spirit that discerned

The occasion to admonish or oppose;

Your wings did not droop at the onset,

And were fully extended in the end.

I mourn for the Lord of Poyang,

Who resisted the guile of Jiang Gan;

He was smooth and wily but did not sway

You from your great-hearted aspiration.

I mourn for your splendid talent to combine

Grand strategy and detailed tactics;

You attacked with fire

And followed through with tenacity.

I think of those years when you strode

With majesty and purpose.

I weep for your untimely death;

Let my tears water the earth where I lie prostrate.

Such loyalty of heart, such boldness of spirit!

Your life is ended at thirty-six,

Your honor lives for a hundred generations!

Our separation causes me pain,

A thousand pent-up memories

Cannot find expression.

Left alone, my courage mingles

With unending sorrow.

Great Heaven itself is dark,

The three armies are in shock;

Your Lord wails, your friends weep.

I am without talent, yet you coaxed me

To frame strategies with you:

Together we helped Wu and repulsed Cao,

Assisted Han and upheld Liu.

You gave your all to help your companions.

You knew when to hold back and when to retreat,

Whether to reflect or to worry.

Alas, Zhou Yu, the living and the dead

Are eternally separated!

I plan to preserve your faithfulness

From dark extinction.

Your soul, as if it still lives,

Will be reflected in my heart.

Who among All under Heaven

Would know my mind so well?

I lie prostrate with pain, by myself,

And beg you to accept this offering.

As a later poet sighed:

Nanyang’s Wo Long slept

And did not awaken even when

Sunlight fell on the city wall.

Blue Heaven having created Zhou Yu,

Why must Earth produce Zhuge Liang?

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