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“The Most Dangerous Place in the World”
A Guest Post By James Thayer

When I invited author James Thayer to consider submitting a guest post, I had no idea that the finished article would be so informative and interesting to read. The piece accompanies a tense historical thriller, combined with a little known piece of world history, resulting in a complex story which I have no doubt is going to completely absorb and consume me … as it has already begun to after just a few short pages.

Hi, I’m JAMES THAYER – The author of ‘House Of 8 Orchids’

Updatd Image Of Author James Thayer - January 2017I am the son of an eastern Washington farmer and my wife is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Washington State University and of the University of Chicago Law School.

I teach novel writing at the University of Washington extension school, where I received the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award in the Arts, Writing, and Humanities.

I am the author of thirteen critically acclaimed novels, which have been translated into all major European languages, Japanese and Chinese.  I have recently ventured into the world of non-fiction, publishing a manual for aspiring novelists, ‘The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel.’  

When not writing, I enjoy running and have completed more than 30 years of running 20 or more miles a week. I have competed in a marathon (actually, it was two marathons; my first and my last) and many 10 and 12 kilometer races.

I play bass for a garage band, The Toneheads.  What the band lacks in talent, it makes up for in volume.

I live in Seattle with my wife and family.

Keep up with all the latest news at my website

Follow me on Twitter

Connect with me on Facebook

“THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE IN THE WORLD”

Tom Wolfe has said that when plotting a story, he first looks for the setting. Chungking—a tumultuous, deadly, war-riven place—is more than a setting in House of 8 Orchids, it’s a critical piece of the book that helps drive the plot. I like to think Tom Wolfe would be proud.

It was the most exotic and turbulent city in the world, and it is the setting for my new novel, House of 8 Orchids. In 1938 Chungking in central China had “refugees from all over China, carpetbaggers, Japanese spies, black marketers, swindlers, merchants, influence-peddlers, beggars—the flotsam of the continent,” according to Max Hastings in his History of World War II, Retribution.

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Coolies carried water buckets up the city’s 300 slime-covered granite steps on the banks of the Yangtze. The streets were too steep for automobiles, and so were filled with rickshaws and goat carts. The sounds were of crying babies, snorting pigs, yelling vendors, the tick tick tick of mahjong tiles, and the chants of the coolies. The breeze carried the scents of garbage, river mud, charcoal, and horse manure. Many men still wore long Manchu queues, and women with bound, crippled feet were carried along the streets in sedan chairs. When Japanese bombers appeared over the city, citizens fled into stone cave air raid shelters.

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Trouble is the engine of fiction, and Chungking was filled with trouble. Chiang Kai Shek had made the city his wartime capital. The invading Japanese army was marching toward the city, and so was Mao’s Communist army. A murder could be purchased for a few American dollars, opium dens were found in every dark alley, and outlaw bands roamed the countryside just outside the city’s old walls.
And much of the trouble comes from the Eunuch Chang, the city’s master criminal. Earlier in his life, Chang had been voluntarily castrated so he could become a member of the Empress Dowager’s court, the only livelihood available to him. He became one of 2,000 eunuchs serving the court. When it was discovered he was carrying on a romance with one of the emperor’s nieces—a platonic romance, to be sure—he was flogged and expelled from the Summer Palace. He walked two years to Chungking, and quickly found his calling as a criminal. He is brilliant and cruel in equal measures.

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The House of 8 Orchids is a compound in Chungking where the Eunuch Chang trains boys for his criminal enterprise, involving assassination and sophisticated extortion schemes. Children are taught about firearms and thievery and swindles. The eunuch makes large payments to the corrupt Chungking police. Secret societies in the city fear him.

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The hero of House of 8 Orchids is John Wade, whose father was the American consul in the city. When John was five years old his amah was shoved into a row of shelves at the Prosperity Medicine Shop, and a rough hand seized John’s neck, and the boy was carried away, down an alley toward the Yangtze. His kidnapper, the Eunuch Chang, took him to the House of 8 Orchids. John never saw his mother or father again.

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The Eunuch has raised John, and has trained him to be his hard right-hand man. John has learned to obey the eunuch without question. But now in Chungking, John—raised as a ruthless criminal—may have to betray the eunuch in order to find his humanity.

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‘HOUSE OF 8 ORCHIDS’

In 1912, John Wade and his brother, William—children of the American consul—were kidnapped off the street in Chungking, China, and raised in the house of Eunuch Chang, the city’s master criminal.

Twenty-five years later, John is the eunuch’s most valuable ward, a trained assassin and swindler, and William has become a talented forger.

On the brink of World War II, China is in chaos. When William betrays Eunuch Chang and escapes to central China, a place of ferocious warlords and bandits, John begins a desperate search to save his brother, while Eunuch Chang hunts them both.

Clicking on the book’s cover image will link you directly to its Amazon ‘buy’ page.

Check out those all important ‘First Lines

Updatd Image Of Author James Thayer - January 2017

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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6 comments
  • This is not a time or place in which I’ve had much interest, but will admit the descriptions given in this post make it sound fascinating! Having played a bit of Mah Jongg in my time, I love that “tick tick tick” reference. 🙂

    I hope you enjoy this one, Yvonne, and look forward to hearing more about it.

    Thanks to the author for such a good guest post!

    • Hi Kelly,

      I quite enjoy hosting author guest posts. I personally think they are much more unique and interesting than the traditional question and answer interview style.

      Like yourself, I have only a rudimentary, school text book knowledge of the time and place described in ‘House Of 8 Orchids’. However, combining this post with the little I have read of the book so far, the excellent descriptive quality of the writing is already very much at the forefront of the storyline and I just know that I am going to quickly become engrossed in John and William’s adventures.

      I have never actually played Mah Jongg, although we have had some very elaborate and lovely sets, donated into the charity shop where I volunteer and I have often been tempted to learn how to play.

      Thanks for stopping by, I always appreciate your support and comments 🙂

  • House of 8 Orchids does sound good Yvonne, enjoy it. And wonderful guest post! I like this “Trouble is the engine of fiction…”
    Hope you are doing well and happy weekend. I’m doing my blog hopping this Saturday morning for a little bit and definitely wanted to stop by and say hello.

    • Hi Naida,

      I am reading this book at the moment and although I am only about 20% done with it, I am already totally connected with the storyline and characters.

      Such a violent and extreme location and time period in history, about which I knew very little, ‘House Of 8 Orchids’ is both an excellent novel and a great lesson in social and world history.

      I do check by your site from time to time, but it seems that you are not posting on such a regular basis any more. If this was a conscious decision, made to regain some control over your online time, then I applaud you for your determination and committment. I do however, hope that all is well with you and yours and thanks for taking the time to visit today 🙂

      • Hi Yvonne. I’m in the middle of a thriller myself now called The Girl on the Train, which is very good.
        I haven’t been posting too much because there’s just not enough hours in the day. I know if I get home from work and get on my computer to do my blog hopping two hours will pass right by before I know it.
        I mainly use my downtime lately on reading and crocheting. I’m slowly but surely getting some crochet items ready as I plan on opening an ETSY shop. But that will be later than sooner.
        All is well here, I hope you are well also and enjoying your weekend!

        • Hi Naida,

          I do enjoy a good thriller and although I haven’t yet read ‘The Girl On The Train’, it is on my list (Surprise! Surprise!)

          There have been some very mixed reviews about the film of the same title, with it so far achieving less than 7* on IMDB.

          I sometimes think it is a mistake to both read the book and watch the film, possibly much better to choose one or the other?

          I must admit that I do spend most evenings and the early mornings online and I still can’t keep up with posting, commenting and blog-hopping, so I admire your restraint in cutting back on the time you spend chatting and actually increasing the quality time you spend on other interests and hobbies.

          I follow a few ETSY craft sites on social media and I think that the things you make are every bit as good as most of those, so your shop should be very successful and I wish you all luck with it 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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