Shanghai Tango

William Overgard, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (306p) ISBN 978-0-312-00678-5
The politically chaotic and morally degenerate Shanghai of 1931, a world of whorehouses, bars and murderous schemers, provides the background for this unpredictable novel of intrigue. The starring players include a beautiful vaudeville performer who dancesand liveswith an ape, a tough expatriate who would kill anyone for money, a displaced Chinese despot and a Californian polo player on the trail of an almost-forgotten fortune. Overgard's dense, descriptive prose rattles on at an almost hysterical pace; feverish and at times inspired, it skillfully creates an exotic mood. Cluttered, however, with unwieldy slang, a confusing jumble of real and fictonal historical figures and tedious military jargon, this tale of prerevolutionary China often makes for difficult reading. Overgard (The Divide is at his best when he explores motivations and the way that a culture determines its members' psychological orientation. Unfortunately, these themes appear only intermittently and are overshadowed by a simplistic but pervasive macho ethic of violence, whereby rape is portrayed as a turn-on and alcoholism as a manly virtue. These flaws are mitigated somewhat, however, by delightfully eccentric characters and a highly charged atmosphere. (July 21)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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