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Shanghai Saga by John Pal

The author of Shanghai Saga, John Pal, was one of the pen names of Alan Palamountain, who was born in Australia in 1903. He came to England and then to Shanghai at the age of seventeen to join the Imperial Chinese Customs service, which was administered by foreigners to collect customs taxes on behalf of the Chinese government. He eventually worked as a journalist for the Shanghai Times newspaper before leaving the city in 1939, as Japan’s danger grew.

Publisher: Earnshaw Books

Shanghai Saga, the memoir by an Australian who worked as a customs official and newspaper reporter before fleeing Shanghai in the face of Japanese threats to the fragile world of the “Paris of the Orient,” provides a more authentic view of the colorful and corrupt world of old Shanghai through the eyes of a foreign resident.

Trade prospered and vice blossomed along the majestic coastline in one of the world’s most evil towns, and John Pal had unmatched opportunity to witness the underbelly of China’s largest metropolis during the mischievous 1920s and 1930s.

He relates his own and Shanghai’s stories, including reports of corruption, criminality, opium-smuggling criminals and brothel lords, and the hordes of Russian Revolution exiles whose women had to sell their bodies to survive and whose men begged on the streets. This is the book that most clearly portrays old Shanghai.

“Corruption, gangster, court case, wild nightlife. All the stories are here. A thoroughly enjoyable historically accurate portrayal of an extraordinary city.” — Douglas Clark, author of Gunboat Justice

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