These tales of the 15th infantry in the late Twenties during its
Tientsin, China ??, are all gruffly tender, manly, exotic,
nostalgically roguish, filled with a rather strange blend of
Kipling, Hemingway and Michener, and a very pleasing dose of
barrack room humor, qualities which have all but disappeared from
Army fiction. Of course, Finney's reminiscences aren't fiction at
all, yet the form he uses to reconstruct his and his buddies'
experiences is a narrative one, and not repertorial. Certain to
charm generals and doughboys alike, and probably anyone else of the
author's generation, The Old China Hands will not work quite the
same magic on younger readers, especially those grown up on the
works of James Jones, Mailer et al. Sent originally to guard
foreign property, the Yanks run the metropolis along with British,
Russian, French, Italian, German and Japanese contingents, each of
whom fight over Concessions, see that the Chinese war lords stick
to peace, that trade flourishes, and that everyone, including the
natives, has a ball. In between there are wild drinking bouts,
tussles with the Marines, sightseeing around the Great Wall and
Manchuria, vignettes of mess sergeants, privates, officers, whores,
expeditions, foul-ups and the like. All of it done in a fine
natural style, at once both warm and funny, with good touches of
New Yorker Irony, in which magazine the book's three best pieces
first appeared. There is a minimum of obscenity, a maximum of
evocative, accurate observation and a sharp ear for dialogue. A
top-notch curiosa of a now innocent past. (Kirkus Reviews)
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