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Inside the Red Mansion


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About the Author

Oliver August was born in 1971 and grew up in Germany. After studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford, he joined The Times and became its youngest-ever New York correspondent. From 1999 to 2005, he was the paper's Beijing bureau chief, living in a traditional Chinese courtyard home near the Forbidden City. He now reports from the Middle East.


August (former Beijing bureau chief, Times of London) draws on his observations of China's almost lawless business underworld to write a rattling good story: Lai Changxing rose from illiterate poverty to amass a fortune by bribery, networking, and brass. Eventually, he fell foul of the law, or at least of political rivals, and became China's most wanted man. August's search for Lai takes him through the frenetic China that we had always suspected but never saw so vividly analyzed. Recommended for all libraries. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

'August's hunt for Lai is a ripping yarn !But even better than the narrative are his observations of how life works in the New China -- it is desperate, fast, entertaining and dangerous' -- Misha Glenny, The Sunday Times 'The tales he tells of life in the most dynamic, upwardly mobile society on earth are engaging and his gallery of friends ! are a fetching crew ! Hugely entertaining' -- George Walden, Sunday Telegraph 'August's journey through Lai's world has produced a lively, highly readable book that goes into areas rarely dealt with by foreign reporters ! The author's enthusiasm, application and observation in following the trail of Lai brings alive for Western readers a slice of Chinese life other foreign readers have not reached' -- Jonathan Fenby, The Times 'This must-read, can't-put-it down tale shows the China only hinted at on the evening news - a place of outsized egos, over-the top commercial development and shadowy, tradition-bound authoritarian rule' -- Publishers Weekly, starred review 'A vivid picture of New China and its underbelly' -- Publishing News 'Come along for the ride on Oliver August's fun and illuminating romp through China's smarmy underbelly. This book will challenge your preconceptions about China and stick with you for years. A great introduction to the People's Republic of Sleaze' -- John Pomfret, author of Chinese Lessons and former Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post 'Oliver August uncovers the story of one of China's biggest and most flamboyant criminals, and in doing so offers a highly enjoyable yet often chilling insight into the underworld gangs that inhabit the dark side of the Chinese economic boom' -- James Kynge, author of CHINA SHAKES THE WORLD 'Oliver August has found an excellent and unusual window through to which to view China, not only in the life and deeds of the super-rogue Lai Changxing but also as a memoir of August's own second life in Xiamen while he was pursuing his first as a reporter in Beijing. It is a compelling read, rich with fascinating details that convey the raw realities of China' -- Bill Emmott, editor of The Economist 1993-2006, author of 20:21 VISION 'This book is delightful. Oliver August has managed to be both very funny and very perceptive. Inside the Red Mansion" is a picaresque adventure that also provides a look at a part of modern China rarely glimpsed by the outside world' -- James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic Monthly 'A captivating exploration of the Chinese underworld ... by an author whose prose and sensibility are more mature than his years and experience' -- Bloomberg News Service 'A fondness for China shines through August's pages. He is a careful and thoughtful observer, with an eye for emblematic contradictions' -- LA Times 'Vivid prose ... His portraits are so lively' -- The New Yorker 'A fascinating tale ! that lays bare an unseen side to China's economic miracle' -- The First Post 'Gripping' -- Wanderlust 'This is an exciting book in the same way that Norman Lewis's 1951 work A Dragon Apparent "was because even as the reader is impressed by August's insight, he is aware this is a history that is still infolding. Above all, it is a tale from within the engine room, a brave and ultimately successful attempt to get beyond the clamour and the smoke of China's resistance' -- Jim Butler, Catholic Herald 'An engrossing book' -- Sydney Morning Herald 'An informed walk-through of life in contemporary China' -- South China Morning Post 'An extraordinary tale ... part investigation, part travelogue, August takes the reader on a delightfully perceptive, humorous and illuminating journey through a China few foreigners ever see' -- Food and Drink 'Lai's life affords compelling evidence of the corruption behind the vitreous cladding of China's resurgence ... told with sympathy, flair and admirable restraint, the story proves as seductive as one of Lai's scams' -- Times Literary Supplement

August, former Beijing bureau chief for the London Times, crafts a harrowing, super-detailed story of a China exploding with runaway growth yet still trapped in the past and ruled by the ethos of tufei-the classical Mandarin word for bandit. By turns delightfully surprising and slap-across-the-face sobering, August's yarn centers on his quest to find Lai Changxing, a country boy turned self-made billionaire, thug and China's most wanted man. August takes him from a private club (where "[f]locks of sequined mermaids waltzed past in merry circles, followed by operatic massifs of rouged Red Guards goose-stepping to `The Sound of Music' ") and Xiamen, an out-of-control coastal boomtown (with "[a] furious sea of cement and marble, wave upon wave of high-rises rippling out, strips of tarmac submerged at bottomless depths") to a drab government building in Vancouver, B.C., where Lai was being held on immigration charges. August finally sees Lai not as a freewheeling gangster but as a man diminished-"Nothing about his physical bearing suggested the lyrical countenance of a tragic hero or a human devil..." This must-read, can't-put-it down tale shows the China only hinted at on the evening news-a place of outsized egos, over-the-top commercial development and shadowy, tradition-bound authoritarian rule. (July 18) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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