The Chinaman - Stephen Leather

First Chapters - Stephen Leather The Chinaman
The Chinaman - Stephen Leather book cover

The Chinaman understood death.

Jungle-skilled, silent and lethal, Nguyen Ngoc Minh had killed for the Viet Cong and then for the Americans. Imprisoned and tortured after the Communist victory, he escaped with his wife and baby daughter to Hong Kong - but only after being forced to watch Thai pirates rape and kill his two eldest daughters.

Now the proud owner of the Double Happiness Chinese takeaway in South London, he watches his daughter grow into a beautiful young woman, secure in the knowledge that the horrors of his homeland are finally behind him.

Until the day an IRA bomb in a Knightsbridge store snatches his family from him in a horrific maelstrom of fire and glass.

Then, simply but persistently, he began to ask the authorities who were the men responsible, what was being done. And was turned away, fobbed off, treated as a nuisance.

Which was when the Chinaman, denied justice, decided on revenge. And went back to war.

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The Chinaman was my first real best-seller, and my last as a part-time writer. From then on I wrote full-time. I'm not sure where the idea came from, though I knew I wanted to write about a hero who was underestimated by everyone he met. I also liked the idea of a jungle terrorist coming up against urban terrorists.

I wrote the book while I was working as a night news editor on the business desk of the Times in London, and was given a dressing down by the business editor for using the office laser printer to print out copies of the manuscript. (His secretary grassed me up, bless her). I'd left Collins and had no publisher for the book, but for the first time I had an agent and he managed to get several publishers interested and drew them into an auction.

Bill Massey at Hodder and Stoughton became my editor, and he did a great job helping me get the book into the shape it is now. It went on to sell well in the States and was translated into a dozen languages.

The character of Woody was based on a good friend of mine, Bill Corke, now sadly dead, who worked with me on the Daily Record in Glasgow, my first real job in journalism. One of my first jobs was to go and pull Bill out of a casino so he could cover a story. A real character.

The flat the IRA bombers used in the book was my rented flat in Wapping. Great place with views of the Thames. I used to sit there wondering how the SAS would storm it.

There's a minor appearance at the end of the book of a character called Mike Cramer, alias Joker, an SAS officer who I later used in The Long Shot and The Double Tap.