Fires of the Dragon

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Henry Liu was born Liu Yi-liang in China’s Jiangsu province on December 7, 1932. He was murdered by Taiwanese hit men on October 15, 1984, in Monterey Park, California. These events bounded a remarkable life.

When Liu was sixteen, he fled the Communists on the Chinese mainland with thousands of others, finding a home on Taiwan, where Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist leader and bitter foe of Mao Tse-tung and his Communist regime in Beijing, had settled in with his followers.

The Kuomintang (the word means “Nationalist Party”) soon took over complete control of Taiwan, and for the next forty years not only ruled the country by brutal martial law but also established an extensive network to suppress anti-Nationalist sentiment overseas. KMT influence in America was helped by U.S. policies that ignored KMT violations of the civil rights of Chinese Americans as a trade-off for benefits derived from cooperation with an enemy of the powerful Communist regime in Beijing.

Liu’s restlessness under KMT oppression, and his hankering after a career in journalism, brought him to America in 1967, and he thus became a man of tripartite loyalties. With his wife, Helen, Liu eventually settled in San Francisco permanently as the owner of several gift stores while continuing to write very outspoken articles about Nationalist China for newspapers in both Hong Kong and America. Liu was especially interested in exposing the viciousness of Chiang Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who ran Taiwan after his father’s death.

When Communist China gained entry to the United Nations and replaced the Nationalists in diplomatic relations with America, Liu’s activities increased, with trips to the mainland made easy by his relentless public criticism of Chiang Ching-kuo, whose life he was writing a book about.

Overconfident of the protection offered by his American citizenship, Liu became in effect a triple agent for Beijing, the KMT, and the FBI, but his exposes of KMT scurrilousness prompted its bosses to send three hit men to America to kill him.

The concluding chapters of FIRES OF THE DRAGON tell of the hit men’s being tracked down by the FBI and Daly City detectives, the enormous scandal and cover-up in Taiwan, and the final unraveling of KMT influence in America. David E. Kaplan’s book represents journalism at its highest excellence in research, organization, and narration, all in the service of a story that demanded to be told.