Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Author of The Jing Affair identified

A few years ago, I read a 1965 spy novel about Taiwan entitled The Jing Affair, after reading a scholarly article about it written by Chih-ming Wang. In The Jing Affair, a Taiwanese American pilot named Johnny Hsiao, along with what the book jacket describes as "a fistful of desperate men and women," engage in a secret mission to stop Free China's General Jing from secretly selling out Taiwan to the Reds for $30,000,000. The book gets praise from Mark Mancall, known for editing Formosa Today, a collection of essays on Taiwan published in 1964. Mancall writes,
Mr. Spencer has written a provocative and compelling novel, but The Jing Affair is more than a novel; it is a dramatization of unfolding history, as Spencer sees it. Whether or not the future will develop as Spencer describes it is not the question. His predictions might come true. What is important is that people who read this novel should beware; they may be forced to think.
As Wang points out, the novel also got a mention toward the end of  Douglas Mendel's The Politics of Formosan Nationalism (1970), where Mendel speculates on the future of Taiwan. Unlike Mancall, Mendel is skeptical of the possibility for Taiwanese revolution against the KMT, but he suggests that Spencer's idea that the US might intervene is more likely. "But," Mendel concludes, "if the mainland regime at that time were willing to deal with the United States, the latter might well accept the incorporation of Formosa as part of a larger arrangement ..." (231; Wang also quotes this sentence).

Mendel evidently had correspondence with Spencer, as he cites a letter from Spencer in which the novelist "admitted that 'in government circles mine is a rather lonely if no longer a dangerous point of view ... I can think of no other way [to defend the Formosan cause] ... in the framework of the U.S. national interest ... We would be better off with Formosa as the southermost [sic] province of Japan than as the easternmost province of China, and I believe even the Taiwanese would reluctantly concur'" (qtd. in Mendel 231). It's unclear whether Mendel knew Spencer's real identity or not.

Up until now, people who knew about this obscure novel probably didn't know much more about its author than what they got from The Jing Affair's book jacket, which describes the author as follows:
Mr. Spencer, who writes under a pseudonym, is presently with a U.S. government agency in a position concerned with Far Eastern affairs. He has spent more than twenty years in the Far East in various capacities, including stints as a newspaper correspondent. He has lived in Taiwan and knows the people and situations about which he writes.
Googling the novel's title today took me to a new memoir by Danielle Flood entitled The Unquiet Daughter (a clear and important reference to Graham Greene's The Quiet American). A newspaper article about Flood describes her story as "involv[ing] a real-life love triangle that became the basis of British novelist Graham Greene’s classic 'The Quiet American.' ... In real life, [the novel's three main characters] are Flood’s parents: her biological mother, of French and Vietnamese descent, her biological British father, whom she tracked for years, and the man she knew as her father, an American named Jim Flood." The article goes on to say, "In the early 1950s, Jim Flood worked as an American foreign officer in what would become the first U.S. Embassy in Saigon. She suspects, but cannot prove, that he worked for the C.I.A." After Danielle Flood found out from her mother that Jim Flood wasn't her biological father, she started a long search for her father.

I haven't read Flood's memoirs yet, but I came across a reference to The Jing Affair in the Google Books version of The Unquiet Daughter. Flood writes,
The first thing I read when I got back to New York from Washington [where she visited her father] is Dad's novel, The Jing Affair, published by Funk and Wagnalls three years earlier under the pseudonym, D.J. Spencer, Spencer being his mother's maiden name. 
It's a lot for me to follow. It would be decades before I could catch up to Dad's knowledge of: the intelligence community; how its members go about causing insurrection and mini-wars that can lead to big wars; the inner workings of the U.S. government in Washington and abroad; the history of Taiwan, China [sic]; and of Chinese curses even.
So now I know the real name of "D.J. Spencer": James Flood. And I also have another book to buy (and read, sooner or later!).

[Update] Ha! Turns out all I would have had to do is go to the 1965 Catalogue of Copyright Entries and looked up the novel's title! There it is, as plain as day. So much for getting protection through pseudonymity (pseudonymousness?)... Of course, I would have had no idea who James Flood actually was.

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