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Chinaman's Chance (Arthur Case Wu, #1)
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Chinaman's Chance (Arthur Case Wu #1)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  712 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
"It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell, and met the man with six greyhounds."
- from Chinaman's Chance

Thus begins what may be the most popular of Ross Thomas's unique stories. The combination of Wu, pretender to the Imperial throne of China, and Quincy Durant, who has his own colorful past, m
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 14th 2005 by Minotaur Books (first published March 15th 1978)
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Bill  Kerwin
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it

Thirty pages in, and I was delighted. A plot not just complex but deep: layer beneath layer of stratagem and objectives, and--underneath that—a myriad of agendas, fueled by wounds and desire.

It starts with an apparent coincidence: when Artie Wu, pretender to the Chinese throne, trips over a dead pelican while jogging, he is helped, limping, to his friend Quincy Durant's place, assisted by wealthy entrepreneur Randall Piers, who had been walking his six greyhounds on the beach. The three men have
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell, and met the man with six greyhounds."
- from Chinaman's Chance

The main character (Arthur WU) appears in:

Chinaman's Chance (1978)
Out on the Rim (1987)
Voodoo, Ltd. (1992)

It is defiantly time I re-read this book.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
"Wu looked past Durant to the ocean, still gray from the overcast, although the horizon, for some reason, was clearly defined - so clearly, in fact, that Catalina was plainly visible, which it seldom was, even on clear days. 'I've had a couple of ideas,' Wu continued, 'which, when you hear them, might help you to understand why they used to call us Oriental folks wily.'

'Shifty, too.'

'Well, this is one of the shiftiest ideas I've ever had, but it might make us a little money.'

'How much is a lit
David Wrubel
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beach-reading
Ross Thomas was at his best writing comic mysteries with serious undertones, and his best ones featured Artie Wu and Quincy Durant and an unusual cast of characters. I believe they appeared in one or two others in addition to "Chinaman's Chance", which remains my favorite. Thomas died in 1995; the NY Times once called him the greatest storyteller in America, and that is still true 14 years after his death, yet most of his books are out of print. They are well worth finding.

Another Thomas book I
Jul 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Read this one some time ago, but Ross Thomas is a writer I want to read more of.
David Schlosser
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ross Thomas is being unjustifiably forgotten in the annals of crime fiction. He has a particular bent on looking at crime -- in most books, from the perspective of using public office to commit moral and ethical crimes that insulate the perpetrator from criminal prosecution and spread the impact of those crimes across such a wide range of victims that it becomes very difficult for any one person to justify spending the time and energy to stop it. His good guys are barely good and often bad, and ...more
John Culuris
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-shelf, 5-star
Lately I’ve been going back and picking up writers I’d dropped during a period when I only had enough free time to read my very favorites. This is Thomas’ first outing with Artie Wu and Quincy Durant, who seem to be his favorite reoccurring characters (The fans’ favorites are McCorkle and Padillo, although if most had known he’d also written the Phillip St. Ives series as Oliver Bleek, that may be a contender). Always readable, Thomas sometimes lost his way when winding things down to the conclu ...more
David Corbett
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I feel like an idiot for not picking up Ross Thomas sooner, but this (and two other of his novels I've read in the past year, Briarpatch and The Fools in Town Are On Our Side) have solidified my opinion that no one wrote a better, more satisfying crime novel. I once asked Otto Penzler why RT wasn't more widely revered, and he said, "He never wrote the same book twice," meaning readers didn't know what to expect of him, and thus he never gained the kind of fame awarded to Leonard and MacDonald an ...more
Mike Harper
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have a daughter in law who accuses me of reading for self-improvement. Giving this book five stars ought to prove that I read for enjoyment, instead. Because this book has damn little in it to please an intellectual, but plenty of plot, character, action and just plain good writing. You don't have to Google this one to figure out why it's considered "great literature," because it isn't. Just great fun.
Best of the genre, and the best of Ross Thomas' many good novels.
Marty Fried
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, action
I liked this a lot. The dialog was quick and witty, the plot was complex and hard to figure out, the characters were great, mostly likable. Even the villains were almost likable. The style is a little like the old-fashioned detective novels like Dashiell Hammett or Philip Marlowe, although I can't really recall either of them.

I'm still not 100% sure exactly what happened, perhaps because I had the audiobook version, and may have missed parts of it. I did have to go back a few times, and I think
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and funny caper story about two guys that grew up in an orphanage in SF together. They're real hardasses that have issues. An enjoyable read from start to finish. Very Westlake-esque in style.

Shelley Diamond
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Superb storytelling without a doubt. Reminded of why I loved Dashell Hammet. I have read 4 of Ross Thomas' books now and am having a hard time finding more since they are from many years ago. I don't know why he wasn't more well known then.
Michael Fredette
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A crime caper (from 1978), involving a fortune lost in Saigon, organized crime in the California town of Pelican Bay, and the search for the missing sister of a once-popular folk trio Ivory, Silk, and Lace.
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Despite the unfortunate title this is my favorite Ross Thomas book.
Jun 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Lace Armitage is an Ozark folk singer turned actress. Her sister and fellow former group member Silk is an activist who was carrying on a not so secret affair with a local Congressman. That ended abruptly when the Congressman's wife shot him, then herself in an apparent murder-suicide - but there are those who feel the case is less "open and shut" than it would appear. Since then, Silk has been in hiding. One day, Lace's billionaire husband makes a (seemingly) chance encounter with Artie Wu and ...more
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This novel is a lot of fun for fitting so comfortably into the crime fiction genre. Like with many of the best of the genre, the joy of the story unfolding is where the book really soars. The plot gets a little complicated in spots, and like many novels with a conspiracy at its heart, some of the characters know more than the readers and are playing a long game that keeps even the reader in the dark. This can get a bit confusing at times, but it never detracts from your enjoyment.
The novels tel
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not the first Artie Wu/Quincy Durant book, but it's the one that gives their life story--how they grew up and got to be the way they are--so it's very enlightening for those who are interested in these things. Also, at least for my money, it's the best of the Wu/Durant books if only because its plot is a little more straightforward than the others. Remember, though, straightforward doesn't necessarily mean credible. If it's credibility you're looking for, go read something else. But if you want ...more
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Ross Thomas wrote more than twenty cynical and funny books about those drawn to power, and those clustered around them. "Chinaman's Chance" (not a title I like much) ranks with "The Fools In Town Are on Our Side" and "Durango as the best of a good lot. In this case, a struggle for the heart and soul (meaning the money) of a corrupt California town drives a plot in which no one is completely trustworthy, and most are weren't trusting at all. despite that ugly reality, the book is clever in every ...more
Oct 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-modern
c1978: The original phrase was that 'one had only a Chinaman's Chance in Hell' but it gradually changed through usage into the shortened version that is used for the title of this book. It seems to have come out of the recognition of the dangerous work undertaken on the railroads in the USA. I wouldn't imagine it is very PC now. The book is a great read but it is the characters that make this book stand out. Loved it and definitely recommend this to the normal crew.""Oh why oh why can't I get it ...more
Nan Silvernail
Jul 31, 2016 rated it liked it
It starts with Artie Wu (the pretender to the Imperial throne of China) tripping over a dead pelican on the beach and spraining his ankle at the feet of the man with six greyhounds, who lives in the custom designed house at the top of the imported marble stairs. From there, there many twists and turns that lead from buried treasure in Vietnam to Silk, Ivory and Lace from... the Ozarks?
Hang on. You'll have to in order to find out who's who and what end is up.
Just never bet against a Chinaman's
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with a head and a dick
Ross Thomas rewrites all the rules in this pulse-pounding, heart-thumping, brain-patting, stomach-rubbing ballbuster of a novel. You won't breathe for pages. You won't blink for chapters. And then: TWO WHOLE MINUTES UNDERWATER. This book takes you to hell and back, and if your balls get singed don't get angry, that's just Ross Thomas's way of saying "GOTCHYA!"

This website needs to be reformatted so I can give this book eighteen stars, seven sticks of dynamite, and one fat-ass nuclear warhead fil
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
It took me about 10 pages to realize that I have read this book before. I guess that's what Goodreads is supposed to protect me from! But it was a perfect book for a vacation - fast paced, full of charismatic con men, underworld bosses, complicated cops, and smooth operators. It's hard to know who's playing whom, and there are enough twists to make sure you guess wrong at least once or twice. If you can tolerate the eye-rolling misogyny that so often is part of this macho genre, you'll be in for ...more
Dave Wallace
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A couple of con-men, sort of.
Very enjoyable and continues Thomas' tradition of buddy teams. This Wu & Durant team are if anything more colorful than McCorkle & Padillo but also wiseacres in the same tradition. The sarcastic dialogue & humor (think Rex Stout) with descriptions of fashion, furniture & architecture (Estleman maybe but nobody touches Thomas on this) & food (Doyle) alone are enough to make this a good book. Throw in a plot that while fanciful does connect all the
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There's a lot going on here, and a lot to keep track of as things slowly come together, lots of characters, each with a lot of backstory. I'm still not sure it all got explained, and it got a little cute at the end with unveiling who may be related to whom, but ultimately the characters didn't seem to care about that, so I won't care if I still have some questions about how it all came together. And out of nowhere I find a new author to get into.
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this; I liked the way the 70s setting felt both familiar and strange, I liked the way the characters were multi-sided and allies were found in unexpected places, and I very much liked the way the mystery (well, not exactly a mystery) unfolded. I would be very curious to hear what people of colour think of this; it seems somewhat progressive to me in having a Chinese main character who uses racial stereotypes to his advantage, but I am sure there's tons of angles I'm missing.
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
A pretty solid 70s caper novel from the "men's fiction" shelf of that era. Not exactly a mystery but with more turns and twists, and lots of politics and crime and sexy ladies. If you've read a lot of 70s novels of this style and enjoyed them, you'll probably like this one a lot, but I can't recommend it for someone who isn't already into that sort of book precisely because of the 70s vibe ("Chinaman", for crying out loud).
Toby McMillen
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Boy, I am sure enjoying this story. I am going to have to request some more stuff by this guy from the library!

Now I'm done, excellent, excellent read! If you liked Ocean's 10-12, you'll love this one. I blew off a bunch of sleep to get through the last 100 pages; this story started coming at me from 4 or 5 directions.
Feb 14, 2009 added it
I'm a big Ross Thomas fan. Though his Wu/Durant stories (this one and Out on the Rim) are favorites of many, I find them a wee bit cutesy and ostentatiously clever, and would reach elsewhere first. YMMV. There's lots of humor, and the plots are really complex. If you like Donald Westlake, for instance, YM probably WV.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
(3.75) Good read that reminds me of a Pelecanos novel with more interesting characters. In other words, it has a compelling plot that never really leaves second gear. It made me interested to try more Ross Thomas books but not anytime soon. This book really felt like getting a meal at McDonalds that meets your expectations.
Sam Reaves
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I need to be reminded what good, tight, laconic crime writing is, I pull a Ross Thomas off the shelf for study and enjoyment. This one features knights-errant Artie Wu and Quincy Durant, hired to find out who's pulling the strings in a corrupt Southern California town. Nobody did corruption better than Thomas, or for that matter a certain type of old-school ironic cool.
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Ross Thomas was an American writer of crime fiction. He is best known for his witty thrillers that expose the mechanisms of professional politics. He also wrote several novels under the pseudonym Oliver Bleeck about professional go-between Philip St. Ives.

Thomas served in the Philippines during World War II. He worked as a public relations specialist, reporter, union spokesman, and political strat
More about Ross Thomas...

Other Books in the Series

Arthur Case Wu (3 books)
  • Out on the Rim (Arthur Case Wu, #2)
  • Voodoo, Ltd. (Arthur Case Wu, #3)

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