Fan-Tan is a hugely entertaining, swashbuckling romp, from one of the greatest actors of our time: Marlon Brando. The story of an eccentric early-twentieth-century pirate who sets out on the high seas from the Philippines to Shanghai, Fan-Tan follows the exploits of Anatole “Annie” Doultry, a larger-than-life character that Brando could have easily inhabited himself. When Annie saves the life of a Chinese prisoner in a Hong Kong prison, he’s led to the mysterious and seductive Madame Lai Choi San—one of the most notorious gangsters in Asia—and here the true adventures begin.Years in the making with Brando’s longtime collaborator, screenwriter and director Donald Cammell, Fan-Tan is a rollicking, delectable tale—and the last surprise from an ever-surprising legend.
In 1979, Brando proposed to film director Cammell (Performance) that they collaborate on a China Seas pirate story. Brando improvised scenes and Cammell wrote a 165-page treatment; in 1982, Cammell worked the same material into an incomplete novel. Brando dropped the project, but Cammell's widow revived it after Brando's death, and Knopf's Sonny Mehta hired Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film) to gather the extant materials and finish the book. The stylish result will delight readers who love movies, Marlon Brando, sea stories, Chinese pirates or adventure tales. It's 1927, and 51-year-old Brando-esque sea captain Anatole "Annie" Doultry is serving a six-month stretch in a Hong Kong prison, during which he saves the life of another prisoner. After finishing his sentence, Annie finds he's gained the gratitude of that prisoner's boss, the beautiful gangster Madame Lai Choi San. Madame Lai, aka Mountain of Wealth, proposes that Annie join her in the highjack robbery of the British-owned SS Chow Fa, which will be carrying a fortune in silver. Annie can't resist either the money or Madam Lai, and soon enough he's up to his gunwales in pirates and plunder. Throw in a typhoon, a double-cross, a scorching sex scene, hand-to-hand combat and a mad break for freedom, and enthralled readers will be swinging from the rigging along with the rest of the pirates in this rollicking high-seas saga.