Captain Jack Robertson, ex-Military, Pilot and CIA Spy is kidnapped in-flight, picking up the latest shipment of opium that the CIA is using to fund covert operations in Asia. Discovering that he has been kidnapped by the deliciously over the top one-eyed, betel juice chewing minion of his disgraced comrade ex-Chinese Army officer Ching Wei is disconcerting enough. Ching Wei and Jack go back to 1942, when they were both pilots moving supplies from India into Chungking during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Ching Wei was rubbed out of the Chinese Army because of his drug-smuggling activities, and Jack was involved in the disclosure. But even more disconcerting is that Ching Wei has done very very well from the ongoing drug smuggling and he now does a great sideline in kidnapping white men (mostly) with particular skill sets and keeping them within the confines of his mountain lair to work for him.
DRAGON MOUNTAIN is Ching Wei's mountain stronghold. Deep in the Burmese jungle Dragon Mountain is a fortress outside, a luxurious resort inside. Part of the stronghold is a small Shan Village – the people of this village are part of Ching Wei's power base, providing him with accommodation and support for his white zoo and his stronghold. Ching Wei maintains control over his huge drug empire, his large army of soldiers and servants, and his white “zoo” with a brutal and cruel regime of torture; ritualistic murder; sex; enslavery of the local village and a liberal policy of free distribution of drugs to his minions. Jack must decide if he wants to stay in this bizarre jail paradise or fight for his freedom.
Think Fu-Manchu, aspects of (sans the genetic engineering) The Island of Dr Moreau (which isn't hard because that's the name of one of the character's), James Bond (without the gadgets), the movie Missing In Action and Dr Evil from Austin Powers and you're somewhere in the vicinity of DRAGON MOUNTAIN. That's not to say that DRAGON MOUNTAIN's not just a huge laugh, it's just that it's a totally, utterly and seemingly unashamedly over the top thriller.
DRAGON MOUNTAIN is also not a book for the politically correct amongst us. Probably unsurprisingly for a microcosm community built around drug smuggling, the drug taking is overt and quite clinical – one of the characters, Ching Wei's personal physician has a sideline in trying to find the perfect formula for the best drug known to man, whilst he also provides considered and careful diagnosis on how best to control some of the unpleasant side-effects of constant opium use. And the sex is, well, in your face. Each of the white men is originally billeted with a family in the village that supports DRAGON MOUNTAIN. The “tribal” consensus is that men having sex with wives and daughters is a compliment to the household, so it goes on – all over the place. Of course if one of the white men marries a woman from the village, Ching Wei will build them a house of their own and allow them to live with their family just outside the village confines. But opium does have a bad affect on libido so the sex goes on, outside marriage; outside houses; in gardens; in hammocks; during parties; after parties; and well, everywhere. (Fortunately you are spared most of the gory details of the sex scenes but I did wonder at one point whether you'd actually be able to walk around this village without falling over something or someone – what with the copulating bodies and opium smoking and/or drunken men wandering around, but I digress).
DRAGON MOUNTAIN brings back the good old days of the early thrillers. The baddies are horrendously bad; the goodies are brave and noble and true. Of course in this version the violence and bad behaviour are a darn sight more explicit than Fu Manchu would have appreciated. DRAGON MOUNTAIN is one of those silly, ludicrous, vaguely guilt inducing, Sunday afternoon, why not read something totally over the top sorts of books, and I think I may need help, because I liked it.