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Edward C. Patterson

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The Jade Owl
by Edward C. Patterson   


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Books by Edward C. Patterson     View all 22
· Belmundus
· Surviving an American Gulag
· Swan Coud - Southen Swallow Book III


Category: 

Fantasy

Publisher:  CreateSpace ISBN-10:  1440447977 Type:  Fiction
Pages: 

598

Copyright:  Oct 27, 2008 ISBN-13:  2940000690307


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BOOK I of THE JADE OWL LEGACY SERIES

In China they whisper about the Jade Owl and its awful power. This ancient stone, commissioned by the Empress Wu and crafted by a mineral charmer, long haunted the folk of the Middle Kingdom until it vanished into an enigma of legend and lore. Now the Jade Owl is found. It wakes to steal the day from day. Its power to enchant and distort rises again. Its horror is revealed to a band of five, who must return it to the Valley of the Dead before the laws of ch'i are set aside in favor of destruction's dance. Five China Hands, each drawn through time's thin fabric by the bird, discover enchantment on the secret garland. Five China Hands, and one holds the key to the world's fate. Five China Hands. Only one Jade Owl - but it's awake and in China, they whisper again.

In China they whisper about the Jade Owl and its awful power. This ancient stone, commissioned by the Empress Wu and crafted by a mineral charmer, long haunted the folk of the Middle Kingdom until it vanished into an enigma of legend and lore. Now the Jade Owl is found. It wakes to steal the day from day. Its power to enchant and distort rises again. Its horror is revealed to a band of five, who must return it to the Valley of the Dead before the laws of ch'i are set aside in favor of destruction's dance. Five China Hands, each drawn through time's thin fabric by the bird, discover enchantment on the secret garland. Five China Hands, and one holds the key to the world's fate. Five China Hands. Only one Jade Owl - but it's awake and in China, they whisper again.

Professor Rowden Gray has come to San Francisco following a new opportunity at the East Asian Arts and Culture Museum, only to find that the opportunity has evaporated. Desperate, he means to end his career in a muddle of pity and Scotch, but then things happen. He latches on to a fascinating young man who is pursuing a lost relic that Professor Gray has in fact been seeking. Be careful for what you seek - you may just find it. Thus begins a journey that takes the professor and his companions on a spirited adventure across three-thousand miles of Chinese culture and mystery - a quest to fulfill a warrant long set out to ignite the world in myth and legend. The Jade Owl is the beginning of a series - a legacy that fulfills a terrible truth; and in China, they whisper again.

BOOK I of THE JADE OWL LEGACY SERIES

What Readers say about the Jade Owl: http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=45883




Excerpt

Chapter One
Opportunities Lost

1
When Rowden Gray charged into the San Francisco Museum of East Asian Arts and Culture, he caused quite a stir. He had been pacing in the buttery sun of Golden Gate Park for at least twenty minutes, his feet scuffing the grayment. He clutched a battered telegram. Stopping, he gazed at the Museum’s marble archway. He tried hard to restore his calm. Difficult. He was not calm. After the flight from New York, his jet lag advanced. His stomach growled like a fireball. His eyes strained from the grit of in-flight movies. He took one bracing lung-pulling breath and felt the strange warmth of the wintry air.
I should leave, he thought. I should just head back to the airport and go home. Why should I give him any satisfaction? Rowden sauntered to a bench, sat and then cracked his knuckles almost dropping the balled up paper. He loosened his tie. Hands wiped on his gray slacks. Eyes closed. Spit. Where would I go? All these years waiting for this or something like this, was shattered like the telegram he mashed. Shattered by the telegram he mashed. Years of research and classroom slavery, a sea of bored faces cropping into his mind — students without interest, without aptitude. No reward for the serious scholar, the passionate expert in things Chinese. Here it was, before these doors, the opportunity of a lifetime, the reward that comes to the worthy. Only now that reward lay tarnished in words ill met by downcast eyes. I wish they hadn’t led me here. But they had. He had, and to Professor Rowden Gray, that made the telegram burn as if it had teeth biting into his palm, eating his composure to the marrow.
So when Rowden resolved to enter and face his foe, he flew off the bench, whirled up the marble stairs into the cold luster of the Museum’s cavernous lobby. His feet kept him focused on the goal, but blind to the many visitors and guests. As Rowden bolted past the security guards, he ran smack into an unsuspecting visitor.
“Aye.”
Rowden kept to his own feet, the visitor being a slight thing — a young man in a blue shirt, who careened backwards, spun and fell near the guard station.
“Are you all right?” Rowden asked. He came to the young man’s aid feeling quite the ass for his actions. “I didn’t mean to . . . I mean, I’m sorry to have . . . Christ, I’m sorry.” The man lay facedown, squirming to regain his feet. When he turned, his eyes met Rowden’s. Lavender, Rowden thought, although he had no idea why he thought it. Maybe it was the kid’s aftershave or perhaps his deep blue eyes. Whatever crossed Rowden’s mind, it stymied him from helping. The guards rushed to the young man’s assistance. They scowled at Rowden Gray.
The stricken visitor seemed more embarrassed than upset. “It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll be okay. Leave me be. I’m okay. Really.”
Rowden sighed, and then cracked his knuckles. The guards, appearing to know the young man, helped him brush off. One guard had a full cropping handlebar mustache. The other was as hairless as a Chihuahua.
“You better have a good explanation for charging in here like a fucking bull,” said the mustached guard.
Rowden looked about. Beyond the lobby, the main exhibition hall now echoed with the chatter of visitors.
“Well,” the guard snapped. “Are you listening to me?”
“I am,” Rowden said. He held the crumpled telegram in his right hand. “I have business here. Important business. Pressing business.”
“We’ll see about that,” the guard said, pulling at the telegram. Rowden refused to surrender it. He turned away from the main hall, glancing down a long corridor. A woman approached, her beige high heels echoing on the marble floor, announcing her arrival.
“RG?” she said upon reaching the entrance.
“Connie?” Rowden tightened his hold on the telegram. “Connie, look what I’ve caused.”
Connie inspected the damage. There was none. The young man was already recuperating. The other visitors were drifting back to the display cases.
“Quivers,” Connie said to the mustached guard. “This is Professor Gray. He has an appointment with the Curator-General.”
Quivers bobbed his head and fluttered his hands. “If you say so, Miss Wilson.”
“I’ll take him in,” she said. “Follow me, RG.”
The young man in the blue shirt sat on a bench now. Rowden thought to apologize again, but perhaps it was best to leave it alone. Incident over. He had vented his anger. Shame it poured over an innocent bystander. Shame.
Rowden followed Connie Wilson through the corridor past an authorized personnel only sign. She slinked, her fetching curves easy to follow, if one had a notion.
“Rowden, I’m really sorry this has happened.”
“Me too,” Rowden said. “I hope that young man’s okay.”
“Young man?” She smacked her lips and rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry about him. I’m sure he’ll recover. Accidents happen.” She turned toward him and straightened his tie. “No, I meant about the position.”
Rowden sighed, loosening his tie. “So you know?”
“I do. I was excited when I heard that you were joining our team. I told J.J. that the Board made a wise decision in choosing you. I heard the bad news only yesterday. I’m sorry.”
They had reached a dark cold spot in the hallway. Rowden could barely see his conductor, but felt her as she slipped his tie up again. She gave him a peck on the cheek.
“I only wish they’d told me before I came all the way out here,” he said. He raised the telegram and punched it.
“I agree. Not tactful nor timely.”
They turned a corner into a brighter stretch. A windowed door filtered light upon the mosaic floor. Curator-General was emblazoned across the opaque window proclaiming the seat of authority. Connie turned the knob, but hesitated before the pull.
“He’ll fill you in, RG. I believe there will be satisfactory compensation.”
“It’s not about the money.” Rowden’s chin tucked as his former anger rekindled. “This place is my dream. John Battle’s quarry is here. What an opportunity to prod and poke in the old man’s treasures. You, of all people, know what this post meant to me.”
Connie lowered her eyes, the look of understanding. She opened the door, ushering Rowden in. The Curator-General’s secretary, a pleasant, older woman with white hair and tidy heft, acknowledged them with a friendly smile. She stood behind her well-ordered desk.
“Millie, this is Professor Gray.”
“Professor Gray,” Millie said. “It’s such a pleasure. Your name is a legend among the staff. Just the other day I heard . . .” She stopped mid-smile, perhaps thinking what she had heard should not be repeated, although she probably had repeated it often enough. No matter. “Actually, Professor Gray, I wish the Curator-General had better news for you. I’m truly sorry. It would have been nice to have you on board.” Suddenly, her pout changed to a broad smile. “Are your accommodations satisfactory?”
Rowden’s head cocked. She’s worried about my accommodations, when I’m out here adrift. How flaky is that? “Quite nice,” he said. “I’m at the Drake, but you would know that, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” she said, inviting him to sit. “Good. I’m glad. At least we can make you comfortable while you’re our guest in San Francisco.” She waddled around to his side. “I’ll tell J.J. you’re here.”
Rowden sat. He was the picture of anxiety. Lips tensed. Teeth clenched. Eyes scanning the room. He cracked his knuckles. Connie sat beside him.
“Still doing that?” she said, placing her hand on his.
“Bad habit, I know.”
“And noisy.” She brushed his pants toying with the crease, or what would have been a crease had the flight been shorter. “How’s Rose?”
“Rose?” He smiled. “News travels slowly. Rose and I split up. I thought you knew. It’s been four years.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not really helping you, am I?”
“Actually, you are. You’re a friendly face — a familiar one.”
He had felt abandoned since his arrival, even before he checked in at the Drake and got that poisoned telegram. He came to San Francisco filled with excitement. Things had been rough lately. Nothing but a sea of the same old classroom assignments and beginner’s guides to the Cultural Revolution — nothing special.
“Connie, this post was good news — great news. Then, to get this telegram.” He slapped the paper again. “You don’t know what it is to arrive with hope only to be handed bad news by a front desk clerk. It’s no way to treat a man of letters.”
“No,” she agreed. “But you needed to hear about it somehow and before you came here today.”
That’s certainly true. But why should he be here at all? Why didn’t they just leave him alone in his obscure fiddle-fucking, pen twirling sinological obscurity — allow him to fester on some innocuous research paper for The Harvard Journal of Asian Studies, a cancerous whim meant for importance instead of infecting him down to the knuckles he cracked? Why did he feel so alone and betrayed? Why should he not? He was both.
2
Millie returned through the Curator-General’s door, where a tall, portly man stood wearing a three-piece suit. Older than Rowden by two decades, J. Jenkins Gillenhaal appeared older still, time aging him with the same subtle brush that had varnished his office’s dark paneling.
“RG,” he boomed. “Please come in. Have a seat. Millie, two coffees. If I remember, you take it black?”
Rowden jerked to his feet. He veiled his thoughts behind a forced smile and followed J.J. Gillenhaal’s cue. The curator checked his pocket watch, proceeding to a large picture window overlooking Golden Gate Park. A grandfather’s clock bellowed the noon hour as Rowden sat.
“We have beautiful weather here in winter, RG,” the Curator-General said. “It gets cold during the summer. Befuddles your East coast logic, doesn’t it?”
“The weather doesn’t befuddle me, J.J.” He cracked his knuckles. “I love Golden Gate Park in any season. This museum is its crown jewel.”
“We are proud of it.” Within these halls, the relics told their tales and slipped their secrets. “Ah, the coffee. Thanks, Millie.”
When Millie left, Curator Gillenhaal sat behind his empire desk, his demeanor changing. He played with his MontBlanc pens, three of them — one green, one red and one blue. “It’s been some time since we’ve sat face to face. You were among my star pupils.”
“J.J., cut to the chase. I’ve come a long way for nothing. I’m as tired as hell and fucking pissed. Bottom line, please.”
“I can understand your hurt,” Gillenhaal said, shrugging, “but it’s not personal, you know. The Board of Trustees created a real position. You were their choice and rightly so. Although, I must say, you haven’t published much and you’ve never held tenure in any of your positions. Nonetheless, the Board reviewed your research. You were their choice.”
“It sounds like I wasn’t your choice.”
The clock ticked like a bomb somewhere in the corner of the room.
Tick dock. Tick dock.
“There is no other expert of your caliber in Sung Dynasty studies today,” J.J. said. “I did have reservations. Personally, I think you cleave too much to John Battle’s school of thought, you know. Battle’s methods were never my cup of tea.”
Tick dock. Tick dock.
“John Battle was a great man.”
“Yes. A pirate and swashbuckling scholar.” J.J. templed his fingers, tapping his lips. “There was always a touch of drama about John Battle. He was too driven. And then there was his obsession with the Jade Owl.” Rowden winced. Just this reference to his mentor’s lost relic sent shivers down his spine. “I mean, it’s a shame the damn thing went missing, if it existed at all. But whatever credibility the Old China Hand had with me evaporated when he lectured on the Jade Owl.”
Tick dock. Tick dock.
Rowden remembered one such lecture about that precious jade avian figurine. John Battle claimed it glowed and hooted and cast who-knows-what voodoo over its possessor. He delivered that lecture with the conviction of an evangelist on the Mount of Olives. Rowden also remembered the whispers. The old man’s lost it. He’s stayed out in the sun too long. Rowden hated that the field’s most prominent scholar was cast in lunacy’s tinge. Jealousy, more like it.
Tick dock. Tick dock.
“Last time I looked,” Rowden said, “the main exhibition hall out there sports John Battle’s name.”
“Don’t get me wrong. Without his contributions, this Museum would be poorer.” Gillenhaal smirked, apparently pleased to see his points secure. He had tossed a javelin and it hit its mark. “You see how you defend unorthodoxy?” he groaned. “Nonetheless, despite any reservations, I did approve you as the choice.” He tapped his coffee cup with the spoon.
Tick dock. Tick dock.
“We didn’t expect the Endowment to be cut. That makes the new position out of the question. Maybe when the administration changes, the cash flow might improve. However, in my experience, it really does not matter who rules the national cupboard, once cut, it’s cut.”
“I see,” Rowden said. “So it really doesn’t matter that I have an agreement with the Board?”
Tick dock. Tick dock.
“Well, it’s not really an agreement. We extended the offer. You accepted. We were to finalize it here.”
Rowden exploded, standing so forcefully, his chair pushed back a half yard.
“That’s bullshit, J.J. We settled on salary and bonus. I don’t think you can pull this crap!”
Curator Gillenhaal, calm and silent, continued stirring. He placed the cup down and rearranged his MontBlancs. He glanced out the window again appearing braced by the warm winter weather.
Rowden sat again. He shook in the shadow of Gillenhaal’s calm. Firebrands may explode over parapets, but if they fail to provoke, it’s no more than pissing in the wind.
Gillenhaal reached into a side drawer, and then flopped a document onto the blotter — a rather legal looking document. “Calm down, RG.” He pushed it across the desk.
“What’s this?” Rowden asked, perusing it. He knew full well. He was almost ready to see just how prepared the Board of Trustees was to assuage his ire. Call it pain and suffering.
“You see,” Gillenhaal said with the tedium of an old bureaucrat, “we will compensate you for your time and expectations. It’s a fair amount, I believe?”
Tick dock. Tick dock.
Rowden cocked his head. His eyes bugged. “It’s not about the money. I love what I do, and I do it well. I would do it best here. It’s my passion you’re fucking with, J.J.”
“I believe, in the end, it will be about the money,” J.J. said, shaking his head. He raised a finger to the side of his nose. Rowden gazed at the plethora of degrees and awards ensconced on the walls, the ever-present clock (Tick dock. Tick dock), and the precisely stacked collection of expensive fountain pens.
“You will hear from my lawyer, J.J.”
He tossed the agreement at his former teacher.
“Very well.”
Gillenhaal swept the agreement into the desk drawer, and then slid it shut. “There’s still time. You have three weeks to consider the matter. The settlement will be here, if you want it. However, one call from your attorney and it’s a memory.”
Curator Gillenhaal arose, went to the window and warmed his hands in the winter sun.
“Good day, Professor Gray.”
3
Rowden wandered into the Museum’s main exhibition hall — John Battle Memorial Hall, named after his professorial mentor. He had let himself out of the office, drifting along the dark corridor past the guards. The mustached guard, the one called Quivers, regarded him. The other guard, the bald one, must have gone on break. Quivers sneered under his handlebars like a Schnauzer guarding a bone. Rowden ignored him and sauntered into the great hall.
The hall, high arched and skylighted, sported two balconies, tiers overlooking the precious displays of Chinese dynastic art and reliquary. John Battle’s quarry. Rowden’s breath hitched. He could almost feel the Old China Hand beside him pointing out long columns of text, rattling about the significance of this passage or that. Rowden shut his eyes. Lips quivered. He remembered his mentor and that wondrous find — the Jade Owl.
Rowden had never seen the Jade Owl. He didn’t know anyone who had except the old man. Rowden had seen a sketch on fine linen sheets in John Battle’s own hand. We must find it, Battle had bristled. It has an inner splendor like no other relic, RG. Believe me, you must follow and take up the trail. You must . . . But Rowden couldn’t recall the rest of John Battle’s passionate call to mystery. He had blocked it from memory. Bizarre. Unorthodox. Swashbuckling.
“I’m sorry, JB,” he whispered.
Rowden opened his eyes. The sunlight filtered across the main display, a great glass cabinet at the hall’s far end. His gaze fixed on that display like a magnet to steel. He took two steps toward it, and then paused. He looked at his right hand. It shook, still gripping the telegram. Snapping his fingers apart, he jettisoned the evil paper ball across the polished floor.
“Does that make you feel better, RG?” came a voice. It was Connie Wilson. She had been tracking behind him.
“Better?” Rowden turned and walked backwards. “Better than what? Better for whom?” He quickened his pace, turning to assure he didn’t trounce another unsuspecting visitor. “J.J. has always been a bastard. Am I better for that?”
“Take it easy, RG. Slow down.”
Rowden stopped. “I’m sure my position could have been preserve, except for J.J. He’s had it in for me for years.” Connie gave him an incredulous look, probably drawing a different conclusion. “He’s always hated the fact that I followed John Battle’s research techniques. And why not? John Battle taught me everything.” Rowden cracked his knuckles. His gaze encompassed the display objects as if they were a fine blend of malt and barley. “Look about you, Connie. Look.”
Connie shifted her eyes from side to side. Rowden grabbed her hand pulling her forward past case after case of Chinese relics — richly adorned porcelains, fine crafted silver jewelry, bronze vessels, and silk ceremonial robes. She resisted, apparently embarrassed to be pulled about like quarry.
“RG, stop pulling me around.” Connie stood her ground. “I see these objects every day. Of course, they’re special, but it’s where I work. They’re my familiars. I can’t get as goosey over them as you do.”
Rowden stopped.
“Work?” He clenched his fists. “Yes, to work here. This is the work — the real work, the kind of thing that a China Hand needs to survive.”
His eyes danced as he gazed to the skylight. Connie looked around probably assuring that they had not become the center of attention.
“RG, the old China Hands are gone . . . except J.J.”
He scowled. “Not J.J. You can’t call him that. Don’t even put him on the same plain as John Battle.” She signaled him to lower his voice, which had carried through the hall’s hollow. “John Battle is like a god to me.” His hand swept up toward the vault. “See what an Old China hand can procure. Just look at these. I know you see them every day, but do you, really? Do you really see them?”
“RG, you’re just upset.”
“Wouldn’t you be if you were in my shoes?” He drifted toward the centerpiece display. To be custodian for any of these relics would be my great privilege, he thought. In that, I would be better. In that, this museum would be better. But I’m not going to do that now, am I? “You all lose.”
“I’m sure . . .”
“Sure of what?” Rowden shook his head. Sigh — a deep drawn bracing sigh preventing him from exploding at Connie. After all, she was a friendly face, a pretty face at that, with a fresh Ivory Soap aroma. Soft cheeks. Beige curls bobbing over a tight green sweater. He shut his eyes to blank her out. She was distracting. He turned toward the great display case.
“Take a look at it, will you?” He pointed at the glory of John Battle Memorial Hall — a great jewelry box, hewn from jade and encrusted with pearls and silver. Rectangular. Four feet high with ethereal carvings — cranes and sparrows, doves and ducks. At each bird’s eye, a pearl. On the cover, a sea of dragons chasing treasure — except at the crest. There, a break evidenced a missing piece. Where the missing piece belonged was a comet shaped indentation.
“The Empress Wu’s Jewelry Box,” Connie said. “The Joy of Finches.”
Rowden brought his face close to the glass.
“The box that cannot be opened.”
“There’s nothing in it.” Connie came close to Rowden’s shoulder. Oh, the Ivory Soap. “We had it x-rayed. It’s hollow.”
“The wonders of modern science. Who knows what hides in that emptiness?”
“Well, even John Battle couldn’t find out. He spent the better part of his fortune trying, the poor man. But he was a little daft at the end.” Rowden winced. “You must admit that the business with the Jade Owl was over the top. I know the old man was sincere in his belief that he had found and lost the cure for all the world’s ills, but I just think . . .” She didn’t have to say it. He stayed out in the sun too long.
Rowden bit his tongue. He was not going to drag himself through this argument again, defending what he didn’t understand — a relic he had never seen. He glanced at Connie. She’s so fetching in that sweater. “Are you doing anything tonight?” he asked. “Would you like to get a drink?”
“I’d love to, but I have a long-standing appointment tonight.”
“Break it.”
“I can’t. It’s with the marketing consultant from Biggs. He’s in town for tonight only.” Rowden sighed. He cracked his knuckles. “How long do you think you’ll be in San Francisco?”
“I’m not sure. Not long.” He hunkered down near the display.
“I’ll tell you what, RG. I’ll check my scheduler. If I’m free this week, I’ll leave you a message at the Drake.”
“Thanks,” he said, standing. “It was really nice to see you again. I’m sorry I’m such a surly bastard today.”
She kissed him on the cheek. He hugged her and took a larger liberty beneath her nose, which she apparently did not discourage as she let his lips repose there twice.
“Will you be okay?” she asked.
Rowden smiled. “I’m in freaking John Battle Memorial Hall, standing beside the Joy of Finches. Now, that’s a restorative.”
Connie kissed him again before retreating to the entrance and beyond the authorized personnel only sign. Rowden’s smile dimmed. His fury had melted to despair. A wave of sadness engulfed him despite his restoration declaration. He returned his attention to the Joy of Finches, his eyes studying the contour of every beak, eye, and swirl. How he wished he could don latex and explore each contour of this lovely object with his scientific hand. It beckoned him, a power within, calling from an ancient, withered Imperial heart. As he stared, his imagination played a game. A mirage. He shuddered. At the crest of the box, he thought he saw the outline of that haunting bird — a deep velveteen green wavering in a fluorescent glow. He blinked. It was gone.
Rowden hunched forward squinting. Perhaps he had seen another relic in some back case imposing its image in his line of vision. But no. There was nothing. Nothing? He shuddered again.
“What’s that?” He thought he saw another ghost. No. A reflection in the display case glass — the young man in the blue shirt from his earlier encounter. He gave Rowden a start.
Rowden abruptly turned, but there was no one. Nothing. Just the lingering scent of lavender. He cocked his head, looking for reflections in the black marble floor.
How odd, he thought. I must be losing my mind. I must.
He took another longing glance at the Joy of Finches — the Empress Wu’s great treasure.
“You all lose!” he muttered.
He turned away wondering why he could think of nothing now but the aroma of lavender.

Chapter Two
The Powell Street Line

1
Rowden Gray did not normally drink. Nor did he drink to excess by most standards, but, as he sat in the dark recesses of the Drake Hotel’s bar, he past his own quota by three. An accommodating bartender mixed whatever accompanied the Dewars and gave Rowden an impartial ear for babble.
The bar was a perfect companion to Rowden’s mood. The late afternoon glow managed to peek through the street signage hinting that there might be a sky above the Powell Street canyon. At this hour, few patrons were at the bar. A couple of men, probably salesmen by the drone of their conversation, sat at a high round table with frosty beer mugs. At the far end, a solitary woman, about fifty, sucked a martini. Her part of the furniture appearance tagged her as a regular.
Rowden cared little for other people just now. I’m supposed to be the expert, he thought. I teach. I’ve no other calling. The lesson of the day, kiddies, is a bitter one. Never look for blue skies in winter’s bleak. He drowned his acidic thoughts with a shot, his soft brown eyes looking for anything in the bar’s mirror.
“There’s nothing for me in any season now,” he said. “Nothing.”
In the mirror, Rowden could see the salesmen turn upon hearing his comments. He could see the martini lady look up. Through the window, he saw that Powell Street bustled. Why did he care? They all have lives. Where’s mine?
There was a clanging — a sharp, high-pitched bell echoing through the Powell Street canyon.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“The Powell Street Line,” the barkeep said. Always in the shadow of tall buildings, the Powell Street’s cable car climbed up the steep hill to California Street heading toward the bay. “Passes here every eight minutes.”
Rowden stretched his glass forward for a refill.
“I have no other calling,” he said. “No other prospect left.” The bartender smiled, apparently pleased to dispense nothing more than Dewars’ amber balm. “I knew someone would understand,” Rowden said. “Thank you.” He sniffed the scotch, bringing it to his lips. His tongue leaped into the balm like a puppy lapping the last morsel of kibble. He heard the bell again and glanced into the mirror. He thought he saw the ghost again, but knew he was losing his mind. The outline of the Jade Owl flashed. With some help from the demon drink, it was a short hop to hallucination. Shot glass slammed on the bar. He shouted: “I never cared much for this life as a thing worthwhile.”
“Sir,” the bartender said, squaring his eyes into Rowden’s. “The other patrons. Please.”
“Sorry,” Rowden whispered. “Once I had purpose. A mission. I knew my path. It’s an empty road now. I’m alone and useless.”
The barkeep shook his head and poured another golden drop into Rowden’s glass. Another cable car passed, its sullen bell drawing Rowden’s attention away from his drink.
No. I’ve never cared much for life as a thing worthwhile. The bell beckoned him to breathe the canyon’s air, the fresh aromas of San Francisco. Rowden paid the bill. Lumbering over the hotel’s threshold, he emerged into the Powell Street canyon. Although people filled the narrow street, he felt alone. He noticed nothing but the leaden cable car tracks.
Such a notion, he thought, fighting the compulsion to stand in the middle of the street. His feet unglued, leaving the curb to await the next cable car, the one that would carry him somewhere other than Powell Street. He cracked his knuckles. He could see the next car a few blocks away, loading tourists. Rowden shook his sweaty hands. Eyes closed. He drew a breath. Lavender. He whiffed the scent of lavender.
“They’re better to ride,” said a voice near his shoulder. “Under the wheels is no place for you. Besides, they rarely kill — just maim.”
Rowden turned. Beside him stood the young man in the blue shirt.
“You,” he said.
“Why yes,” said the man. The wiry youth, who couldn’t be more than twenty-two, placed his hand on Rowden’s shoulder. “I heard your little homily in the bar. I thought it quaint, but unoriginal.”
“I thought I saw something in the mirror,” Rowden said. “Why are you here? Are you stalking me?”
The young man pulled a crumpled letter from his pocket. The telegram.
“You dropped this at the museum. I tried to catch up with you, but you’re walking on air or something. It’s addressed to the Drake, so I took a shot. Here.”
Rowden looked at the telegram. Shudder.
“You can drop that. It’s not something I’m likely to save. I was rid of it. I am rid of it.”
“Well, we can’t litter, you know,” the young man said. “I’ll just keep it safe for you.” He smoothed it on his shirt, folding it twice, and then shoved it in his pocket.
“Did you read it?”
“I guess. How else could I find you, Professor Gray?”
Clang, clang.
The cable car arrived, passengers spilling out its sides. The young man jumped on board.
“Have you ever ridden one of these?” he asked. He extended his hand.
“No,” Rowden said. Rowden stared at the hand, hesitating as if the invitation, although the best one he had at the moment, stung with desperation. Finally, he grabbed it, pulling up just as the car began to move.
Clang, clang.
“Hold on. It’s fun. You’ll love it.”
The car brimmed with passengers crammed into seats or hanging from straps. Faces blurred. Children smiled. Old women preened. Fathers caught tottering babies. Sunglasses were everywhere.
“Yo Ho, Nick,” said the driver. “Hey Ben, it’s Nick.”
“Hey, Nick,” the conductor said.
Nick waved, swinging on the guardrail.
“I take it you ride these often,” Rowden said.
“Every day, if I can. And this is the high flyer.”
“The high flyer?”
“To Hyde Street. It scales the Heights.” Rowden shrugged. “You’ll see.”
The Hyde Street car sailed up Powell to the brink of California Street, where another cable car line crossed. Rowden felt a gush of bay air blow away his whiskey stink. It fortified him toward sobriety.
The kid’s right, Rowden thought. It’s exhilarating, coasting along as if on glass with the wind in my face and the city in my sights. Rowden had a glimpse of serenity — a moment of bliss, detached from the urge to be nowhere. Not a telegram or a Jade Owl in sight. Here, bumping over the California Street divide, just blocks from Chinatown’s aromas, Rowden found liberation. Ironic. Had fate made an investment? A chance encounter at the museum with a man named Nick, a random toss of an odious paper scrap and fate delivered a delightful intervention. It chased the Dewars away.
“Recovered now?” Nick asked.
“This is fun,” Rowden admitted. “Not quite what I had in mind, but it’s relaxing. To think what I might have done.”
“Forget it,” Nick said. “You weren’t thinking then.”
Rowden sighed. He glanced about as they angled higher up Powell.
“You know, I’m sorry for knocking you over in the museum. It wasn’t intentional.”
“Forget it. You weren’t thinking then.”
Rowden laughed. This one has an answer for everything.
“How do you know what I was thinking?”
“I didn’t . . . then. But I’ve read your telegram since.”
“That was private, you know.”
Nick swung from the hand straps coming near Rowden’s face. “I don’t think so. It was trash I found on the museum floor. It was for anyone to read once you tossed it, you litterbug.”
Nick smiled, his deep blue eyes penetrating Rowden’s recovering spirits. Nick played on the cable car like a monkey dancing at the zoo. He stretched far outside the car, catching the wind in his shirt — blue sailcloth in a warm lavender wake. Rowden couldn’t help smiling, even laughing. He has spirit for a smart-ass.
Clang, clang.
The cable car stopped.
“Is it over?” Rowden asked.
“No,” Nick said. “Stay here and watch.” Nick wended his way through the tourists. Only an agile person could have done it. “Hey Ben, can I help?”
Ben waved him on. Nick jumped off, and then worked with the conductor. They switched the tracks to direct the car up Jackson Street. They turned the capstan until it clicked.
“That ought to do it,” Nick said, hopping back on, resuming his place.
“Quaint,” Rowden said. “That sort of thing would not do in New York.”
“This isn’t New York, Professor Gray. They don’t have Rice-a-Roni in New York either.”
“Don’t call me Professor. Call me Rowden.”
Nick laughed. “Rowden? That’s a mouthful. What do your friends call you?”
“Are we friends?”
“Since you’re on the cable car and not under it, I’d say we have a working friendship. I’m Nick.”
“So I gathered. And my friends call me RG.”
“Well, I’m not calling you that. Let’s see. How about Rowdy?”
“That wouldn’t describe me.”
“It could, with a bit of work.”
Rowden thought of the various things he’d been called by the few friends he garnered through life. His mother called him Row. His father, rest his soul, called him Smitty, because he had wanted to name him Smitty, but was overruled by Mother Gray. Rowden once had a friend who called him Off-White, thinking the pun funny. Rowden never cared for it. Another endearment — Rawden, came from his ex-wife. He had enough of Rawden for a lifetime. No. He guessed Rowdy was as good as any other moniker. Silence confirmed acceptance.
“Hold on,” Nick said. “Here’s the Hyde Street turn.”
The cable car bell clanged wildly, a howling screech sounding from the wheels to tourist’s delight. Their brochures promised it. The car had been climbing the steady Jackson Street incline. The abrupt turn conformed to the rules of physics, plastering the riders into each other. The car continued its climb through fashionable Russian Hill on Hyde Street until it reached a popular tourist drop off.
Clang, clang.
“Lombard Street,” Ben shouted. “The world’s most crooked street. Lombard Street.”
Rowden tried to espy this wonder, but a wall blocked his view.
“That’s for the tourists,” Nick said. “Not for us. Just a little further.”
Clang, clang.
Now half-empty, the car climbed higher until it stopped overlooking San Francisco Bay. Nothing blocked the panorama now — no wall, no conductor, no cloud of scotch whiskey. Rowden’s eyes opened wide. Beneath the steep hill, the glittering sapphire blue water was dotted with sails. Gulls cuffed the wharves. The hill was lush with ticky-tacky houses beneath the buttery sun.
This is the ticket, Rowden thought. His jaw dropped. He smelled the lavender again. Nick’s face was close.
“A dose of serenity cures dark thoughts,” Nick whispered. “Whatever your complaint, Rowdy, San Francisco has the cure. All you need do is look for it.”
With that said, Nick jumped from the cable car and darted down a side street. Rowden’s reverie was dashed. He saw Nick hopping away like a tadpole.
It’s not over yet, Rowden thought, although he didn’t know what had been going on and when it began.
Clang, clang.
“Wait for me,” Rowden shouted, jumping from the car just as it began to move. He nearly lost his balance, but managed to stay upright. “I’m going with you.”
Nick jogged backwards.
“Of course you are,” he shouted. “Move your ass.”
2
Rowden followed Nick downhill, catching up after two blocks. The narrow lane was rough, cobbles resurrected from a time before the tar lap and concrete presumed to cover them. They popped up like fretful shrouds thwarting Rowden’s descent.
“Slow down,” Rowden said. Breathless. “Where are we going?”
Nick turned around, walking backwards.
“Downhill. Keep up.”
Smart-ass, Rowden thought. Nick kept his pace. “I’m not as young as you.”
Nick slowed, and then stopped.
“You’re not young at all.” He laughed, an infectious giggle. “Just a little further.”
Rowden looked about. No pedestrians. No traffic. Strange. The feeder streets were narrow, leading to dead-ends and gray stone houses. He could smell rotting cabbage. He heard the murmur of tenants sing-songing Cantonese.
“Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see.”
Nick picked up the pace again. Rowden trailed at a huff and puff. Finally, he held his hand up, and then stopped.
“Let me catch my breath, for God’s sake.” He bent at the waist. Shallow breathing. Nick grinned like an imp. He appeared to enjoy the middle-aged professor’s stress.
“Too much time in the classroom, Rowdy. Not enough time on the street.”
Rowden shook his head. He looked about for some place to rest. Ah, a stoop. He plopped his ass on the cold gray cement, and then puffed his lips to catch his breath. Nick danced about, swinging on the metal banister, or at least the one that remained.
“Thank me, Rowdy. We’re going downhill. The trip back’ll be tougher.”
“No way. We’ll take a cab. I can do cabs.”
Nick sat beside him, scrunching his legs up. He leaned forward with his chin nestling between his knees. Rowden looked at him askance. He saw a patient face. Who is this guy? He’s the kid I knocked over in the museum — the one I thought I saw in the display case glass. He’s somehow latched onto me. How curious? He glanced at Nick’s peach fuzz chin and pencil thin sideburns. He’s familiar, Rowden thought, although he knew he never saw the kid before in his life. Yet, there was familiarity. Odd.
Rowden was not easily acclimated to new acquaintances. There was always a formality about making Rowden Gray’s acquaintance — the introduction, the chitchat about research and writing projects, a review of school references and other pissing contests. Finally, an exchange of cards and a firm handshake. No, this was different. Walk into the guy, knock him over and poof. Running now behind him down some San Francisco street to unknown parts. Was this the alternative to suicide?
“Let me know when you’re ready,” Nick said.
“I’d like to know where we’re going.”
“Look around and take a deep breath.” Nick piped in the cabbage aromas, which trumped his own lavender bath soap. “We both love Chinese stuff, Rowdy. I practically live at the museum and when I’m not there, I’m here.”
“Here? Where’s here?”
“Chinatown. Where else?” Nick gave Rowden a hand up. “I’m hungry. I say we eat. We’ll take it easy from here. I wouldn’t want you to get a hernia.”
Smart-ass.
They came to the end of the narrow street. Rowden was glad to be on level ground as they crossed the center of Chinatown — Grant Avenue. Having been to China several times, he was familiar with the genuine article. Grant Avenue smacked of faux chinois. He did notice that Nick’s eyes lit up, as he babbled about the place as if giving a tour to someone less initiated. Nick bobbed past the emporiums and shoppers, sucking up the aromas.
The shoppers were mostly Chinese, which surprised Rowden, who thought Chinatown would be strictly for the tourists. Somehow, he had dismissed the obvious. He was in a Chinese neighborhood made to feel genuine because it was meant to be genuine. You learn something new everyday — know-it-all or not.
“You’re pretty passionate about Chinatown,” Rowden said.
“I love it here.” Nick nodded to several shoppers. They appeared to know him. Everyone appeared to know Nick. “This is my second home, Rowdy. I’m going to knock your socks off with a fine meal at the Vermilion Phoenix.” Nick walked backwards again, somehow avoiding the trashcans. “But first you’ll see some goodies.”
“Goodies?”
Nick halted before a grand storefront.
“This is Han Ch’i-wang Antiques,” he said, bowing. “Ch’i-wang’s goods rival the museum’s in quality and in authenticity.” He put one finger to his temple. “And this shit’s for sale. Reasonable too. I know the owner.”
Nick pushed Rowden through the front door. He’s a salesman, Rowden thought. All these shenanigans to get me into a bric-a-brac shop to buy cheap knock-offs. He recalled Tijuana, where tikes hung onto American tourists and yelled Señor, my mother, she is a virgin. You come now. However, Rowden soon banished these thoughts when he scanned the shop’s goodies.
Han Ch’i-wang’s narrow aisles wended around heaps of furniture, lacquer ware, jade figurines, jewelry cases, partitions, and porcelains. There was no order to any of it. All periods were mixed together in one sweeping Chinese historic brush. Impressive.
“So what d’ya think, Rowdy? What d’ya think?”
Rowden tried to catalog the sights into some clarity. He spotted many authentic items, but as many knock-offs and happy forgeries. Toying with price tags, he reacted as only his professional conscience could.
“Quite a collection,” he said. “They must have a direct pipeline to the Motherland.” He strolled through the inner aisles.
An old matron pawed silk mats and inspected cloisonné napkin rings. She smiled. “Hao tze,” she said waving the silk. “Hao bu hao.”
Rowden smiled. “Hao. Shr de, hao,” he said backing away. Her smile revealed a full set of broken teeth.
“Look at this,” Nick said, holding a small, exquisite vase that was decorated with a colorful country scene. “This, I believe, is Ming ware.” Nick raised the vase and pointed to what could have been a hallmark, although Rowden knew that no such hallmark would be there. “See, the bottom’s unfinished and there’s gilding along the rim. That’s how I know.”
Impressive observation. Rowden took the vase and was about to interject his comments when a Chinese gentleman appeared from behind a rack. The man wore a gray three-piece suit, white gloves, and carried a walking stick. If ever a man typified the Charlie Chan stereotype, this was the man. Rowden had spent a career chiding students who stooped to ethnic dispersions that obfuscated China’s great cultural heritage. So when he thought, Charlie Chan, upon seeing this man, he had no one to chastise but himself.
“Almost correct, Nick,” the man said, reaching for the vase. “This vase is from a later period. It is K’ang-xi ware from the Ch’ing dynasty. It was manufactured specifically for export.”
Rowden smiled. Again an impressive observation.
“Quite so,” Rowden said, trying not to clip his response and impugn the man’s dignity. He was a dignified (even noble) creature, bred within the traditions. Rowden took the vase.
Nick winked at the gentleman, shaking his hand.
“Rowdy, may I introduce you to Xiao Win-t’o.” There we go — a proper introduction. “He owns Han Ch’i-wang’s and several other shops on Grant Avenue, including the Vermilion Phoenix where I’m taking you to eat.”
“Glad to meet you, Mr. Rowdy.”
“Gray.”
“So you will enjoy the hospitality of the Vermilion Phoenix this evening.” Win-t’o’s smile revealed a silver tooth. “I have some great specials on the menu tonight. You’ll both be my guests.” Win-t’o noticed that the old woman ready to conclude her purchase. He bowed. “Nick, just ask for Ch’u. He’ll take care of you. Let us call it a welcome for your new friend.” Win-t’o proceeded toward his sale, but stopped again. “Oh Nick, a word with you please.”
Nick walked a distance with Win-t’o, into a side aisle near the green Sung ware. Whispers. Wincing. Rowden was content to examine the vase. He set it down when Nick returned.
“I’m amazed, Nick. I admire your keen eye for Chinese art, even if it is off by a dynasty or two.”
“Xiao Win-t’o is a true master with these things.”
“I don’t mean to spoil the illusion,” Rowden said, hesitating. He didn’t want to appear condescending. “Win-t’o is correct in his assessment on how to identify a K’ang-xi vase. However, this one is not the genuine article.” Nick frowned. “You see, it’s correct in every sense, except that export ware always had finished bottoms. The hallmark of the Lung-ch’ien porcelain works would be incised just below the rim. This K’ang-xi vase may have come from China or Toledo for all I know. It’s a clever forgery.”
“A fake.”
“No. A forgery. At this price, it would give its owner some solace. Something like the real thing. Forgeries can bring satisfaction, while fakes are downright criminal.”
Nick lifted the vase up to his eye, perhaps looking for the missing hallmark. “I guess it’s No Sale.”
He threw the vase in the air, and then caught it with one hand. Rowden gasped.
“Real or not, it still has a price tag.”
“Then,” Nick said, winking, “I couldn’t possibly interest you in the Jade Owl, could I?”
“The Jade Owl?” Rowden stammered, raising his eyebrows. What the fuck? The Jade Owl? How could he know about the Jade Owl? “What are you talking about?”
Nick grinned — an impish grin that would be his hallmark. “The Jade Owl,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a dozen or so in the stockroom?” The grin widened.
“In the stockroom?” Rowden stammered. “The Jade Owl in the stockroom?”
Nick smacked his lips. He turned to the fake K’ang-xi vase. “Wouldn’t it be nice, though?”
A joke. Smart-ass. “Maybe you have a Brooklyn Bridge in the stockroom too?” Rowden sighed. “Jesus, imagine. The Jade Owl.” Yes, imagine anyone other than those from the inner sanctum mentioning the Jade Owl.
Nick lifted the vase again. Rowden wondered whether he needed to catch it. No. He patted Rowden’s stomach.
“Hungry?”
Hollow thump. The good professor smiled.
“Famished.”
“You’ll like the Vermilion Phoenix. Very authentic.”
Rowden touched the vase. “More authentic than Win-t’o’s bric-a-brac?”
“Don’t worry,” Nick said. “We’re his guests. The price is right.”

Professional Reviews
Rainbow Reviews
by Frost's Fancy - Rainbow reviews

Sinologist Professor Rowden Gray receives the opportunity of his professional lifetime, a curator position at the fabled San Francisco East Asian Museum of East Asian Arts and Culture, which houses the collection of his late mentor, "Old China Hand" John Battle. Battle's great work had been discredited due to his insistence on the Jade Owl, a mysterious missing artifact commissioned by China's only Empress. When RG arrives, he immediately discovers the position has been rescinded, he encounters a strange young man who proves to be Battle's prodigal son, and learns the Jade Owl really exists. Plunging into a drama worthy of an Errol Flynn swashbuckler, the soon-boon companions and several others are off on a life-and-death chase through San Francisco and then on to Hong Kong as the portal into China.

The Jade Owl is a nonstop, don't miss page turner and only the first in a quintology, The Jade Owl Legacy series. Readers, run, do not walk to your nearest book outlet and grab this intriguing gay mystery with its fully realized characters, gay and straight and bi, roller-coaster plotting, and paranormal fantasy elements. The Jade Owl is a true winner.


From Aricia's Blog
Review by Aricia Gavrial in Aricia’s Book Review Blog

I was asked a while ago, will I review POD books ... and the answer to that is a resounding yes. I've said this several times before, and it's true: some of the best fiction being published today is coming out in POD form, where it's direct from the writer to the reader.

However, the first thing I need to do is make sure to qualify this statement! "Direct from writer to reader" does not mean the book hasn't been edited, proofread, labored over, illustrated, layout-designed and so on. The best POD books have had every bit as much work as a book issued from a traditional publishing house. Sometimes more.

I applaud when a really talented writer has the courage to go it alone, because it's going to mean work such as a non-writer can't imagine. (Mel Keegan states the case better than me in this post: POD Publishing: why do it? And why not?")

So I'm delighted to be reviewing The Jade Owl by Edward C. Patterson, which is available from Amazon. com as a paperback, and also in Kindle. It's also available from Smashwords in several formats. (I have the PDF for reading on my desktop because I haven't yet saved enough of my pennies to get an ebook gadeget. Soon. Very soon.)

The story falls into the same category as the "urban fantasy" novels of writers like Charles de Lint (Yarrow, Greenmantle and so on) and Jan Siegel (the Prospero's Children series). It takes place in the real world ... but one of the foundation stones of the book is, paranormal artifacts do exist, and the powers are real. (The same foundation stone is holding up everything from Indiana Jones to the Mummy movies. It's come to be a Hollywood staple.)

In this novel, the artifact is an ancient Chinese object, a six inch piece of Jade carved in the likeness of an owl -- and it's actually a key that opens a box known as the Joy of Finches. What's in the box? That would be telling! But everybody wants the key.

The first thing that impressed me about Jade Owl was how knowledgeable about Chinese antiquities the writer is, and about China itself. Shanghai and Beijing are described with the same amount of detail and enthusiasm as San Francisco -- and never having been to either China or the USA myself, I really appreciated the "local color." Many writers, when setting their plots in London, New York, what have you, seem to think that everyone's been there and knows intimately every secret of the city. Not true. So, the first level where Jade Owl succeeds is in "selling me" San Francisco, which is the setting for the first long segment of the book.

Then it's off to China, and in the second half of the novel the adventure really kicks in. The first half is more of an exploration of culture, personality, even history. There's not too much "action" in this part of the story, but I liked having the story built up properly from the ground up, so that all readers are on the same page when the knock-down-drag-out adventure begins.

The characters are, for the most part, excellently drawn, with only one or two of the lesser players falling back on "stock characterization." Edward C. Patterson's dialog is very believable, you can "hear" voices saying these lines. But it was the paranormal aspects of the story that hooked me ... I love this stuff anyway, and the Jade Owl does it well. I know a little bit about things Chinese, since I grew up with a huge crush on Bruce Lee and read/watched everything I could get my hands on over the space of about ten years! Jade Owl is a real treat.

It's a crying shame this book had to be self-published, and you have to ask yourself what the publishing world is coming to, when gifted writers everywhere are having to fly solo. Jade Owl is not just "competently" written -- it's only one thorough, ruthless edit away from being on a par with the top-notch writers who sell in the gajillions. (Trust me on this: I've been a pro "proofie" for decades and have seen the best and worst that professional writers can turn out ... and some long-time professional writers I could name churn out unpunctuated drivel that has to be bashed into shape by line-editors who get paid about $10 an hour!) There was a time, maybe 20 years ago, when a publisher would take in a manuscript from an inspired and gifted writer, and would assign an editor to do the final work, then the book would be jacketed and sent out there with posters and hype galore. (Doesn't happen now. A manuscript can be received that is absolutely gem-perfect, and it'll still get turned around and sent back unread ... sad to say, I've worked in the industry and seen what happens: it'd shock you).

But -- I digress! The Jade Owl is an extremely good read. It gets off to a slightly shaky start, but the style settles right down after a few pages and is very readable. You'll like the central characters of "Rowdy" Gray, Nick Battle and his partner, Simone. In fact, you ought to love Simone, who's a drag queen from the Castro, indomitable, very human, very "real." There's enough gay content to keep GLBTI readers reading -- and more than enough action of other kinds (sensual, paranormal, cultural, comedic) to keep straight readers reading.

It's also hellaciously good value for money, at $15.45 for the paperback, $3.19 in Kindle, and $3.99 from Smashwords ... and this is a major novel, over 200,000 words. And here is one of the great things about getting a book direct from the writer: because there's no publisher to accommodate, the price can afford to be much lower than you'd think.

Does the book have a downside? Well ... maybe, but it depends who you are, and what your "ear" is like! The writing style can be a little erratic at times, but many readers would also call this one of the book's charms. So there you are -- as with so many facets of so many books -- it's actually your call. I found the PDF ebook easy to read, but halfway through I longed for a "proper" ebook reader to get away from the PC -- not the author's fault! When I get myself an iLiad, or Bebook or something similar, I shall be reading Jade Owl a second time in the comfort of a hammock chair at the bottom of the garden.

I should also note that there are two more books following on from The Jade Owl , the first one of which is available now, the second, on its way. I still have to get to the second, so can't talk about it here.

Recommended on many levels. AG's rating: 4 out of five stars -- with a "gold star" added for incredibly good value for money.


a fabulous adventure
Review by Victor J. Banis - aithor of over 150 novels

This is a helluva good yarn, the sort of read we're all hoping for every time we pick up a book, and all too rarely find.

Rowden Gray comes to San Francisco to accept, he thinks, a curatorship at the Museum of East Asian Arts and Culture, only to find when he gets there that the position has evaporated. Instead, he runs into (literally) a fey young man who leads him on a series of adventures involving an ancient relic, the jade owl, taking them at a rapidly accelerating pace from the city's gay bars to Yosemite, to Hong Kong and finally to mainland China. An odyssey that proves to be, in fact, a quest not unlike the Lord of the Rings. If that kind of adventure is your cup of tea, you are certain to savor this one.

I couldn't begin here to detail all the turns and twists of the plot, and why should I? The beginning is a trifle slow, but once you get going, you'll have all you can do to keep up with them yourself. Suffice to say the bird in question is possessed of magic (and not altogether happy) powers and is cursed, and must be returned to the tomb of the Empress Wu Tze-t'ien if major catastrophe is to be averted. "It brings the comets back to earth," to put it succinctly.

The cast of characters is extensive, too: Rowden, of course, and that handsome and gay youngster, Nick Battle, and his drag queen other half, Simone aka Simon, and a one-eyed Cherokee and Chinatown gangsters and...well, plenty of others, and surprisingly the author manages to keep them all well sorted out, without reducing any of them to caricatures or, worse, mere shadows. Indeed, even the most minor of these many people is well drawn and believable.

Locations are vivid, too--if you've ever been to San Francisco, this will take you there again in a twinkling, and whether you've been or not you'll feel like you, too, have made that arduous journey with The China Hands across The People's Republic.

This is a remarkable accomplishment. I finished The Jade Owl with a happy smile and closed it with a sigh of great satisfaction. I recommend the book heartily. You may never read another adventure tale this good. Honest, possums.


Reader Reviews for "The Jade Owl"


Reviewed by Wendy Potocki 4/19/2009
Make That Five Snaps Up and a Circle Round the World, Honey!!!

That’s for you, Simone DeFleurry!! Who’s Simone DeFleurry? Well, she’s actually Simon Geldfarb, the S-I-G-N-I-F-I-C-A-N-T ‘significant other’ of John Battle’s son. Who’s John Battle? John Battle was Rowden Gray’s professor at Columbia University and someone that claimed to have held The Jade Owl in very own his hands. Who’s Rowden Gray and what’s The Jade Owl? Rowden Gray is the protagonist that’s just had the position of working at the San Francisco Museum of East Asian Arts and Culture yanked out from underneath him and if you’re asking these questions, it’s clear you haven’t read The Jade Owl. Now I have a question for you? Why not?!!

The Jade Owl is wonderful read! It’s full of myth and legend –fact and fantasy. It crosses between historical reference to fun-filled fiction and back again as easily as Simone picks out an ensemble! It’s as big and expansive as the country the infamous owl originated – and just as enigmatic! Mr. Edward Patterson does a fabulous job of weaving and holding his story together with that most special of glues – imagination! The result is a pleasurable read. It’s as easy as gliding down the Yangtze in a Dragon boat under the brilliance of a full moonl! You just don’t want it to end and wish it could go on forever!!!

There’s a whole host of interesting characters acting as some magical crazy glue catalysts. They drive each other – and the story –forward. Then there’s The Jade Owl itself. Will it ever be found? Will it ever be reunited with its rightful owner? Who is its rightful owner? And is there a grander scheme behind it all? Most importantly, will the blasted creature ever stop hooting at the least opportune moments? All these questions are answered in their own time and we are there to witness history! … well, invented history! And isn’t that the best kind? Especially when the outcome is safely in the expert hands of Edward C. Patterson!!!

A toast to Mr. Patterson, China, a drag queen that knows how to run in heels and hooty owls everywhere!!!



Reviewed by ellen george 3/15/2009
China, present day and past, is still so mysterious and inviting. Sinologist Edward C. Patterson has written a masterful epic in The Jade Owl that will not only have you glued to this 595 page book, but have you before you are half way through the book, ordering book 2 of this series, The Third Peregrination!


Patterson's masterful story deals with an amazing 'work of art' The Jade Owl, commissioned by Empress Wu, and with its charmer/creator, became the stuff legends are made of from the Middle Kingdom on in China's impressive legends. It is not only a magnificent piece of art, but a metaphysical power that can enchant and destroy.


A group of Sinologists from San Francisco become part of The Jade Owl's destiny, including Dr. Rowden Gray, and Nick Battle, son of Grey's former mentor. Nick takes Dr. Gray to Chinatown - the ancient relic The Jade Owl still exists! Battle takes Gray to a club and Gray meets Nick's love, Simone DeLefleurry, or Simon as some may call him. So starts the beginnings of great friendships that encompass continents. The China Hands that were born to find the stuff of legends and must right the laws of ch'i before the Jade Owl and its destructive power literally change life as we know it.


Patterson is a well known sinologist who has taken the legends of China and breathed life into them in a non-stop Indiana Jones meets the Great Wall of China type of adventure. It is an amazing trek into the world of China and its people and history, and a series of love stories.
As a fledgling writer, I am always amazed the brilliance of someone's writing where a complex story is not only told with beauty, but each sentence seems touched by a poetic gleam.


The Jade Owl, like Gary Val Tenuta's The Ezekiel Code, is riveting and unforgettable.
Mr. Patterson is a prolific writer, and those works I have been honored to read so far have been told with grace and power.


May The Jade Owl hoot in your ear and have you ordering your copy.


The book, the Chinese mythology, the friendships are all truly magical. You will be recommending Edward C. Patterson's books to anyone asking if you happen to know any good books to read -


Patterson is a literary force to be reckoned with - much like his metaphysical forces - ethereal as the wind, yet as powerful.

ellen george


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