In an indisputably important and extravagantly detailed account, Booth (author of the lauded Opium: A History and Booker-nominated author of the novel The Industry of Souls) examines the history of the notorious international crime groups known as the Chinese Triads, whose roots lie in ancient secret societies with traditions of religious and political dissentÄparticularly in the Hung Society of the 18th century. As Chinese emigrants spread around the world, so did the societies, metamorphosing into today's international terrorist networks. The Triads have an oddly checkered history of both criminal activity and patriotism (they supported Chiang Kai-shek and assisted the U.S. during the Vietnam War). Booth's narrative details the dizzying array of their criminal actionsÄincluding kidnapping, credit-card fraud, software piracy, international prostitution, illegal immigrant smuggling and Internet pornographyÄas it explores the lives and crooked partnerships of such legendary Triad power brokers as the Green Gang's far-rightist Big-eared Du, and the 14K, which maximized the mid-century heroin market. Booth also documents the Triads' infiltration of the business and social mainstream and their current exploitation of the Hong Kong film industry. He deserves commendation for addressing this risky subject (these groups are not above murdering journalists) and for shredding the Triads' centuries-strong web of ritual and patriotism. 16 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This colorful popular history of Chinese secret criminal societies, which the author (Opium: A History) collectively labels the Triads, cuts a broad swath through Chinese history from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to the present and from the China mainland to the far-flung communities of the Chinese diaspora. The best chapters of the book focus on Hong Kong, where a network of criminal syndicates, held together by blood oaths, patronage, and avarice, has long dominated vice, gambling, and prostitution and engages in extortion, racketeering, kidnapping, counterfeiting, and smuggling. The historical chapters are less convincing. Booth sweeps a large variety of secret societies into his catchall category of the Triads and reduces modern Chinese history to a vast and convoluted criminal conspiracy. Nevertheless, the cast of bizarre characters, the often-gory details of Triad crimes, and the intersection of the criminal and political worlds make for fascinating reading. For larger public and academic libraries.DSteven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.