A boat trip down the river from Woosung to Shanghai to Hankow, and on, affords a harsh closs-up of the country where poverty and famine has left its lines, and politics a dirty stain. This is the story of Tully Sheldon, who is hired by the China Water Transport under World Relief to sail a ship carrying supplies; of Alia, a Harbin born White Russian, whom he didn't think could love but knew all there was to know about it; of the cutthorat crew he hires- save for Peliga, his quartermaster, who watches over Sheldon and his ""Russki whore"" with faithful vigilance and disapproval; and of the new China- crowded and cluttered with homeless natives and unprincipled internationals. And as Sheldon sails his L.S.T. and picks up a cargo of refugees at one port, loses Alia at another, and takes on a cargo for a Red Chinese, he heads into dangerous waters- but Alia shares in the bargain he has made. But when he faces Kuomintang gunfire, and comes to the late realization that it's guns- not gasoline- he's carrying to a Communist beachhead, he refuses- in spite of Alia- to land the cargo, leaves the ship with the orders that the guns are to be scuttled, and is left with nothing except the dead body of the girl he loved.... A story which has its irony, its anger, and its disillusion, in lean, masculine terms.