TWO-GUN COHEN by Daniel S. Levy


A Biography
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 Soon after the turn of the century a Jewish Cockney adventurer arrived in Canada, seeking his--or somebody's--fortune. How he evolved into a general in the Chinese Republican Army, and a notorious soldier of fortune as well, is carefully recounted by Levy, a reporter for Time magazine, in his debut biography. Morris Cohen, scion of a religious Jewish family, spent his youth much like the Artful Dodger, picking pockets in the East End of London, precincts which were haunted by the likes of Jack the Ripper. After multiple arrests and a stint in a reformatory, the young hustler made his way to the Canadian prairies, where he became a sometime carny huckster and a full-time card shark, often attracting the attention of the local constabulary. But after service in the Great War, through force of personality and a loud voice, he became something of a community leader, especially among the beleaguered Chinese of the Canadian West. His affinity for the underdog soon made him their sole Caucasian lodge brother and eventually brought him to the attention of the father of the Chinese Republic, Sun Yat-sen. Cohen instantly became a Sun worshipper and, with guns on both ample hips, a bodyguard to the great man and, later, factotum to his widow, the redoubtable Soong. Through a hellish internment during WW II and the turbulent events in postwar China, Two-Gun plied his adventurer's trade. Alas, there's no retirement plan for that trade, and the aging rogue, without savings, became a tiresome MÅnchausen, ever expansive about his powers. Levy attempts to set the tangled record straight after exhaustive, detailed research and interviews on three continents. The man he brings to life isn't Lawrence of Arabia; he is a sweeter character. He is Cohen of China. A diverting tale of the life and crimes of a unique Old China Hand, intertwined with the story of modern China. (8 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15681-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997