An absorbing account of the journalists who lost their detachment, and many of their illusions, in the tumultuous China of 1920-50. Novelist Rand's (Gold from Heaven, 1988) discovery of a filing cabinet filled with documents that his father had accumulated as a China correspondent during and after WW II led him to examine a group of American writers, most of them quite young, for whom China went from story to obsession. Faced with the monstrous scope of China's problems, as well as the hostility of Chiang Kai-shek's corrupt, quasi-fascist government, these journalists tended to side with the Communists, who were more disciplined, more idealistic, and, since they needed help in countering a mostly pro-Chiang Western press, more accessible. Rand's subjects include Rayna Prohme, who began as a propagandist for Sun Yat-sen's reformist movement and ended by dying, isolated and miserable, in Moscow; the self-promoting, glamorous Vincent Sheean; career fellow-travelers Anna Louise Strong and Agnes Smedley; Harold Isaacs, a precociously young newspaper editor who discovered and exposed Stalin's willingness to betray the Chinese Communists in order to advance his short-term interests; Edgar Snow, author of the classic Red Star Over China, and his wife Helen, whose jealousy of her husband's fame led to the marriage's demise; and Time's Theodore H. White, who had to fight censorship not only by the Nationalist government but by his own publisher, Henry Luce. Rand ends with a chapter on his father's descent from the camaraderie of wartime journalism into family and alcohol problems in later years, and his eventual suicide. The reader needs no special knowledge of 20th-century China's labyrinthine political history; throughout, Rand skillfully weaves context into these highly personal narratives. Vividly recreates a fascinating, confounding, and ultimately tragic era.