• Christopher G. Moore


I have been checking local bookstores—new and second-hand—for William Marshall’s Yellowthread Street Series. The first book in the series is titled Yellowthread Street. In 1975, Marshall was 31 years old and living in Hong Kong when Yellowthread Street was first published. The last book in this series appeared in 1998.

One reviewer wrote:

“This is the first in a series of police books (procedural is not quite the right term for them) set in the mythic underside of Hong Kong. Take one part Ed McBain and one part Susie Wong, mix it up in the high-speed blender of Hong Kong action flick influence, and serve over a taste for the bizarre with a little paper umbrella stuck on top -- that's as close as I can come to describing this unique body of work.”

Wikipedia summaries the main characters in the series:

“In the Yellowthread Street series, the detectives of the Yellowthread Street police station in fictitious Hong Bay, Hong Kong -- DCI Harry Feiffer, a European born and raised in Hong Kong; Senior Inspector Christopher O'Yee, half-Chinese, half-Causasian American, and all neurotic; and the ever-bickering team of Inspectors Auden and Spencer -- attempt to find the rational basis for inexplicable and seemingly bizarre crimes.”

I wonder if the Senior Inspector Christopher O’Yee character inspired John Burdett in fashioning Bangkok 8. Burdett also lived in Hong Kong. Marshall, who was born in 1944, is an Australian. His books have consistently received good reviews in the New York Times. “But for the most part, ''The Far Away Man'' is a well-wrought, convincing piece of work with a shocker of an ending. And there are the sights and smells of Hong Kong, a city the author knows intimately. The Yellowthread Street series may not be to everybody's taste; it is altogether unconventional, and its farcical side may strike some readers as forced.”

And again, the New York Times wrote in connection with the Yellowthread Street series, “Those were procedurals set in Hong Kong, and were distinguished by a wacky kind of writing in which seriousness was mingled with farce.”

In 1990, the series was turned into a 6-hour TV series.

Marshall started the series in 1975, inventing a fictional district and police station in Hong Kong. Altogether there are16 books in the series. All of the books have been published by major US and British publishers. One has to wonder why the sales representatives haven’t placed them in the English language bookstores in Thailand. No doubt they would have an audience.

A fan of the Marshall books writes, “Yellowthread mysteries serve up a satisfying three-course meal. They always have three distinct plot lines, each offbeat and inventive, woven together into a neat, tidy conclusion. Three plot lines per book, times sixteen books, no two ever trite or even remotely similar - an astonishing accomplishment. Often scary, often gruesome, these books balance deadpan humor with intelligent and challenging stories. Marshall's stylish writing, zany subjects and perfect control of the implausible, make it easy to overlook the fact that these are all great mystery stories, with whirlwind pace and wildly unpredictable twists and turns. They all have a variable mix of violence, suspense, frenetic action, and wacky, offbeat humor. There's not a bad one in the bunch and you could comfortably read them back to back and not burn out.”

Now that is what I call a rave review.

Yellowthread Street series

- Yellowthread Street (1975) - The Hatchet Man (1976) - Gelignite (1976) - Thin Air (1977) - Skulduggery (1979) - Sci-fi (1981) - Perfect End (1981) - War Machine (1982) - The Far Away Man (1984) - Roadshow (1985) - Head First (1986) - Frogmouth (1987) - Out of Nowhere (1988) - Inches (1994) - Nightmare Syndrome (1997) - To The End (1998)

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