THE ABALONE UKULELE: A Tale of Far Eastern Intrigue

R. L. Crossland
THESPRING/New Academia Publishing, 2021
372 pages
ISBN 978-1-7359378-1-6 paperback
ISBN 978-1-7359378-7-8 hardcover
See an excerpt from the book.
Price: $26.00 paperback
$40.00 hardcover

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About the Author

With the benefit of thirty-five years’ service, active and reserve, as a US Navy SEAL officer (two hot wars. one cold), Crossland has found projecting his grasp of naval intrigue one hundred years into the past an enjoyable challenge. Captain Crossland has written internationally on the subject of maritime unconventional warfare and includes U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings and the New York Times among his credits. His historical crime novel, Jade Rooster was awarded the Admiral David Glasgow Farragut Award for naval literature in 2008.

THE ABALONE UKULELE: A Tale of Far Eastern Intrigue

The Abalone Ukulele: A Tale of Far Eastern Intrigue is an historical novel set in 1913 Shanghai, where four cultures are about to collide: China, Korea, Japan, and the US.

The point of collision is three tons of Japanese gold ingots meant to undermine an already collapsing China. Three ordinary men, a disgraced Korean tribute courier, a bookish naval officer, and a polyglot third-class quartermaster realize they — with sub rosa assistance from Asiatic Station — must foil Japanese subversion and highjack that gold to finance a Korean insurrection. Three ordinary women complement their efforts: an enigmatic changsan courtesan, a feisty Down East consular clerk, and a clever Chinese farm-girl.

It is a tale that wends through the outskirts of Peking to the Yukon River; from the San Francisco waterfront to a naval landing party isolated on a Woosung battlefield; from ships of the US Asiatic Fleet moored on Battleship Row to a junk on the Yangtze; and from the Korean gold mines of Unsan to a coaling quay in Shanghai. Though the heist is all but flawless, something is a-kilter. Soon a foreign intelligence service, a revolutionary army, and two Chinese triads converge on a nation’s ransom in gold.


“R. L. Crossland’s The Abalone Ukulele is a masterclass in historical fiction. With painstaking research and a gift for story spinning, Crossland brings to brilliant life a sprawling epic of greed, gold, and redemption. Crossland’s gift for converting historic details into character and narrative makes The Abalone Ukulele an immersive read.”

— Joseph A. Williams, author of Seventeen Fathoms Deep and The Sunken Gold


“Crossland’s tale of shenanigans, greed, nobility, slivers of grace, propels across a geography spanning Shanghai, the Klondike gold fields, and San Francisco’s wharves. His characters are elemental, with a commedia dell’arte quality. Occasionally details intrude on flow, but clues to a mystery are sprinkled skillfully throughout, keeping the reader turning the page.”

— Loretta Goldberg, Author of the award-winning novel, The Reversible Mask


“In the first reading, Crossland’s book is a swashbuckling adventure yarn about sailors fighting their way through a port city in China, and miners along the West Coast of North America from Alaska to San Francisco, seeking fortune by hook or crook. But at a higher level, the book illustrates a much broader theme in modern history; that of competing nations jockeying for position to dominate the global economy through finance, access to resources and industrial growth and power.”

— Byron W. King, Editor, Agora Financial; CAPT, USN (Ret.)


“The author does an excellent job of weaving realistic background history into a very complex story taking place on multiple continents at the intersection of 4 competing states.”

— Kenneth M. Swope, Dr. Leo A. Shifrin Chair of Military & Naval History, United States Naval Academy (2019-20); Professor of History, University of Southern Mississippi; Book Review Editor, The Journal of Chinese Military History