Frobisher is a cashiered Royal Navy ex-officer. He is approached torun some arms to the rebels in Korea, and thus make his fortune. Thisfails, and the arms get into the hands of the legitimate government.After some vicissitudes he finds himself in China, and talking to theabove admiral, who offers him the command of a battleship, with theprospect of taking part in a war against Japan. He does this but loseshis ship in a storm towards the end of the book. Meanwhile he hasfound the lost millions hidden away by Genghiz Khan many centuriesbeforehand. He has no hesitation in purloining these, and eventuallyon getting back to England, buying his way back into grace by presentingthe nation with a number of brand-new battleships, for which bit ofsleaze he is given a baronetcy, and restored to the Navy List.
d or two with you.'
"Naturally, Dick, I was a little astonished," proceeded Murray, "but I must confess that I had become vastly interested in the little man, and, as offers of employment sometimes come from the most unlikely sources, like a drowning man clutching at a straw I determined to hear what he had to say. Possibly it might lead to something; and in any case I felt that I should do no harm by listening to him.
"`I think I can spare you a few minutes,' I remarked. `What is it you wish to see me about?'
"`You're a seaman, aren't you?' he said, answering my question with another.
"`Yes,' I replied, `I am.'
"`Navy man, too, unless I'm much mistaken,' was his next remark.
"`Well,' I said, rather hesitatingly, `I was a Navy man--a lieutenant-- not so very long ago, but I had the misfortune to lose my ship under circumstances for which, I must say, in justice to myself, I think I was hardly to blame. However, the members of the court martial took a different view of
A colorful and energetic action yarn set in the mid-1890s, during the first Sino-Japanese War, A Chinese Command mixes historical fact with a series of wild adventures that have the protagonist Frobisher smuggling arms in Korea, fighting bandits in China, discovering the treasure of Genghis Khan, commanding a cruiser for the Chinese in the crucial Battle of the Yalu River, and surviving a deadly typhoon, shipwreck and capture by cannibals.
Don't look for any love interest, conflicted souls or much at all in the way of character development, though it has to be said Frobisher has an almost Flashman-like knack for involving himself in ventures which don't turn out so well.
Collingwood has an undeniable gift for description, whether it's a raging storm at sea or one of the story's numerous action sequences. The author also seems refereshingly free of many of the racial prejudices of his time. He expresses a high opinion of the Chinese Navy, officers and men, though he has much harsher things to say about the Qing government, especially the corrupt, war-profiteering mandarins who supplied the navy with defective arms and ammunition.
Although the bit about Frobisher stumbling across the treasure of Genghis Khan while being pursued by bandits through a ruined city, and how he later disposed of that fabulous wealth, were a bit much, it doesn't keep me from recommending this as a fine, entertaining read.