The Chinese Jars

The Chinese Jars is both a breezy, classic noir murder mystery, as well as an entertaining character-rich novel which mines the kind of intrigue specific to a time before cellphones and the Internet, and to a city rooted in old allegiances. Readers will have no trouble visualizing the ruddy mixed group of 1960s good guys, great dames, baffled bystanders (who may be more than that), and hooligans—who, by the way, maybe aren't all bad. The book moves at a colorful clip as newspaper ad salesman turned detective Samuel Hamilton unravels the death of a casual friend, the possible millionaire, and finds himself hip deep in the arcane and nearly impenetrable alliances of a Chinatown that exists just beyond the streets San Francisco tourists typically tread.

— Lisa Romero, Forward Magazine, Spring 2012


Samuel Hamilton's metamorphosis from unsuccessful newspaper ad salesman to investigative reporter in 1960 San Francisco... succeeds in painting an engaging portrait of a bygone era.

Publishers Weekly, Nov 2011


Steeped in the colorful reality of 1960s China Town, not to mention a quintessentially 1960s bar called, appropriately, Camelot; graced with fine writing and a fascinating plot that stretches from China Town to China; populated by a wonderful mix of the poisonous, the villainous, the rascally, the kindhearted and the inscrutable, Chinese Jars has all the elements of a great mystery. But add in Samuel, as likeable as he is unaccomplished, as talented as he is insecure, a loveable klutz of a guy for all his wit; along with the woman he adores, the lovely but hard-to-impress daughter of Camelot's manager; and a dog who adores him, the unlovely Excalibur; and the result is not just a great, but a fabulous—and thoroughly entertaining mystery.

— Betsy Burton, owner the King's English Book Store in Salt Lake City, Nov 2011


Blanche has a crush on Samuel. We also have one on this very original mystery novel, which ends with a glance at Van Gulik and his judge Dee. By the way, what does the "C" between William and Gordon stand for? Could it be Chandler?

Livres Hebdomadaire, Paris, May 7, 2010


"His first work is a clean and fascinating police thriller in the traditional noir style, situated in the San Francisco of the 60's, with excellent construction of the characters and that touch of magnificence that only great stories have—the ones that are destined to become moving pictures."

—Roberto Ramirez, Discolandia, Mexico, Nov. 2006


"A similar parade of marginals hasn't been seen in a long time. With an atmosphere that resembles the ABC of Raymond Chandler and in an unpretentious tone in the best tradition of "pulp fiction", William C. Gordon lets loose onto the streets of San Francisco a half a dozen losers of the highest quality."

—Marco Denti, Milano, June 2006


"A tantalizing evocation of the San Francisco of yesteryear. A page turner of murder and suspense carried by a cast of memorable characters including Chinatown itself."

—Amy Tan


"From baggage carrier to writer. But only for a short time. Gordon knows he will quickly return to his job of carrying the bags for the Best Seller. In this interview he jokes about the subject and at the same time promotes his first novel, "Duelo en Chinatown" ("The Chinese Jars" in English). And he recounts his fascinating life among witches, charlatans and thugs, all of which have given inspiration to his literary career..."

—Angela Precht, Caras magazine, June 2006


"The mythical William Gordon is big and has an overwhelming vitality about him. What he writes has nothing to do with the style of his famous partner. His writing style is very fine, but takes another direction: it's a hundred percent detective story with all the roughness of this genre. The characters are good or bad, suspects or pursuers. There is an iron plot that allows in a very light metaphysical breath mixed with subtle political discomfort.
Of course, it has humor. The humor is about a guy who goes around Chinatown following the footsteps of a corpse. In this case the victim wore a tuxedo and attended the parties of the rich and famous in California using invitations that were, let's say, false. He took them from the printing shop where he worked as a janitor and where no one ever saw him wear anything other than overalls."

—Fernanda Donoso, La Nación, Santiago, Chile, June 2006


"A Book can be many things, but in order to be good it has to be entertaining. This first novel by William Gordon, translated by Tamara Gil Somoza, delivers a talented narrative, a surprising agility with dialogue, a dose of suspense necessary for the reader to read it at one sitting, and a place full of mystery. Above all it's entertaining."

—Elizabeth Subercaseaux, Vanidades Continental, July 2006


"Duelo en Chinatown is a well crafted novel in the tradition of the classic detective story. There is a theme—greed, a colorful background—San Francisco's Chinatown, and a fist full of characters, styled in the Chandlerian mode."

—Luis Alemany, El Mundo, Madrid, Spain, May 24, 2006


William C. Gordon was a lawyer and a committed advocate for illegal Mexican immigrants. He has traveled widely and gotten to know different people and places. He always wanted to be a writer, and he's finally accomplished it.
The hero of his suspenseful mystery is Samuel Hamilton who doesn't believe that his friend Reginald Rockwood III committed suicide. His investigation leads to members of High Society in San Francisco's Nob Hill, the Latino neighborhood in the Mission District and to the herb shop of Mr. Song in Chinatown. Hidden in Mr. Song's herb jars are secret documents and a stash of stolen money.
Samuel traces Rockwood's true identity and a contraband trade of Chinese antique artwork.
Gordon is a talented writer. "Der Tote im Smoking" is a gripping story with authentic characters. It's a real pageturner.

—Christiane von Korff, Brigitte August 15, 2007


Berliner Morgenpost wrote: William Gordon has written a very dark crime novel full of atmosphere and charming characters.

And the Ekz-Informationsdienst (an information service for all national libraries) recommended it as well: "His focus is on a specific time (the 60's) and local color of San Francisco. He has created a lovingly described story of a likeable hero, who takes matters into his own hands. A felicitous and recommendable novel."