'Tea with the Black Dragon' - Book Review

Our main characters are Martha MacNamara and Mayland Long, who meet in San Francisco's James Herald Hotel. Martha has just flown out from the eastern U.S. on a mysterious summons from her daughter, who she cannot find. She and Mayland get on well: so well in fact that Mayland applies his extraordinary talent for languages - which extends to computer languages - to assist her in locating her daughter (who is a programmer). As they dig into the mystery, things get a little ugly.

A very thin paperback at 166 pages, defining this as "Fantasy" strikes me as something of a stretch: Mayland Long claims he used to be a Chinese Imperial Dragon, and is perhaps 2000 years old. But even when we reach the end of the book we have little to go on other than some odd characteristics and his claim. I think we're meant to believe him, but not only are there no traditional fantasy elements in the story, there's nothing that makes it more than a standard mystery beyond his odd claims (which are perhaps backed up by the odd shape of his hands and his strength). It has nevertheless claimed its place among the fantasy books of the period (it was published in 1983) with several important awards and nominations. And it's definitely a charming book that I enjoyed reading.