Arise – A Novel

Gao Tao steals the bankrupt Nanjing No. 1 Leather Goods Factory from his uncle to transform it for production of top brand merchandise. Pressed by tightfisted clients and lingering debt, he counterfeits to survive an infrastructural meltdown. With the factory revamped, the loans paid, and growing respect from his underground buyers, Gao Tao begins to parlay this revenue into a legacy. As do his colluding cousins – Gao Jin, an accountant determined to prove his concepts of sustainable and equitable profit, and Gao Huan, a trucker seeking security for his family at home and on the road.

Character-driven drama about riding the upswell of China’s contemporary evolution and forging structure within its freewheeling economic environment.


Arise was borne of my passion for China’s Three Kingdoms history as contrasted with its typical romanticizations. Cao Cao, an accomplished warlord, built the kingdom of Wei on his own brand of pragmatic, anti-classist ruthlessness. Popular tradition paints him as a power-hungry villain. I see him as more of an antihero, and his rebuilding of infrastructure arguably worth the harshness of his rule. I also take inspiration from his clansmen, top commanders underrated in legend – Cao Ren, Wei’s military backbone and a master of long-term defense, and Xiahou Yuan, known for lightning raids and conquering territory.

I chose the setting of Nanjing for its tenacious and down to earth feel, contribution to the rapid development of eastern coastal China, and historical suitability to a Three Kingdoms homage. Nanjing was the capital of the Wu kingdom founded by Sun Quan, who is honored with a monument and museum on Purple Mountain. Charming, green, and off the beaten path of typical overseas tourism, Nanjing maintains a pervasive sense of its two-thousand-year history even after the ravages of war, reconstruction, and urbanization. I was able to visit the city during a fall 2013 tour of China. I loved my all too brief time there.


Arise is a work in constant progress. I’ll share a peek or two as I can.

Act 1 Introduction – 6000 words, posted September 22, 2016


The Wire, a layered examination of inner city American drug trade and law enforcement that ruined me for most other media on similar subjects. I can’t write with its firsthand authority of setting and issues, but I can attempt a similar feel of polished documentary about fighting for progress within systemic challenges of society and economics. I can also focus on relatable regular people trying to do their best with their own strengths, and highlight some realistic optimism.

Selected References

Much of my research is a long haul trawl for articles and essays and experiences – context and specifics on the industries of focus and Nanjing city life. In other words, a basic framework of what I would have internalized growing up and working there.

The following books are useful for both early knowledge and continued reference.

The Concrete Dragon: China’s Urban Revolution and What it Means for the World, by Thomas J. Campanella

Doing Business in the New China, by Birgit Zinzius

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, by Leslie T. Chang

Reclaiming Chinese Society: The New Social Activism, by You-tien Hsing (Editor), Ching Kwan Lee (Editor)

Understanding Chinese Society, by Xiaowei Zang (Editor)


I enjoy writing to ambient electronic tunes with a sleek modern vibe and some catchy elements. The following albums are my standard working rotation.

Clubroot – II:Mmx

Kodomo – Frozen in Motion

Plaid – Double Figure

Plaid – Scintilli