June 24, 1996 12:00 PM

by Roy Rowan

Chairman Mao said it most famously: “Power flows from the barrel of a gun.” But, as reporter Rowan discovered rubbing elbows with the world’s pooh-bahs and power brokers, it also flows from a will of steel, very deep pockets or even a journalist’s pencil. As a correspondent for LIFE, TIME and FORTUNE magazines (and an occasional contributor to PEOPLE), Rowan found himself in the crosshairs of crisis after crisis, from China’s brutal civil war in the 1940s to Ross Perot’s 1992 occasionally civil war on politics-as-usual.

Rowan loved being in the thick of things. His first job after World War II was driving food across war-torn China to its famished population as part of a United Nations relief effort. Despite dodging bullets and witnessing countless atrocities, he nurtured a burning ambition: to report the news and those who made it. After he resigned from the U.N. in 1947, it took him all of an hour to realize his dream. A chance meeting with TlME-LlFE’s Shanghai bureau chief at the Palace Hotel bar led to a freelance assignment. A few stories later, he was hired. His beat? Asia—and eventually the world.

Rowan interviewed Chiang Kai-shek’s warlords under heavy Communist fire and marched with General Douglas MacArthur on his ill-fated probe into North Korea. Back home he chowed down with Teamsters czar Jimmy Hoffa over scrambled-egg breakfasts, celebrated his own birthday with Vice President Gerald Ford just weeks before Nixon’s resignation, and water-skied at 75 mph with Perot behind a turbo-charged cigarette boat.

Rowan seizes the telling detail and propels his vignettes with crackling narrative. Rarely has dusty history been turned into such a rip-roaring read. (Carroll & Graf, $24)

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