The Mystery of “A Yellow Sleuth”

Detective Sergeant Nor Nalla, Federated Malay States Police

Ronald Allan | NUS Press | 2017

$24.00

Out of stock

COMING SOON OCTOBER 2017

The British Royal Navy has been sharply criticized for tactical errors in Asia during the years leading to WWII. In particular, the deployment of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, and their catastrophic loss, has been characterized as part of a flawed and ineffective strategy.

In The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters, Andrew Boyd argues that the loss of these warships has overshadowed the Royal Navy’s broader success in securing control of the Indian Ocean. This achievement, coming at a time when Russia’s fate lay in the balance and before American economic power became a factor, shortened the war and made Allied victory possible.

The book moves authoritatively between grand strategy, intelligence, accounts of specific operations, and technical assessment of ships and weapons. It effectively challenges established views of the Royal Navy’s capabilities and performance, and will change understandings of Britain’s role in the early years of the war. Superbly researched and elegantly written, this book adds a hugely important dimension to accounts of the war in the East.In 1931 a book appeared in London with the title A Yellow Sleuth: Being the Autobiography of “Nor Nalla” (Detective-Sergeant Federated Malay States Police). It was met with puzzled enthusiasm, The Straits Times commenting that the book “presents an interesting problem of distinguishing fact from fiction”. The author claimed to be of mixed Malay and Sakai descent, fluent in many of the languages spoken in Southeast Asia, and able to pass as Malay, Sakai, Chinese, Javanese or Burmese. He began by stating that “this story will honestly recount the part I have played in the detection of crime”, but added that he had changed personal and place names, and used a pseudonym because it would “be foolish of me to advertise my identity”. He concluded, engagingly enough, “So there you have it! A true history! And, for a start you learn that it is largely untrue.”

The name Nor Nalla is an anagram, and the author has been identified as Ronald (Ron) Allan, who worked on a rubber plantation in Malaya shortly before World War I. But many questions about his authorship remain.

Nor Nalla is an “impossible fantasy of hybridity” in the words of Philip Holden’s introduction. Like Kipling’s famous colonial spy, Kim, the yellow sleuth is a master of the undercover operation, from the forests of Malaya, to the ports of Java, in London’s Chinatown and with Chinese labourers in WWI Flanders. Contemporary readers will enjoy the book’s stories of detection and adventure, but they can also savour the way the author and his narrator navigate and reveal the contradictions of late colonial society.

ISBN: 978-981-4722-64-3

Cover Type: Softcover

Page Count: 240

Year Published: 2017

Language: English

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Detective Sergeant Nor Nalla, Federated Malay States Police

COMING SOON OCTOBER 2017

The British Royal Navy has been sharply criticized for tactical errors in Asia during the years leading to WWII. In particular, the deployment of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, and their catastrophic loss, has been characterized as part of a flawed and ineffective strategy.

In The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters, Andrew Boyd argues that the loss of these warships has overshadowed the Royal Navy’s broader success in securing control of the Indian Ocean. This achievement, coming at a time when Russia’s fate lay in the balance and before American economic power became a factor, shortened the war and made Allied victory possible.

The book moves authoritatively between grand strategy, intelligence, accounts of specific operations, and technical assessment of ships and weapons. It effectively challenges established views of the Royal Navy’s capabilities and performance, and will change understandings of Britain’s role in the early years of the war. Superbly researched and elegantly written, this book adds a hugely important dimension to accounts of the war in the East.In 1931 a book appeared in London with the title A Yellow Sleuth: Being the Autobiography of “Nor Nalla” (Detective-Sergeant Federated Malay States Police). It was met with puzzled enthusiasm, The Straits Times commenting that the book “presents an interesting problem of distinguishing fact from fiction”. The author claimed to be of mixed Malay and Sakai descent, fluent in many of the languages spoken in Southeast Asia, and able to pass as Malay, Sakai, Chinese, Javanese or Burmese. He began by stating that “this story will honestly recount the part I have played in the detection of crime”, but added that he had changed personal and place names, and used a pseudonym because it would “be foolish of me to advertise my identity”. He concluded, engagingly enough, “So there you have it! A true history! And, for a start you learn that it is largely untrue.”

The name Nor Nalla is an anagram, and the author has been identified as Ronald (Ron) Allan, who worked on a rubber plantation in Malaya shortly before World War I. But many questions about his authorship remain.

Nor Nalla is an “impossible fantasy of hybridity” in the words of Philip Holden’s introduction. Like Kipling’s famous colonial spy, Kim, the yellow sleuth is a master of the undercover operation, from the forests of Malaya, to the ports of Java, in London’s Chinatown and with Chinese labourers in WWI Flanders. Contemporary readers will enjoy the book’s stories of detection and adventure, but they can also savour the way the author and his narrator navigate and reveal the contradictions of late colonial society.

“a most thrilling and original narrative…”
— The Spectator

“presents an interesting problem of distinguishing between fact and fiction…”
— The Straits Times

“a quite astonishingly unusual autobiography…”
— Hutchinson & Co

”A more enthralling volume of secret service could not be desired…”
— The Observer

ISBN: 978-981-4722-64-3

Cover Type: Softcover

Page Count: 240

Year Published: 2017

Language: English

Ronald Allan

NUS Press

NUS Press publishes academic books and journals, as well as general non-fiction. Our home market is Singapore and Southeast Asia, but our books are distributed internationally. We publish books of special relevance to Southeast Asia and we maintain a disciplinary focus on the humanities and social sciences. Books and memoirs meant mostly for a general audience and to be sold in bookshops are published under our Ridge Books imprint. We publish some 30 books a year.

NUS Press currently publishes three academic journals: China: An International Journal (for the East Asian Institute at NUS), The Journal of Burma Studies(for the Center for Burma Studies, Northern Illinois University), and The Asian Bioethics Review (for the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the National University of Singapore in collaboration with the Hastings Center Report).  We are accepting new journal proposals. Please contact us at npubox5[@]nus.edu.sg if you are interested to start a new journal.

The National University of Singapore Press is heir to a tradition of academic publishing in Singapore that dates back some 60 years, starting with the work of the Publishing Committee of the University of Malaya, beginning in 1954. Singapore University Press was created in 1971 as the publishing division of the University of Singapore. The University of Singapore merged with Nanyang University in 1980 to become the National University of Singapore, and in 2006 Singapore University Press was succeeded by NUS Press, bringing the name of the press in line with the name of the university.

Our publishing mission is to enable the dissemination and creation of knowledge through the publishing of scholarly and academic books; and to empower learning, innovation and enterprise for the Singapore- and Asia-focused global community. All NUS Press books must be approved by a Publishing Committee, drawn from the ranks of the academic staff at the National University of Singapore. Within NUS, the Press is positioned as a unit of NUS Enterprise. The Press is 100% owned by the National University of Singapore and is currently managed by Peter Schoppert.

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