June 2022 Book Survey Part 2

  Welcome to the June 2022 book survey, part two. I decided to break this month's survey into two posts, as I did last month.


In June 2022, I (Richard) continued my reading plan. This post describes another 8 books that I read in June, all related to the 1970s Kung Fu TV series. Read on to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Spirit of Shaolin: A Kung Fu Philosophy, David Carradine, 1991/1998

I bought Spirit of Shaolin: A Kung Fu Philosophy in the 1990s when I was studying kung fu and watching the original series in syndication on the TNT network. This book is split into three parts. The first is an autobiography of sorts, from the Kung Fu TV show through the first Kung Fu TV pilot movie. The second presents itself as philosophy and ancient wisdom, but it is filled with the false Shaolin creation myths debunked in many solid books published in the last few years. The third part contains "lessons," and is followed by an appendix. 

The appendix features advice on "martial arts around the world," with comments (from page 190) like "Aikido [is] a form of tai [sic] kwondo." The book includes a bibliography which provides some insight into Mr Carradine's thinking, as it includes titles like The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I would only read this book if you want to hear Mr Carradine's interpretation of kung fu.

The Kung Fu Book, Robert Anderson, 1994

The Kung Fu Book by Robert Anderson is an unusual book. The cover features the late great Brandon Lee, who died in March 1993. The book probably featured him due to the publicity associated with his tragic demise. However, aside from an appearance in one of the Kung Fu TV series reboot pilot movies, Mr Lee had nothing to do with the 1970s Kung Fu TV series, which is the focus of the book.

The book says on page 11 that Ed Spielman and Bruce Lee independently invented a story about a Shaolin monk traveling in the western US. The author properly credits Mr Spielman and Howard Friedlander, and dismisses the 1993 Dragon "biopic" myth. This is remarkable given the number of people who still think otherwise. Unfortunately, the book repeats myths about Bodhidharma on page 11.

Chapter 1 consists of pages 9-37 and addresses the background of the 1970s TV series. Chapter 2 describes some of the Carradine family. Chapter 3 talks about the process of writing the TV series, and includes the original treatment of The Demon God episode by George Clayton Johnson. Chapters 4-6 discuss revival attempts, The Legend Continues, and related topics. 

The second part of the book is an overview of all of the 1970s episodes, consisting of pages 122-193. The first season of TLC appears on pages 194-223.

This book was a gold mine when I bought it in the 1990s because it was one of the few available on the TV series. Serious fans will probably want a copy.

The Kung Fu Book of Caine, Herbie J. Pilato, 1993

The Kung Fu Book of Caine is one of two books by Mr Pilato in this survey. I bought my copy in the 1990s. It is a well-produced Tuttle paperback. Pages 1-56 discuss the making of the 1970s TV series. Pages 57-151 contain a story guide. Pages 152-167 talk about the TV pilot reboot movies. The appendices offer actor biographies, show awards, and a sample shooting schedule from 11 December 1973. 

On page 14 the book talks about the Spielman/Friedlander origin of the show, contained in a 75 page treatment and a 160 page screenplay. The text also contains information derived from interviews that the author conducted in the summer of 1992.

This is one of my favorite Kung Fu TV series books and I highly recommend it for fans.

The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom, Herbie J. Pilato, 1995

The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom is a great small hardcover that unfortunately commands a steep price in the secondary market these days. The book consists of an introduction followed by 108 pages of quotes from the 1970s TV show, grouped thematically. Pages 109-123 very briefly summarize the plots of the original 63 TV stories.

Ed Spielman wrote the foreword to this book. He said on page xvii that the previously mentioned Book of Caine was "the only true account of the show ever written."

This is a great little inspirational book, if you can find a reasonably priced used copy.

Kung Fu: Les Chemins de la Redemption, Didier Liardet, 2019

Kung Fu: Les Chemins de la Redemption is a book published in French that I bought directly from the publisher. It's a 6 3/4 inch by 9 5/8 inch paperback with a mix of black and white and color photos and 288 pages. It's probably the coolest Kung Fu TV show book I own.

After introductory and background material, pages 71-189 offer a guide to all 63 TV show stories. Pages 190-232 provide biographies of Mr Carradine, Keye Luke, Radames Pera, and Philip Ahn. Pages 232-262 discuss returns to the Kung Fu world in TLC, and pages 263-284 summarize merchandise associated with the franchise.

There is no index, which is a bit of a disappointment. The book mentions Mr Lee's involvement with the show as an acting candidate, but does not repeat the myth about him supposedly creating the show.

This book is worth it for the photographs alone, but acquiring a copy is best done through a French connection.

Kung Fu Annual [1974], Kung Fu Annual 1976, Steve Moore, 1974/1976

The Kung Fu Annual [1974] and Kung Fu Annual 1976 are a couple books published in the UK by Watson Brown. They contain original fiction and comics, plus a bit on the actors. I do not have the 1975 edition, pictured below.

My copy of the 1974 book is basically falling apart, although I bought it in supposed excellent condition. I would like to add the 1975 book to complete the collection.

Kung Fu TV Series Novelizations, "Howard Lee," 1973-1974

I bought these four books recently, purely for the novelty factor, and the fact that they were advertised as being in excellent condition. Aside from yellowing of the pages (due to being nearly 50 years old), they were delivered as promised. Thanks to The Kung Fu Guide, I can report the following about these books:

Kung Fu #1: The Way of the Tiger, The Sign of the Dragon
by Howard Lee
[real author Barry N. Malzberg ]
Warner 74-464; ©1973 (1st); $1.25 [novelization of the TV-movie pilot "Kung Fu" (Feb-22-1972)] [FC Photo: David Carradine]
(David Spencer tells us that Barry N. Malzberg was a veteran science fiction writer.)

Kung Fu #2: Chains
by Howard Lee
[real author Ron Goulart]
Warner 74-465; ©1973 (1st); $1.25 [novelization of the episode "Chains"] [FC Photo: Carradine]
(David Spencer tells us that Ron Goulart was a veteran science fiction writer.)

Kung Fu #3: Superstition
by Howard Lee
[real author Ron Goulart]
Warner 74-466; ©1973 (1st); $1.25 [novelization of the episode "Superstition"] [FC Photo: Carradine]

Kung Fu #4: A Praying Mantis Kills
by Howard Lee
[real author Lou Cameron]
Warner 74-467; ©1974 (1st); $1.25 [novelization of the episode "A Praying Mantis Kills"] [FC Photo: Carradine]
(David Spencer tells us that Lou Cameron was a "crime pulpsmith.")

My overall impression of these novels is that only the first one closely follows the original story. Books 2 through 4 seem more to be inspired by the original stories. 

Even in the first book, though, there are significant differences. For example, young Caine is still sweeping the grounds at age 16 and hasn't started technical training yet! Also, the Imperial Guards burn down the Shaolin Temple in this version of the pilot. The book also mentions "akido" [sic] on page 72.

I would only try to acquire these if you are a serious fan.

Honorable Mentions

I wanted to mention a few other books that fit with this theme. 

The first is David Carradine's autobiography, Endless Highway, first published in 1995 but now also available as a Kindle edition. I bought a hardcover and read it a few years ago. I need to read it again in light of the third book I will mention.

The second is Mr Carradine's story of filming Kill Bill, titled The Kill Bill Diary, published in 2007 but also available as a Kindle (which is what I read). I also need to re-read this book.

The third is David Carradine, The Eye of My Tornado by Mr Carradine's 4th wife Marina Anderson, published in 2010. This book contains the "dirt" that made headlines following Mr Carradine's unfortunate death in 2009. It seems he was a fairly damaged individual who made a series of bad life choices and relied on his charm, charisma, and substance abuse to navigate life. RIP Mr Carradine.

Back in the 1990s, however, these two were the big TV and film kung fu stars I watched:

Thanks to Ms Anderson's site for the two photos.


My recommended title for this month is The Kung Fu Book of Caine by Herbie J. Pilato. While it is out of print, used copies are available for reasonable prices.

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