Originally conceived as a film treatment, Fan Tan is a tale of high adventure set in set in the 1920s, the story of a sailor in the South China Sea who meets a beautiful Chinese woman pirate. The movie was never made because Brando changed his mind about starring in it, but eventually Brando and Cammell turned the idea into a book-length manuscript. Ed Victor sold the novel to Pan back in 1983, but before publication Brando changed his mind again, shelved the project, and in 1986, returned the signature advance. Donald Cammell committed suicide in 1996, but after Brando's death, Cammell's widow decided to pursue publication. So, even before the tale of piracy and adventure begins, the book itself has quite a story of its own. It reveals a new side of Brando's talents, a classic page-turner in the tradition of James Clavell.
Marlon Brando was one of the biggest Hollywood stars of his generation, an international film idol and star of classic films from On The Waterfront and Last Tango in Paris to The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Cult screenwriter and director Donald Cammell wrote Nic Roeg's Performance and directed the SF classic Wild Seed, among other films.