Over the next few weeks I'm planning to highlight half a dozen fantasy novels that concern dragons and deserve to be more well-known. Next time I intend to talk about the Dragon and the George – but this post is about Tea with the Black Dragon, by RA MacAvoy.
The novel is set in modern-day San Francisco, where Martha MacNamara is looking for her daughter, a computer programmer. (I would add this novel is from an age when computers were still rare and extraordinary). Whilst searching, she meets Mr Long, an oriental gentleman of considerable style and intelligence. As the story progresses, we are led to wonder whether Mr Long is actually an ancient oriental black dragon with a face like a chrysanthemum. He has five fingers, which is the mark of a scholar. Part of what makes the novel work so well is that we never actually know for certain that Oolong is a dragon (though it seems more than likely). The fantasy elements creep into the novel delicately and subtly, and work extraordinarily well.
Mayland Long himself is a lovely character with bags of personality. To be fair, Martha is also a very strong character, too, and the interplay between them works extremely well. The actual plot is relatively straightforward, but the character of Oolong is the greatest strength of the book.
I enjoyed the book immensely – and found out much later that it was included in David Pringle's top 100 fantasy novels of the twentieth century. And it deserves its place in that august company.