First published in 1961, this was one of Khu Lung's early works. From articles I had read, I had an impression that his works before The Remarkable Twins in 1967 were unworthy to read. However, I think the Tale of A Wandering Swordsman is enjoyable to read.
I wonder why for the English title 'a wandering swordsman' was chosen. The main characters were 2 swordsmen, although one of them was not 'wandering', because he was the son of a wealthy man, meant he had a big home.
The two main characters were Liong It-hiong and Pang Bun-hiong. They were of the same age, about 25 years old. [More or less they were of the same age as the author.] Liong It-hiong was known as The Dragon and Pang Bun-hiong as The Tiger. They both enjoyed good life and frequented brothels, definitely not model swordsmen, at least in the moral aspect. From their first meeting, they competed with each other, tried to find which one of them was the best swordsman. As time passed, the duel never came, instead they became good friends and helped each other.
Liong It-hiong met a dying old man when he was on his way for a duel with Pan Bun-hiong. The dying old man gave him a little black box and asked him to deliver it to a certain hill, the headquarters of a powerful group of bandits led by a mysterious man. Along the way, many people tried to rob the black box away from him. The rumour was the black box contained a treasure map belonged to a well-known previous bandit leader, Oh Kiam-lam. The ones who wanted the black box were mainly Oh Kiam-lam's seven sworn-brothers, who had taken his place after his death.
In wuxia stories, a promise should not be broken, so Liong It-hiong did whatever it took to deliver the black box, although he didn't know what was inside. He also had a task from a retired detective to find a prostitute named Giok-nio, who later turned out to be Oh Kiam-lam's sister. Until the end I didn't fully understand what the black box contained, perhaps I missed the part when it was mentioned, or perhaps it was really empty - because it was merely a trap to lure Oh Kiam-lam's seven brothers to kill each other.
The identity of the mysterious leader was easy to guess, but this little book was worth my time. The dialogues between Liong It-hiong and Pan Bun-hiong were quite funny, although not as very good as the dialogues in Khu Lung's later works i.e. The Remarkable Twins or The Legend of Coh Liu-hiang [This two are my most favourite]. People said that among the first five books (or perhaps all) of Coh Liu-hiang books, the Great Desert was the best. I myself cannot decide between The Great Desert and The Thrush, and I also liked The Legend of The Bat a lot; because Oh Thi-hoa were in those three books. In Coh Liu-hiang movies, Oh Thi-hoa was described as a wine-devil who was drunk a lot; but in the books, he was a great friend and I enjoyed reading his conversations with Coh Liu-hiang. Coh Liu-hiang was not arrogant like Sherlock Holmes and Oh Thi-hoa was not a stiff British gentleman like Dr. Watson, so although in most of those dialogues Coh Liu-hiang, as the cleverer, explained things to Oh Thi-hoa (and us readers), they were enjoyable to read, amusing and sometimes made you giggle.