The Sand Pebbles Author:Richard McKenna The Harper Prize Novel for 1962. The Yangtze River in China in the 1920s. A U.S. Navy gunboat patrolling those waters, resented by the Chinese and the job resented by the American sailors. The clash between the American sailors who let the Chinese work crews run their boat and the American machinist's mate who insists on running his own engin... more »e compartment. A love story. A war story. And mostly, the story of Jake Holman, the young man caught in the middle.