Born in Missouri in 1883, Crow worked as a journalist before being recommended by a former teacher to join a new daily newspaper in Shanghai. Taking a leap of faith, he moved to China in 1911 and quickly won his first scoop as the only foreign reporter invited to cover negotiations between the ailing Qing dynasty and Sun Yat-sen's revolutionaries. It didn't seem to matter that he couldn't speak a word of Chinese. His hosts were more interested in looking open to the outside world and having someone present to record their English puns. Intermittently working as a writer, advertising man and China pundit, Crow ascended the ranks of the Shanghai foreign community, rising to head various clubs and business councils. He even worked as a hostage negotiator after a local warlord kidnapped a large number of foreign travellers and held them to ransom. The dramatic episode was turned into a Hollywood film in 1932 called Shanghai Express. His staunch anti-Japanese views, however, brought him into conflict with fellow American businessmen, and as late as 1937 he was being told to keep quiet about the inevitability of any invasion. That August Japanese bombs started raining down on Shanghai, forcing Crow to head back to the US. He was never to return to the city. During the war he was involved in intelligence efforts for the Allies, including a stint in Chongqing as a reporter before the US entered the war. He died in 1945.