It's not as scholarly as I'd like. What is fascinating about it is that the authorsÂ claim to be part of an unbroken oral tradition and on this account it comes across as pretty convincing.
The authors claim that all the Abbots of Shaolin Temple fled China by 1910 and many of them rendezvoused in New York (yes, a knife a fork a bottle and cork.) They abandoned their robes, grew their hair out, and started teaching 'indoor' students. Wow.
The main part of their teaching was a unique lineage of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism. But they also taught martial arts (yeah.)
They dis' a little on all the Shaolin circus clowns coming out of the Chinese "Temple" these days, which makes for good reading. I'm hugely pro-circus, so I think it's funny, but they seriously wish that "their" name was not used irresponsibly.
Anyway, the book goes into depth on the martial and religious code of Shaolin Ch'an. It dives into a full accounting of what was actually taught and when (remember "Oral" history here, not documented, but still fascinating.)
The short section on Philosophy was a bit of a yawn, and the authors sometimes sound preachy. However, I think their basic premise, that Shaolin is a religious tradition with martial arts as an historical side-car is correct.
If you do any kind of Shaolin Quan, you should own this book.