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Thursday, October 05, 2006

When Red Is Black

I've read and enjoyed Qiu Xiaolong's novels, and I think he has a new one out that I haven't read yet. Recently an NPR interview with Qiu says that his novels "are gaining a faithful following, as much for their whodunit storylines as for their portrait of China in transition."

Another excerpt from the interview:

"Qiu's hero, the poetry-loving Chief Inspector Chen, pounds the pavement as he pursues murderers, triad members and corrupt officials.
Qiu is an accidental writer of thrillers. He originally made a name for himself translating T.S. Eliot's poetry and William Faulkner's novels. When he started writing his first Inspector Chen book, he didn't even realize he was writing a mystery until he'd finished."


His intention was to write a novel about contemporary China, a China in transition, and he certainly did, but the novel turned into a mystery with a detective who is caught in the midst of the changing attitudes. Qiu's own father was a victim of his own success when the Cultural Revolution was in full swing; now China celebrates business success. An irony that is not lost on Qiu who now lives in St. Louis, but who regularly visits Shanghai.

These mysteries are revealing and frightening. I simply cannot imagine the mental dexterity required in dealing with the changing political attitudes that China has undergone.

14 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

Ah -- an author I've never heard of, who sounds very interesting. I must check it out!

jenclair said...

I've enjoyed them as much for the atmosphere as for the mysteries!

Danielle said...

I really like these Soho Press books. I have read some of the mystery writers they publish, but none of the Asian writers. This sounds interesting!

jenclair said...

Danielle - The covers are really nice, aren't they? They aren't actually the covers that were on the copies I read, but I like these so much that I used them.

booklogged said...

Everything I've read about China and Cultural Revolution has been nonfiction. The idea of murder mysteries in the aftermath of Mao have my interest. Thanks, Jenclair, for bringing these to my attention.

jenclair said...

Cheya, I still have Red Scarf Girl and Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China on my list.

And Eliot Pattison has written some marvelous books about a Chinese detective sentenced to a labor camp in Tibet. You would like these as well.

booklogged said...

I need to take the time to reread my comments before submitting them. Just noticed my verb doesn't agree with my subject in my earlier comment.

Jenclair, you will enjoy them when you do get to them. All in good time. One of things I love about reading is that you always learn things. Bit by bit new knowledge begins to hold hands with older knowledge. Bridges and foundations are built. I checked with my library and they have both books you mention. I'm looking forward to reading them.

jenclair said...

Cheya, it is such an exciting way of learning, isn't it? You learn a lot through reading fictional accounts, then move one to the non-fiction accounts to learn more.

"Bit by bit new knowledge begins to hold hands with older knowledge." Great way to put it!

The Traveller said...

I've never heard of this guy - I'll have to look him out. I did my undergrad dissertation on classic Chinese murder mysteries, so it'll be interesting to read some modern ones and see if there's any cross over.

jenclair said...

Traveller, I like to hear more about classic Chinese murder mysteries! Hope you will enlighten us (and, uh, list some examples :])

Carl V. said...

Chen must be the Chinese equivalent of 'Smith' here in America. I recently read and loved a sci-fi/mystery/fantasy/detective hybrid of a book called The Snake Agent by Liz Williams in which her lead character is Detective Inspecter Chen. Good book. The sequel is out and on my 'to read' list.

jenclair said...

Carl, thanks for the suggestion. I just looked Williams' novels and even love the covers! Love the supernatural aspect. I WANT SOME.

Carl V. said...

My review is here if you are interested:

http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=447

jenclair said...

Carl's review of The Snake Agent certainly put this novel on my Must Read list. Mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and the supernatural all rolled into one!