This Is A Bust Virtual Tour #historial #noir

Set in New York’s Chinatown in 1976, this sharp and gritty novel is a mystery set against the backdrop of a city in turmoil

Robert Chow is a Vietnam vet and an alcoholic. He’s also the only Chinese American cop on the Chinatown beat, and the only police officer who can speak Cantonese. But he’s basically treated like a token, trotted out for ribbon cuttings and community events.
So he shouldn’t be surprised when his superiors are indifferent to his suspicions that an old Chinese woman’s death may have actually been a murder. But he sure is angry. With little more than his own demons to fuel him, Chow must take matters into his own hands.
Rich with the details of its time and place, this homage to noir will appeal to fans of S.J. Rozan and Michael Connelly.

 

January 20, 1976. The Hong Kong-biased newspaper ran an editorial about how the Chinese who had just come over were lucky to get jobs washing dishes and waiting tables in Chinatown. Their protest was making all Chinese people look bad. If the waiters didn’t like their wages, they should go ask the communists for jobs and see what happens.Here in America, democracy was going to turn 200 years old in July. But the Chinese waiters who wanted to organize a union were going directly against the principles of freedom that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln had fought for.

Those waiters were also disrespecting the previous generations of Chinese who had come over and worked so hard for so little. If it weren’t for our elders, the editorial said, today we would be lumped in with the lazy blacks and Spanish people on welfare.

I folded the newspaper, sank lower in my chair, and crossed my arms. I banged my heels against the floor.

“Just a minute, you’re next! Don’t be so impatient!” grunted Law, one of the barbers. A cigarette wiggled in his mouth as he snipped away on a somber-looking Chinese guy’s head. When he had one hand free, he took his cigarette and crushed it in the ashtray built into the arm cushion of his customer’s chair.

He reached into the skyline of bottles against the mirror for some baby powder. Law sprinkled it onto his hand and worked it into the back of the somber guy’s neck while pulling the sheet off from inside his collar. Clumps of black hair scampered to the floor as he shook off the sheet.

The customer paid. Law pulled his drawer out as far as it would go and tucked the bills into the back. Then he came over to me.

Law had been cutting my hair since I was old enough to want it cut. He was in his early 60s and had a head topped with neatly sculpted snow. His face was still soft and supple, but he had a big mole on the lower side of his left cheek.

You couldn’t help but stare at it when he had his back turned because it stood out in profile, wiggling in sync with his cigarette.

He looked at the newspaper on my lap.

“We should give all those pro-union waiters guns and send them to Vietnam!” Law grunted. “They’ll be begging to come back and bus tables.”

“They wouldn’t be able to take the humidity,” I said.

“That’s right, they’re not tough like you! You were a brave soldier! OK, come over here. I’m ready for you now,” Law said, wiping off the seat. I saw hair stuck in the foam under the ripped vinyl cover, but I sat down anyway. Hair could only make the seat softer.

“I don’t mean to bring it up, but you know it’s a real shame what happened. The Americans shouldn’t have bothered to send in soldiers, they should have just dropped the big one on them. You know, the A-bomb.”

“Then China would have dropped an A-bomb on the United States,” I said.

“Just let them! Commie weapons probably don’t even work!” Law shouted into my right ear as he tied a sheet around my neck.

“They work good enough,” I said.

When Chou En Lai had died two weeks before, the Greater China Association had celebrated with a ton of firecrackers in the street in front of its Mulberry Street offices and handed out candy to the obligatory crowd. The association had also displayed a barrel of fireworks they were going to set off when Mao kicked, which was going to be soon, they promised. Apparently, the old boy was senile and bedridden.

“Short on the sides, short on top,” I said.

“That’s how you have to have it, right? Short all around, right?” Law asked.

“That’s the only way it’s ever been cut.”

If you didn’t tell Law how you wanted your hair, even if you were a regular, he’d give you a Beefsteak Charlie’s haircut, with a part right down the center combed out with a Chinese version of VO5. I was going to see my mother in a few days, and I didn’t want to look that bad.

“Scissors only, right? You don’t like the electric clipper, right?”

“That’s right,” I said. When I hear buzzing by my ears, I want to swat everything within reach. Law’s old scissors creaked through my hair. Sometimes I had to stick my jaw out and blow clippings out of my eyes.

The barbershop’s two huge plate glass windows cut into each other at an acute angle in the same shape as the street. Out one window was the sunny half of Doyers Street. The other was in the shade. How many times had I heard that this street was the site of tong battles at the turn of the century? How many times had I heard tour guides say that the barbershop was built on the “Bloody Angle”?

The barbershop windows were probably the original ones, old enough so they were thicker at the bottom than at the top. They distorted images of people from the outside, shrinking heads and bloating asses. In the winters, steam from the hot shampoo sink covered the top halves of the windows like lacy curtains in an abandoned house.

In back of me, a bulky overhead hair dryer whined like a dentist’s drill on top of a frowning woman with thick glasses getting a perm.

The barbers had to shout to hear each other. The news station on the radio was nearly drowned out. The only time you could hear it was when they played the xylophone between segments or made the dripping-sink sounds.

If you knew how to listen for it, you could sometimes hear the little bell tied to the broken arm of the pneumatic pump on the door. The bell hung from a frayed loop of red plastic tie from a bakery box. When the bell went off, one or two barbers would yell out in recognition of an old head.

The bell went off, and Law yelled right by my ear.

“Hey!” he yelled. Two delayed “Hey”s went off to my left and right. The chilly January air swept through the barbershop. A thin man in a worn wool coat heaved the door closed behind him and twisted off his felt hat. His hands were brown, gnarled, and incredibly tiny, like walnut shells. He fingered the brim of his hat and shifted uneasily from foot to foot, but made no motion to take off his coat or drop into one of the four empty folding chairs by the shadow side of Doyers. He swept his white hair back, revealing a forehead that looked like a mango gone bad.

“My wife just died,” he said. If his lungs hadn’t been beat up and dusty like old vacuum-cleaner bags, it would have been a shout. “My wife died,” he said again, as if he had to hear it to believe it. The hairdryer shut down.

“Oh,” said Law. “I’m sorry.” He went on with my hair. No one else said anything. Someone coughed. Law gave a half-grin grimace and kept his head down, the typical stance for a Chinese man stuck in an awkward situation. The radio babbled on.

The barbers just wanted to cut hair and have some light conversation about old classmates and blackjack. Why come here to announce that your wife had died? The guy might as well have gone to the Off Track Betting joint on Bowery around the corner. No one was giving him any sympathy here.

Death was bad luck. Talking about death was bad luck. Listening to someone talk about death was bad luck. Who in Chinatown needed more bad luck?

“What should I do?” the thin man asked. He wasn’t crying, but his legs were shaking. I could see his pant cuffs sweep the laces of his polished wing tips. “What should I do?” he asked again. The xylophone on the radio went off.

I stood up and swept the clippings out of my hair. The bangs were longer on one side of my head. I slipped the sheet off from around my neck and coiled it onto the warmth of the now-vacant seat. Law opened a drawer, dropped in his scissors, and shut it with his knee. He leaned against his desk and fumbled for a cigarette in his shirt pocket.

I blew off the hair from my shield and brushed my legs off. I pushed my hat onto my head.

“Let’s go,” I told the thin man.

 

Ed Lin, a native New Yorker of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards and is an all-around standup kinda guy. His books include Waylaid, and a trilogy set in New York’s Chinatown in the 70s: This Is a Bust, Snakes Can’t Run and One Red Bastard. Ghost Month, published by Soho Crime in July 2014, is a Taipei-based mystery, and Incensed, published October 2016, continues that series.
Lin lives in Brooklyn with his wife, actress Cindy Cheung, and son.
Connect with Ed at http://www.edlinforpresident.com or on social media at:

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#Review: The Mongoliad: Book Two #historical #fiction

Goodreads

 Title:  The Mongoliad: Book Two

Series: Foreworld #2

Author: Multiple

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 464

Reading Level: Adult

Content: R (language, violence, espionage, oppression, some gore)

While I did like this story, I liked the first one better. This is a good follow-up to the first story, but things get a little out of hand with this sequel. The Shield Brethren are still trying to stop the Mongol horde, but now there are so many factions involved in this power struggle, it’s tough to decide who you’re rooting for and what exactly is going on.

I complained in my last review that the book ended with a cliffhanger, which I find I’m further annoyed that the book didn’t start there. Yes, it eventually picks up where the first book left off, but by the time it does, you can’t really remember what happened to get them there in the first place. I’m not a super-fast reader, but I realized that I had to slow down and really pay attention to be able to keep up with what was happening. For the casual reader, this may be a turn-off, but I accepted the challenge and was glad I stuck with it.

As with my last review, I really do think the story is amazing. The mixing of fact and fiction is a blur, the story, once you understand what’s happening, feels so real. I have enjoyed the introduction of more female characters, but to be honest, if they introduce anymore characters in the next book, I may not be able to follow along.

I’d recommend this book for hardcore historical fiction readers and readers who really get into the whole Renaissance thing… This is not a light read, but still enjoyable.

I give this book a 3.

See my review of The Mongoliad Book One here.

This review has been posted to GoodReads.

If you’d like a Kindle copy of this book, try this link: Amazon

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#Review : Chinese Take-out #spy #book

Goodreads

Title:  Chinese Take-out

Series: NA

Author: Ian Mathie

Genre: Historical fiction, Spy Thriller

Pages: 287

Reading Level: Adult

Content: PG-13 (war and mature themes, some sexual content/references)

I’m kicking myself for taking so long to read this book. I mean I have it in both ebook and paperback form, but hey, sometimes life gets in the way. The first thing that drew me to this book was the fact that it’s a work of fiction from an author who’s known for writing memoirs. The second thing that caught my eye was the amazing cover.

Chinese Take-out starts out seeming to be two stories running in parallel until it’s revealed later that there is more than one thing linking these two “cases” together. Yes, cases is important. Green, aka the Nose, is a “company man” who has been pulled away from his preferred assignment in China to deal with a domestic matter involving arms dealing. This is essentially an espionage thriller and if you still don’t know what “The Company” is, this may not be the book for you.

I could go into more detail about the plot to give you a big build up and still leave out the details, but I don’t want to. I want anyone who decides to pick this up to be just as surprised as I was. I will throw you a few bones just so you can see if you are truly interested. The story has: a cover-up, a rebel, a huge misunderstanding, a mentor/buddy theme, and of course spying. Also, the story takes place during the formation of The Peoples Republic of China, so seeing the characters use and try to understand technology that we’d find archaic was actually, kind of, amusing.

I loved the characters in this book. The story itself was told in such a matter-of-fact way, that the characters were the one thing you could form an emotional bond with. When these guys bounced from one mini-mission to the other, you were with them and rooting for them, not wanting to leave anyone behind. I won’t pretend this was an action packed story, but the weaving of clues and messages and secrets was riveting.

I’d say this book was written for an adult audience, but a teen with a thirst for espionage could totally get into this. This is probably a read mainly for the fellas, but hey- I loved it.

I give this book a 5.

LoveIt

This review has been posted to GoodReads.

If you’d like a Kindle copy of this book, try this link: Amazon.

Get a print copy with free international shipping at this link: Book Depository.

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#Review : Code Name Verity #YA #spy #book

Goodreads

Title:  Code Name Verity

Series: Code Name Verity #1

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Genre: Historical Fiction (WWII)

Pages: 441

Reading Level: YA

Content: PG-13 (war action and violence, intense emotion, mature themes)

This book was part of a new audio promotion, so I received it free from the distributor. I had no idea what it was about and was thoroughly pleased with what I discovered.

The story is about two female friends trying to make a place for themselves in a world dominated by men during WWII. Maddie is a pilot and the other girl has too many names for me to stick with just one, so we’ll call her Verity. Most of the story is told from Verity’s perspective as she writes to save, or at least prolong, her life once captured by the enemy. I want to say more, but I don’t want to give too much away. I’ve read a lot of books, and watched even more movies; this book, with all its twists and turns, caught me off guard and totally surprised me.

Not to give the wrong impression about this book, but it almost made me cry and not because the two main characters are female. This story feels so real that the sense of loss, which multiple characters experience throughout the story, feels all too real. To be a prisoner of war and have the choice of standing strong and die or give in and live one more day isn’t as easy as you might hope, but Verity is tougher than you ever imagine she’ll be at the beginning. In the end, though, it’s Maddie you’ll feel for the most.

Anyone, even men, who appreciate gritty stories of WWII will appreciate this book, but I think it’ll also be a crowd pleaser with women’s groups and historical clubs. I don’t know if it was written for adults, but I don’t think it really matters. These characters are so young, as are many who go off to fight wars. I would totally recommend this to my teenage nieces and nephews. After all the flying, fighting, lying, and surviving there is a strong gut-wrenching message about true friendship which should appeal to anyone.

I give this book a 5.

LoveIt

This review has been posted to GoodReads. If you’d like to obtain a copy of this book, try this link: Amazon

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

Whispers from the East by @amietheauthor Virtual Book Tour Interview by #thetoiboxofwords via @RABTBookTours #historicalnovel

Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I’m sharing a special interview with author, Amie Ali, about her fiction book entitled, Whispers from the East. Enjoy!

Amazon

Where did the idea for Whispers from the East come from?

I am a part of a support group for Western women who are born to non-Western born Muslim men. The stories I hear from the women who pass through and my friends who have committed to the group are amazing. Some are wonderful, some are terrible, and some are just like any other relationship that doesn’t cross cultural and religious barriers. I felt like these stories needed to be heard. None of the characters are based on any one person or experience. I think every woman I have spoken with that is in this type of relationship will see a bit of herself in all the characters.

How did the title of this book come about?

The title was the result of a huge amount of brainstorming. Plays on words and phrases that are catchy and memorable, in the hope it might entice a reader to look closer. Whispers from the East was a title that I was excited about the moment it was presented to me. This is the story of three women with ties to South Asia, a land they have been drawn to through their experiences and love lives. One was born there, and two were gently coaxed. There were no loud sirens or declarations to the East…just the whispers of their hearts.

What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?

The book is Literary Fiction under the sub-genres of Historical Fiction and Women’s Fiction. I didn’t choose the genres, the genres chose me!

What would you say is the overall message or the theme of this book?

The overall message is that there are many, many different kinds of love. It doesn’t fit into a box. People have different expectations on what a relationship and a marriage should be like, and no matter where you are in the world, ultimately we are all looking for love.

Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take.

I’ve actually only been asked this once before and even I find the answer to be quite shocking. I wrote Whispers from the East in under 90 days. Once I started, it just poured out of my soul.

Who is the protagonist of this story?

There are three women in this book who all share the role of protagonist, and they are Ammi, Carolyn, and Ivy. Ammi is the Pakistani mother of three sons, two of whom immigrate to America and eventually marry Carolyn and Ivy. The story is told from the point of view of each woman.

Who is the antagonist of this story?

The antagonists are misconception and miscommunication. All of the protagonists have their own internal battles to fight, and their inner struggles are the only antagonists in Whispers from the East. And those demons are fierce!

Where and when is this story taking place?

There are three distinctive time settings and three locations the stories take place. Ammi is a migrant in the 1947 Partition of India, so we see her move during that time from New Delhi, India to Lahore, Pakistan, where she raises her family. We then meet Carolyn in the 1970’s San Francisco Bay, followed by Ivy, in 1980’s Florida.

Who is your favorite character in this book?

Ammi is central in the story and, as their mother-in-law, in the lives of Carolyn and Ivy. She’s definitely the one who pulls at my heart strings the most.

Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?

You know, it’s almost impossible to not have bits of yourself in what you write. Where Amie Ali is in Whispers from the East is in the scenery. I have traveled pretty extensively and that tends to translate onto the pages. It would be hard to write about a place I have never experienced first hand, but thankfully, I don’t have to!

What is one thing from this book you wish was real or could happen to you?

I wish I could buy canned chickpeas instead of uncooked, but my husband wouldn’t go for that!

Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature length film; quick- cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.

I have THREE main characters and I’d give them to: Mahira Khan (young Ammi), Amanda Seyfried (Carolyn), and Anna Kendrick (Ivy).

As for the score, I’d have to leave that in the expert hands of Hans Zimmer.

Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?

While Whispers from the East is a stand alone and not the start of a series, I do have a tie-in to follow it that will be out next year. Exciting!

~

Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. To obtain your copy of Whispers from the East, a Reader’s Favorite, please visit the links provided.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords