Upcoming: CITY OF DEVILS by Paul French (Picador/riverrun)

FrenchP-CityOfDevilsUSI’ve only recently started to read Paul French‘s books. I’ve been aware of his stuff for a long while, but this past Christmas I went on a Penguin China Special reading-binge, which meant I finally read two of French’s titles: Betrayal in ParisThe Badlands and Bloody Saturday — all three of which were excellent.* I promptly bought Midnight in Peking (for myself and family members), and will read it very soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d some information about his next non-fiction book, City of Devils. here’s the synopsis:

1930s Shanghai could give Chicago a run for its money. In the years before the Japanese invaded, the city was a haven for outlaws from all over the world: a place where pasts could be forgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, fortunes made — and lost.

‘Lucky’ Jack Riley was the most notorious of those outlaws. An ex-Navy boxing champion, he escaped from prison in the States, spotted a craze for gambling and rose to become the Slot King of Shanghai. Ruler of the clubs in that day was ‘Dapper’ Joe Farren — a Jewish boy who fled Vienna’s ghetto with a dream of dance halls. His chorus lines rivalled Ziegfeld’s and his name was in lights above the city’s biggest casino.

In 1940 they bestrode the Shanghai Badlands like kings, while all around the Solitary Island was poverty, starvation and genocide. They thought they ruled Shanghai; but the city had other ideas. This is the story of their rise to power, their downfall, and the trail of destruction they left in their wake. Shanghai was their playground for a flickering few years, a city where for a fleeting moment even the wildest dreams seemed possible.

In the vein of true crime books whose real brilliance is the recreation of a time and place, this is an impeccably researched narrative non-fiction told with superb energy and brio, as if James Ellroy had stumbled into a Shanghai cathouse.

City of Devils is due to be published in July by Picador in North America (Raincoast in Canada), and in June by riverrun in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

 

* The Penguin Specials series is fantastic in general: around 100 pages or so, compact and focused non-fiction narratives. I’d highly recommend them. They appear to be focusing on a different theme every year (or so). Last year, for example, they released a handful of Hong Kong Specials, which I’ll be buying and reading very soon.

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DC Comics Takes Aim at Chinese Market…?

NewSuperMan-Art-01&02

I haven’t been reading much coverage of DC Comics’ upcoming “Rebirth”, but I just stumbled across this title: New Super-Man. From the synopsis, it would appear that DC are aiming to crack the (no-doubt) growing Chinese comics market. Or just to capitalize on the growing awareness of China in contemporary society/politics/economics. The first story-arc, “Made in China” takes the DC universe in a potentially interesting direction — a new, “Justice League of China”…

“Made in China” Chapter One.

An impulsive act of heroism thrusts an arrogant young man into the limelight of Shanghai as China begins to form its own Justice League of powerful heroes. Rising from the ashes of The Final Days of Superman, award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang and on-the-rise art star Victor Bogdanovic introduce readers to Kong Kenan — the New Super-Man! When the world needed a new hero, China made him!

As someone who has studied China and Chinese history and politics for over a decade, this could be a really interesting title. Also, the fact that China made their own Super-Man is amusing — given the long history of Chinese manufacturers’ tendency to replicate Western creations (just as each new rising power has done, throughout history), this seems entirely apt.

New Super-Man #1 is due to be published on July 13th, #2 on August 10th. Here’s the synopsis for the second issue:

“Made in China” Chapter Two.

The New Super-Man must face off against the Justice League of China? When Kenan Kong was imbued with the powers of Superman, he didn’t waste any time using them! Now it’s up to the New Bat-Man and New Wonder-Woman of his home country to bring our hero back down to earth-just in time to stop the attack of the deadly Sunbeam!

Guest Review: THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu (Tor Books)

Liu-ThreeBodyProblemA satisfying start to a Hugo Award-winning Sci-Fi trilogy

With the scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day, Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple-award-winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

It is hard to believe that The Three-Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo award for best novel. Not because it isn’t deserving of the accolade — it is — but because, when I read it, I felt like I was reading a classic work of Science Fiction. The Three-Body Problem tackles the classic genre idea of whether or not there is other intelligent life in the universe. While the book is rooted in a question that could be traced back to the earliest beginnings of the genre, this book takes a markedly different and unique approach from the very first page. Continue reading

Trailer: EMPERORS ONCE MORE by Duncan Jepson (Quercus)

Duncan Jepson wrote a guest post for CR before Emperors Once More was originally released last year. Tomorrow, the paperback is published, and to mark the occasion he has made a new trailer for the book:

JepsonD-EmperorsOnceMoreHere’s the synopsis:

Hong Kong, August 2017.

On the eve of a crisis summit for world economic leaders, two Chinese Methodist ministers are killed in an apparently motiveless execution in Hong Kong’s financial district. Luck makes Detective Alex Soong one of the first officers at the scene.

Yet Soong begins to suspect his involvement to be more than incidental, and the crime itself more than a senseless assassination: an instinct that is proven correct when Soong is contacted by a mysterious figure, and more massacres follow.

With the eyes of the world’s media fixed on Hong Kong, Soong must race to intercept his tormentor, and thwart a conspiracy born from one of the bloodiest confrontations of China’s past, which now threatens to destroy a fragile world order.

Guest Post: “Influences & Inspirations” by Duncan Jepson

JepsonDuncan-AuthorPic1During the last 150 years, China and the West have collided many times, virtually always on Chinese soil, and their relationship is heavily coloured by this history. Many in Asia are choosing and building their futures motivated by their own and their family’s experiences, ambitions and histories, much of it unclear and unknown to most in the West. The relationship between China and West is set to become more intense and complicated and we have to hope these two sides will work together rather than tear the world apart.

The story of Emperors Once More is about the collision of these different motivations and forces in China and among Chinese people, set against their position on the world stage. On a national level, the government is tasked with maintaining a union of a billion plus people so it does not crumble into chaos again, fighting the very human feeling of humiliation from centuries of defeat, both personal and national, the need to re-establish respect on the world stage, the clashes that will arise from the very practical need to obtain vital resources for the future and China’s new role in the global order. The story is also about those very personal experiences such as migration, subservience, colonialism, aspiration, ideology, revolution and tradition.

JepsonD-EmperorsOnceMore

This is also personal to me. As a Eurasian, I have often found myself stuck awkwardly in geography, sometimes feeling at home in no place in particular but persistently trying to be comfortable in both East and West. I have watched the older generation in Hong Kong, those having lived and grown up under colonial rule, feel the weight of a heavy glass ceiling whether due to limited education, lack of understanding of the governing culture or, at times, simply by race. To some there is a deep frustration and resentment to having been treated as what they feel is a foreigner in their own home. Thankfully the world has moved on and a young generation of Chinese don’t see themselves this way – many are now of a new global generation.

The premise of Emperors Once More is that, in 2017, China has bailed out the West, but the West has defaulted on its debt. For many Chinese, this has the same strong sense of bitterness as the humiliations of the Opium War, Rape of Nanjing and Boxer Rebellion. One man in Hong Kong, deeply affected by colonialism, wants to use this new collective anger and indignation to push Chinese to demand China use its global power to reclaim its rightful place in the world order. To achieve these ends, he will draw on both ancient rites and modern technology to commit a series of killings and provoke national rage.

I wanted a criminal with a purpose and an anger that is rooted deep in history and personal experiences, believing there are wrongs to be righted, and a hero who is of a new different world who sees a better future that does not have to pay for the past. I hope that this story pulls the reader into a full-bloodied crime tale while drawing on Chinese history, culture and mysticism.

***

Duncan Jepson is the award-winning director, producer and writer of five feature films. He also produced documentaries for Discovery Channel Asia and National Geographic Channel. He was the editor of the Asia-based fashion magazine West East and a founder and managing editor of Asia Literary Review. He is a social commentator on Asia and regularly writes for The New York Times, Publishing Perspectives and South China Morning Post. A lawyer by profession, he lives in Hong Kong.

Jepson’s Emperors Once More is out now, published in the UK by Quercus Books. Jepson is also the author of All the Flowers in Shanghai. Be sure to follow Duncan on Twitter and Goodreads.

Want to Read: “Jack of Spies” by David Downing (Old Street)

DowningD-JackOfSpiesA twist on the “Upcoming” posts that I frequently write, I’m going to start posting a few more of these – looking at novels that are already out that I really want to read. Some of these will be recently-released books that I just happened to miss, but I’ll also be featuring older titles that I’ve only just stumbled across, or have been meaning to read for years.

I’ve never read anything by David Downing, and I’m not really sure why. It is probably just down to the fact that I get so many books these days that, if it doesn’t arrive in the post, or isn’t from an established series that I’ve been following for some time, I often just can’t get around to it. David Downing, however, I have been aware of (he is the author of the Station series of spy novels), just never had the money to buy the books when I was reminded of them. Jack Of Spies may just change this. It is the first in a new World War I espionage series, and it sounds really good:

Jack McColl is a globe-trotting salesman for a luxury car firm. He is also a part-time spy for the fledgling Secret Service on the eve of the First World War, doing London’s bidding wherever internal or external enemies threaten the security of the British Empire. As 1913 ends he is in China, checking out the German naval base at Tsingtao between automobile demonstrations in Peking and Shanghai. Caitlin Hanley is a young Irish-American journalist with the sort of views that most British men would find dangerously advanced. McColl is no exception, but once captivated he finds himself unwilling to give her up – even when Caitlin’s radical politics and family connections threaten to compromise his undeclared career as a spy. Then the pair become involved in a plot that threatens the Empire in its hour of greatest need…

I’m very intrigued by this. Anyone read it? Also, how great is that cover?