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.
Q: Please tell us about This Is a Bust, and what inspired you to write it.
A: This Is a Bust is the first book in a series set in Manhattan's Chinatown in 1976. I was inspired by my own outsider status (as a suburban Asian American) to write about another outsider (a Chinese American cop). The year was also special as America was turning 200 but also grappling with self-doubt in terms of the Vietnam War, while the old rival leaders in the Chinese Civil War were dead and dying. Everything was changing for the U.S. and China, and Chinatown was a bit of a meeting place of it all.
Q: What themes do you explore in This Is a Bust?
A: I like to explore the little guy's story. Every man is an island, at times. It's easy to get caught up in our own struggles without seeing the bigger picture. One way we can figure out our own problems is to help others. Also, Asian Americans are not a model minority. I know plenty of unmotivated idiots who do dumb things, and my character is a bit of that end.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I am compelled to write. Even if I weren't being published, I'd be writing. If I feel a story coming on, I have to write it or I can't sleep.
Q: How picky are you with language?
A: I am sorta picky. Have you ever eaten a loaded burger that has one condiment or topping you don't like? If the burger is super great, I wouldn't bother scooping out the mayonnaise. But if it was just okay, I'd reach for a spoon and break that puppy open. I feel the same way about a story and I generally allow dialog to be as messy as a burger that a disgruntled teen would assemble, because it's real.
Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
A: No, I'm being worked over by the power of caffeine and the voice in my head that says, "You suck!"
Q: What is your worst time as a writer? A: When I'm actually writing! I feel like I'm plugging away, not getting anything done and everything is terrible. Well, after about several months of getting nothing done, there's enough writing to whip up a first draft.
Q: Your best?
A: Getting that first draft done and being able to lift my head in wonder at the sunlight and the skies again.
Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
A: Never. I will always write. Even if I were laid out in a hospital bed, if I can tap my nose to a touchscreen, I will do it! The Diving Bell and the Butterfly!
Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
A: So far, maybe getting a physical copy of that first book. It was amazing to hold that thing in my hands, words that had been spinning in my hard drive.
Q: Is writing an obsession to you?
A: YES. Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way? A: Anything I can think of has been built from my experience with the world, so in that sense, my stories are collaboratively produced between me and all the people I've ever interacted with.
Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
A: Here's a dirty secret about me: I rarely drink. But if I did, I'm pretty sure that I would feel that reality is a process of destroying ourselves. Not only physically, but our old ideas dry up and flake off, as well. It's a creative destruction, really. If we resisted change and letting things go, we'd all be hoarders and die horrible, lonely deaths under collapsed towers of stuff.
Q: Where is your book available?
A: At all reputable outlets.
Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
A: This is me: www.edlinforpresident.com.
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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