Friday, October 3, 2014

9mm interview with Qiu Xiaolong

Along with a lack of Australians in the first few years of 9mm, the 'state of the union' back in July showed that I was a little light on representatives of Asian crime writing as well. There's a burgeoning array of terrific authors setting their books in Asia, which is a rich, layered setting filled with intrigue, and a place that may seem very exotic to many English-speaking readers.

Today I have the pleasure of sharing my recent interview with an icon of Asian crime fiction: Qiu Xiaolong. Born and raised in China, Xiaolong moved to the United States for postgraduate study in 1988, and remained there following the fallout from the Tiananmen Square massacre. A newspaper apparently reported on Xialong's previous fundraising efforts for Chinese students, and he was forced to remain in America to avoid persecution by the Communist Government. Xiaolong published his first English-language crime novel, DEATH OF A RED HEROINE, in 2000. The story introduces his recurring hero, poet and policeman Chief Inspector Chen Cao, and focuses on the investigation of a murder of a national model worker.

Xiaolong's detective stories are acclaimed for the way in which they blend an interesting mystery, with comments on contemporary China, as the burgeoning superpower was struggling to shift from old world socialism to new world capitalism, with all the trials and tribulations that entails. Xiaolong's debut won him the Anthony Award in 2001 for Best First Novel, as well as a nomination for an Edgar Award.

But for now, Qiu Xiaolong is the 87th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Qiu Xiaolong

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo because it showed me that crime fiction can be written with a sociological approach. It really influences my own writing. Consequently, Inspector Martin Beck becomes something of a model for Inspector Chen.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The first English novel I read toward the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was Random Harvest by James Hilton. Those years, the Chinese books available were mostly political propaganda or Mao books, but that British novel really showed me a different world. Years later I bought another copy in the States, possibly for sentimental reasons.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
Before my crime novels in English, I used to write in Chinese, poems and short stories. I had a book of literary criticism as well as several books of literary translations published in China. I also had the galley for a collection of Chinese poems in 1989, but because of what happened in Tiananmen Square Beijing that year, the publication was canceled.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Fishing, walking, playing the go chess games...

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
As for my hometown Shanghai, it's a city with a complicated juxtaposition of the past and present. For non-superficial understanding of the city, tourist brochures are not enough. There are a lot of books available for the purpose. The Inspector Chen may also be a readable alternative.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I've not thought about this question. For me, it's always the impersonal theory by T. S. Eliot. No point identifying the man in real life with the author in writing.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
Perhaps Mandarin Dress, and that for a special reason. I like to play go chess, in the game a player may make conventional moves, or moves only possible by him. Now these may not be the best ones, but unique to him. And in Mandarin Dress, I've made a couple of such moves.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
I could hardly believe it when my publisher called me and left a message on my phone about her decision less than a month after I sent it to her, and that without an agent.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
I've just come back from Semana Negra, a literary festival in Gijon, Spain. During the festival, I took a walk along the beach, and I was stopped by a young blind reader walking with his parents who recognized me. He said he likes my books, and that he is concerned that I was walking alone there. He offered to be my guide in the city, and my companion if I felt lonely, and we walked there for about an hour. It's true that writing can be lonely, but the moments like this with your readers make it worthwhile...

Thank you Qiu Xiaolong. We appreciate you taking the time to chat with Crime Watch


You can discover more about Qiu Xiaolong and his books here:


Comments welcome. 

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