Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writer Friend Tim Hallinan*

(The latest in an occasional series, *with a HT to the fabulous Rejectionist!)

So a few months ago, I read on one of my regular blog stops that Tim Hallinan was coming over to Soho Press and bringing the next volume in his critically acclaimed Poke Rafferty series with him. I'd long heard of Tim and the series, which is set in Bangkok, but had been incredibly remiss about reading it. Still, I was excited to hear that he'd be a Soho label-mate, because as I've mentioned in the past, Soho is awesome, and it's exciting to have another wonderful author published by one's publisher, because, through the transitive law of logic, if Soho is awesome, and Tim is awesome, and I am published by Soho, then that makes me awesome. Or something.

Tim read my book (I think it came in his "Welcome!" basket from Soho) and then wrote a lovely review of it. And since Tim lives not far from me in Los Angeles, and I'm making it a mission to meet as many writer-types as I can so that I'm not just sitting at home talking to myself (or the cats), we arranged to have coffee. And I was delighted to discover that Tim is indeed awesome, one of the funniest people I've met in years, and also extremely smart, thoughtful, and caring.

Case in point: his remarkable effort in putting together an anthology to benefit victims of the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami, SHAKEN. Go check this out, people. 20 original short stories written by some of the biggest names in crime fiction. I don't even want to give an example, because every single one of these contributors is top-notch. And 100% of the profits go to Japan relief, including Amazon's share. It's absolutely amazing, full of great reads, and for an incredibly worthy cause—and you get all that for $3.99.

But what about Poke Rafferty? Well, I got my hands on Tim's latest, THE QUEEN OF PATPONG. And...

It's wonderful. No joke. I mean, I should not have been surprised that a novel that was nominated for an Edgar Award (and more recently, a Macavity) is a good book, but my tastes don't always run with the crowd, and besides, QUEEN OF PATPONG is a book that sets out to do something with a high degree of difficulty—get into the history and head of one of the continuing characters, Rose, and her journey as a teenager from a countryside village to the bars of Bangkok. There are so many ways that trying to tell the story of a former Thai sex worker could have gone very wrong—I'll mention the tendency of some westerners (okay, some western men) to idealize the lives of these women (and in some cases their own participation in the exploitation), but this long section dealing with Rose's past is so compelling and so believable that I basically forgot about the thriller portion of the story and was in no hurry to get back to it.

But then when I did, well, I have to say, the ending is just killer. I don't want to give it away, but it's one of the most, I'm not going to say anything else. Just that it will make a great, great movie in your head! Go read it!

As I reflect on my experiences post-publication, I realize that one of the true pleasures of this gig is getting to meet other authors, and meeting Tim has been a real highlight.

Do check out his work—it's not just good, it's also worthwhile.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

New SAN DIEGO NOIR events! And off to Oregon!

I'm doing a couple more events for SAN DIEGO NOIR — the first at the wonderful Bay Books in Coronado on June 23rd, the second at the Ocean Beach Branch of the San Diego Public Library on June 25—I don't have a time for that yet, but since it's Saturday, I'm assuming during the day.

Two things writing this brief post made me think about...

First, independent bookstores are awesome. You've probably heard me say that before. I had such a great time at the Mysterious Galaxy Birthday Bash—an event like this, where literally hundreds of loyal customers turned out to celebrate Mysterious Galaxy, its role in the community, in bringing authors and readers and books together, really brings home the value of local bookstores. Bay Books is another San Diego treasure—an absolutely lovely store on a charming street that's well-worth a visit and a stroll.

Second, libraries are awesome. And you've probably heard me say this as well. I just did a quick scroll through the San Diego Public Library's events calendar. My event isn't posted yet, but have a look anyway. The incredible diversity of the offerings is something we should all be celebrating. Libraries are repositories of our collective knowledge and aspirations, and they are centers of community—the values and resources that we hold in common. The opportunities that libraries provide all citizens, particularly those who are poor and struggling, are absolutely invaluable.

We're living in a tough time, and it's more than the bad economy. I'd call it an almost spiritual crisis (and I'm not religious). It's a collapse of the notion that we have a commons, places that belong to all of us, that we all support and that support us in times of need. Libraries, parks, schools, wilderness: all these are a part of our commons, things that shouldn't belong to individuals, but to all of us, and to our children and their children to come.

(I'd add in health care, a social safety net and a secure retirement, but I am trying to step off my soapbox, so...)

Er, Oregon. First stop on June 7, Powell's! After that, Klamath Falls, Ashland and Medford! Check my events calendar for information...hope to see some of you along the way...