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.

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