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Author Recommendation: Ed Lin

Who the hell is that: From his website, “Ed Lin is the author of several books and is an all-around standup kinda guy. Waylaid and This Is a Bust were both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and both were widely praised. Both also won the Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His third book, Snakes Can’t Run, was published by Minotaur Books in April 2010; it was loved by many and also won an Asian American Literary Award. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards.”

Waylaid: Waylaid is the story of a Taiwanese/Chinese American boy struggling to grow up amidst the drudgery and sexual innuendo of his parents’ sleazy motel on the Jersey Shore. Conscripted into the family business, the protagonist spends his summer days and afterschool hours renting out rooms to johns and hookers, lonely old men, and families whose homes have been repossessed. He becomes obsessed with losing his virginity, a preoccupation whose very intensity reflects a society that delivers sex as a distraction from despair. In its blackly humorous exploration of immigrant dreams and working class realities, Waylaid is a switchblade in the gut to stories of overachievement and success that ignore the human cost.

This Is A Bust: A Vietnam vet and an alcoholic, Robert Chow’s troubles are compounded by the fact that he’s basically community-relations window-dressing for the NYPD: he’s the only Chinese American on the Chinatown beat, and the only police officer who can speak Cantonese, but he’s never assigned anything more challenging than appearances at store openings or community events. Chow is willing to stuff down his feelings and hang tight for a promotion to the detective track, despite the community unrest that begins to roil around him. But when his superiors remain indifferent to an old Chinese woman’s death, he is forced to take matters into his own hands. This Is a Bust is at once a murder mystery, a noir homage and a devastating, uniquely nuanced portrait of a neighborhood in flux, stuck between old rivalries and youthful idealism.

Snakes Can’t Run: It’s a hot summer in New York’s Chinatown in 1976 and Robert Chow, the Chinese-American detective son of an illegal immigrant, takes on a new breed of ruthless human smugglers — snakeheads — when two bodies of smuggled Chinese are found dead under the Brooklyn Bridge overpass. But as Robert comes closer to finding some answers, he discovers a dark secret in his own family’s past.

One Red Bastard: Just months after Chow broke up a human smuggling operation in New York’s Chinatown, his girlfriend, Lonnie, gets the chance to interview a representative for Mao’s daughter, Li Na, who may be seeking asylum in the U.S. (It is 1976. Mao is dead, Madame Mao is in prison for her membership in the Gang of Four, and the People’s Republic is in turmoil.) But shortly after the interview, the representative is murdered, and Lonnie is the last person who saw him alive. Chow, on track to become a detective after joining the NYPD to be the sole Chinese face of the police in Chinatown, suddenly finds clearing Lonnie his top priority.

Why the Hell Should I Read His Books: Lin’s a master of dialogue and his Robert Chow mysteries are the best detective series I have ever read, ever. He brings a period and place of time to life like I’ve never seen before. Ed Lin’s books are the sole reason why I started the Author Recs on this page. Need help with dialogue? Want some ideas on interesting mysteries? You’ve got to read Ed Lin.

Okay, You’ve Convinced Me, Where the Hell do I Buy Them: Check out his website, and his amazon page.

(All book descriptions have been taken directly from his webpage, please please please read his books, you will not be sorry.)

1 note

reading: “This is a bust,” by Ed Lin, a murder mystery with a NYPD detective of Chinese descent as a main character, set in 1976 Chinatown. 

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