– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Mongkok Station’ blogtour, organised by Damppebbles Blog Tour.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
Jake Needham is an American lawyer who became a screen and television writer through a series of coincidences too ridiculous for anyone to believe. When he realized he didn’t really like movies and television all that much, he started writing crime novels.
Mr. Needham has lived in Asia for thirty years and has published twelve novels that have collectively sold more than three-quarters of a million copies. He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Bangkok and Washington DC.
A city that’s falling apart, a man who’s falling apart, and a girl with a secret past who has disappeared without a trace. What complicates things is that the missing girl is the daughter of one of the most powerful men in America. She just doesn’t know it.
Hong Kong is teetering on the edge of anarchy. Violent street battles are raging between riot police and mobs demanding democracy.
Samuel Tay is a legendary Singapore homicide detective. He’s retired, but it was purely involuntary. It seems his legend made a lot of senior officers uneasy and they wanted him gone. John August is an American who has shadowy connections to the intelligence community. He’s done Tay a lot of favors in the past, and Tay owes him one.
When August asks Tay to come to Hong Kong to track down the missing girl, Tay doesn’t much want to go. August and his friends deal in the fate of nations. Tay deals with personal tragedies, one human being at a time. Even worse, he doesn’t like Hong Kong and, to be completely honest, he’s not all that fond of Americans either.
Regardless, Tay answers August’s call for help. He’s a man who honors his debts, his forced retirement really sucks, and there’s this woman… well, there’s always a woman in there somewhere, isn’t there?
August thinks that the triads may have kidnapped the missing girl. Tay doesn’t have the sources to get inside the Hong Kong triads so August teams him up with Jack Shepherd, an American lawyer living in Hong Kong who just might be the only white guy on the planet the triads trust.
Tay is considerably less than thrilled by that. Here he is in a city that seems only moments away from going up in flames, everybody is certain the missing girl is dead, and now he’s stuck with all these Americans. Can things get any worse than that? Oh yes, they absolutely can.
Tay has developed symptoms that indicate he may be very seriously ill. For everybody, there is always a last time around the track whether they know it when they make the trip or not. As Tay’s symptoms worsen, it begins to dawn on him that this missing girl just might be his own last time around.
If this really is the end for him, Samuel Tay vows he’s going to go out with one hell of a bang.
Published in paperback and digital formats by Half Penny Ltd on 8th October 2020.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I was a screenwriter before I was a novelist. It was entirely accidental, but I was.
I had practiced law for a couple of decades doing mostly international work, and I found myself involved in a complicated and unpleasant corporate merger that involved companies in half a dozen different countries. To get the deal closed, I ended up buying a piece of the target company myself, mostly because no one else wanted it. It was a very modest little Hollywood production house that was making movies for cable TV in the United States.
Since I was stuck with the company, I did my best to make it profitable and I tried to focus it more tightly on what I thought it could do well. I dashed off an outline of the sort of movie on which I thought the company ought to be focusing its efforts, and a copy of that outline accidentally got sent to one of the cable TV networks the company worked with.
Several weeks later, the development people at the network called up and asked me to write it for them.
‘Write what?’ I asked.
‘The movie you sent us that treatment for,’ they said.
‘That wasn’t a treatment,’ I said, ‘that was a business plan.’
‘That’s okay,’ they said, ‘we want you to write it anyway.’
And that, girls and boys, is how I became a writer.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
Hardly anyone today knows the name Richard Haliburton, but in the 1930’s Haliburton’s adventures were chronicled in a series of books that were best sellers in America. When I was about eight, I found a copy of Haliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels at some relative’s house and I was instantly enthralled.
The book was made up of a series of adventure stories. Haliburton swam the Panama Canal from end to end, slipped into the city of Mecca disguised as a Bedouin, crept into the Taj Mahal in the dead of night, climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza, and dived into the Mayan Well of Death in Mexico. He retraced the expedition of Hernando Cortez to the heart of the Aztec Empire, emulated Ulysses’ adventures in the Mediterranean, duplicated Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps by elephant, and climbed both the Matterhorn and Mt. Fuji.
I learned from that book that I could go anywhere in the world I really wanted to go and do anything I really wanted to do. It was a magical discovery, and it shaped the rest of my life.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I read so widely, particularly in the mystery-thriller genre, that it’s really impossible for me to say that one writer has been more important to me than another. All writers are also readers, and my experience is that we take something away from everything we read. We learn something from every single book: the good, the bad, and even the really ugly. In the end, we become, as writers, very much the accumulation of our experience as readers.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I honestly never know how to answer questions like this without ending up sounding like a complete dolt. Maybe I don’t have much of a fantasy life. Whatever the reason, I have absolutely nothing intelligent or interesting to say here so let me off the hook on this one, huh? Please?
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
Not really. I’m pretty dull in the way I work. I go to the office around nine. I work. Around one, I take a half hour or so for a bite of lunch, usually at my desk. I work some more. I knock off about six, go home, and have a glass of single malt and a cigar with my wife while she enjoys a glass or two of white wine. I’m not sure that counts as a ritual, but that’s the truth of it.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
I write places from life, but almost never people. Maybe it’s that the people I can make up are much more interesting than the people I know, but the places I know are more interesting than the ones I can make up.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
Every single book I’ve written has begun with me saying something like, okay, this time I’m going to start with a proper outline. But I’ve never done it. Not even once. It just seems to be something I’m not capable of doing.
So, I end up beginning every book the same way. I come up with a scene I like and a few characters, and I let the characters lead me from there. There’s an old joke about screenwriters: they’re guys who sit in a corner, talk to themselves, and write down what they say. Yeah. Like that.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Look, I don’t want to be glib here, but there’s only one piece of advice that has any value. Put your butt in a chair and write. When you get tired, read for a while, then go back and write some more.
Stop reading advice-to-writers books, stop taking online courses, and for God’s sake stop prattling to other writers on social media about all the things you’re going to do.
Shut up, sit down, and write.
What are your future plans as an author?
I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing, probably adding a book to my Jack Shepherd series next.
I like what I’m doing. I’m damn lucky to be doing it.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
It was in the early fall that the riots, or protests if you prefer, began in earnest. It was just a coincidence, but that is the time of Hong Kong’s annual Festival of the Hungry Ghosts which occurs every year during the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. It is a part of the year ripe with symbolism and rich with irony.
That is when, so legend has it, the gates of Hell open and the ghosts of everyone’s ancestors are set free to roam the earth. And roam it the ghosts do, seeking food and drink and entertainment, which makes them seem a lot like normal folks who are still alive. People burn joss paper houses, cars, televisions, furniture, servants, and even mistresses to please the ghosts. But most of all they burn spirit money called Hell Bank Notes as a tribute to the wandering ghosts. All of this is in the hope of enticing these homeless souls from the afterlife not to bring bad luck to the living.
Fourteen days after the festival, people float lanterns in containers filled with water and set them outside their houses. The purpose of the lanterns is to light the way for the ghosts to travel to the underworld. When the candle goes out, it means the ghosts have found their way back to the afterlife. No doubt all those candles went out this year just as they had for untold generations before, but many people said this time the ghosts only pretended to leave. This year they stayed.
As fall turned to winter and Hong Kong became a city under siege, it became easier with every day to believe that the ghosts really had done what everyone feared they had done. They had refused to return to the underworld.
Instead, they had brought Hell to the streets of Hong Kong.
– MONGKOK STATION, Inspector Samuel Tay #6
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Jake Needham.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!