Monday, November 28, 2016

Tim Hallinan & Ed Lin at The Poisoned Pen!

Less than a week after seeing Jeffrey Siger and Mark Pryor, Denis and I were back at The Poisoned Pen to see another two authors: Tim Hallinan and Ed Lin. Authors do remember the people who show up to their signings. Proof in point: after doing some book buying, Tim recognized us and came to sit with Denis and me in the back of the bookstore. We told him about Bodie and Denis showed him some of the photos we'd taken, and Tim gave me a few book recommendations based on my interest in that old ghost town. One of the other things we talked about was the expectation that attendance would be low since the first game of the World Series was being played that night. My theory was that my presence would probably jinx the Cubbies, so I didn't alter my plans to go see one of my favorite authors. I'm glad I didn't. I would've missed out on a fun conversation otherwise!

L to R: Barbara Peters, Tim Hallinan, Ed Lin

Once the event officially began, host Barbara Peters mentioned the fact that things were becoming very interesting in Thailand with the death of the king, who was a very beloved figure among his people. The Crown Prince is first in line to the throne, but he has proven himself to be extremely untrustworthy. There could be a real problem with the succession because the person everyone wants to sit on the throne is the crown prince's younger sister, who is highly thought of. Even though she is gay, there would be no problem as far as the succession is concerned-- only that it would mean she would represent the last generation of the royal family. Tim and Barbara emphasized Thailand's fascinating history. For instance, it is the only Asian country not invaded or taken over by Europeans, and it is the only country not to have an uprising against the Chinese.

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Ed Lin's newest book, Incensed, is the latest in the Night Market series set in Taipei, Taiwan. Barbara, who has been there, told us, "The night markets are fabulous. By day Taipei is rather ugly, but at night when the market lights come on, it's lots more fun."

Lin agreed. "It's been said that the Taiwanese live to eat and eat to live." When Hallinan mentioned the political situation there, Lin said, "Taiwan is now one of the most democratic countries in Asia-- unlike the past when people could be 'disappeared' for things like moving or speaking when the flag was lowered at 5 PM each day."

When asked about his main character, Lin said, "Jing-nan runs a restaurant at the night market to pay off his father's debts. In Incensed, he has to do a favor for his gangster uncle who's having trouble with his teenage daughter and her unsuitable boyfriend.

Hallinan spoke up. "I love these books, and I love the main character. Jing-nan is a typical Taiwanese who has a Western outlook, and-- even though I do say so myself-- Ed and I both write excellent snotty teenage girls!"

Tim and Ed made sure we all had fun.
Lin told us a bit about gangster fights at karaoke bars in Taiwan, which reminded Hallinan about a fight in a Thai karaoke bar.  "Four men wielding heavy metal ashtrays beat a man to death who wouldn't stop singing 'My Way.'"

And since this was pre-Election, Ed mentioned that Taiwan had just elected its first female president. 

Barbara turned to Tim and said, "We've talked about Thailand because your Poke Rafferty series is set there, but you're not here for Poke, you're here for Junior Bender. Tell us a bit about him."

"I started having this voice in my head tell me a story about a crook and a koala bear. It wouldn't stop, so I decided to work with it. I began thinking about a crook who works as a private investigator for other crooks because-- you know-- these people have their problems, too."

Tim came up with what he thought was an ingenious way to break into a house: "...deliver a huge box to the front door. The burglar stands inside the box to pick the lock and then go inside. Shortly after that book came out, the San Fernando Police Department sent a couple of detectives to the house to ask me, 'How do you know about the refrigerator robberies?'

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"In Fields Where They Lay, I got the idea to trap Junior in a putrid, crumbling San Fernando shopping mall two days before Christmas. Junior and I just happen to share some of the same opinions of this holiday," Hallinan said. "I thought it would be fun to write, but by the end of the book, I hated it. I thought it was a real piece of cheese!"

Anyone who'd already read the book (like Barbara and me) stared at Tim in disbelief. "It's gotten nothing but starred reviews!" Barbara exclaimed. Tim smiled, shrugged, and asked, "And why is it that when you open a published copy of your book, the first thing you see is a typo?!?

Time was zipping past like the speed of light. Both men were asked what was next on their agendas. Tim's next Poke Rafferty book is tentatively called Fool's River, which is the name of the river that flows through the town where Poke's wife Rose grew up. "Rose believes that most people pitch their tents along a fool's river," Tim said. "I really like this book."

Tim also answered a question that I'd been wanting the answer to: which of his series sells better-- Poke or Junior? I thought I knew the answer, and I was right: Junior Bender sells better. All I can say is that the folks who love Junior are missing out on some superb writing in Tim's series set in Thailand!

While Ed Lin confirmed that Taiwan is one of the most superstitious countries on earth, a lot of the Q&A period was spent grilling Tim Hallinan. 

Among other things, Tim told us...

  • that there is one plot line in Fields Where They Lay that will play out over the next two to three Junior Bender books
  • that he wrote eight books before he wrote a scene with two females and no male present

... but perhaps the most exciting news to me was what he told us of a standalone book he's currently working on. Tim knows a lot about old Hollywood, and occasionally he can use bits and pieces of that knowledge in a Junior Bender mystery. But one night he was watching an old Busby Berkeley film, and when the camera panned down a long line of beautiful females (as it always did in one of his films), Hallinan began to wonder about those smiling women. What happened to them? Where did they go? What did they do?

All that pondering led him to begin writing a mystery set in 1932 Hollywood called The Moving Party. The three main characters are women who dance for Berkeley in his movies. Berkeley is having a house moved from one part of town to another, and he thinks, 'Wouldn't it be fun to have a party in a moving house?' Of course, something happens during the party, and those three dancers are going to solve everything. My verdict on The Moving Party? I can't wait!

My verdict on this author event? It was over much too soon. I can't wait until the next time Ed Lin and Tim Hallinan are in town!


  1. Oh, lucky you, Cathy! I really like Hallinan's work, and it sounds as though he's just as interesting in person. I know Lin's work less well, but still! Glad you shared this.

    1. Tim is every bit as interesting in person as his books-- and not all authors give you personalized book recommendations!

  2. I am enjoying the Poke Rafferty series. I am waiting to start the Junior Bender series until I catch up with the Rafferty series. Don't really know why since they are different. I do have the first Junior Bender on my Kindle to read. The Moving Party sounds very good. I will want to read it. Thanks for sharing your visit to the P.P.

    1. Don't quite understand your decision to wait on Junior either; they're very different series. I've been telling Denis for years to read Poke. "These books are really good. READ THEM." Over and over. Like a mantra.

      Well, after going to this event, Denis *finally* read A Nail Through the Heart. Know what he said to me? "This is really good!"

      Duh... ya think?!? LOL


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