GENE CASTLE is a private eye working the mean streets of Vancouver, British Columbia in the years leading up to World War II in Shanghai Alley (1997), a slick, entertaining (and appropriately-presented) paperback original that takes place in that city's teeming Chinatown. Castle's hired (at $25 a day, plus expenses) to find some missing union loot, and soon finds himself mixed up in the usual corruption, crooked cops, deceit, lies and murder. He gets worked over by goons, tossed from the roof of a whorehouse and has his oldest friend is gunned down -- about what you'd expect. A nice touch is his sidekick showgirl, Louise Jones.
According to his publisher, "Jim Christy writes in a telegraphic style evoking the golden age of the noir thrillers, while at the same time delving into the darker zeitgeist of our own era." And Margaret Cannon of The Toronto Globe and Mail says Christy "has a painter's eye, and a poet's ear, and he's able to pull together a decent plot. He's no Chandler, but he's not bad."
Not bad enough, evidently, to prevent a several sequels. In Princess and Gore (2000) and Terminal Avenue (2002), the series skips ahead to 1939, and finds Castle and Louise back in town, after three years in China and Spain. The Depression's over and Vancouver's bopping to the hot beat of jazz, even as the beat of war drums sounds on the ditance.
And the series wrapped up with the publication of Nine O'Clock Gun (2008), which finds Castle back in Vancouver after the war, looking for Louise, who seems to have taken a powder.
Philadelphia-born Jim Christy is a visual artist and spoken-word performer, and has published poetry, novels, short stories, biography (Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski), non-fiction and journalism, and is also the author of Junkman and Other Stories, an unflinching collection of tales documenting the wild and ragged side of Vancouver, full of "dumpster divers, junkies, junk collectors, Mafia bagmen and bag ladies." A long-time resident of British Columbia, he currently lives in Toronto.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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