Category Archives: Martin Limon

Writing noir fiction in Asia

Late last week in Phnom Penh a book was launched that I’m very proud to have a story in.

It’s called Phnom Penh Noir, an anthology of 14 noir stories set in Cambodia. Amongst the authors are Roland Joffe, the director whose credits include the 1984 film The Killing Fields, John Burdett, author of the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series and Christopher G Moore, who also edited the book. Interestingly, there’s also stories by Khmer and Thai authors.

If you’re looking for an interesting take on noir fiction, I’d urge you to check this book out.

I’ve noticed a bit of interest lately around the idea of setting noir crime fiction in Asia.

My debut novel Ghost Money is set in Cambodia the mid-nineties, the point at which the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency started to fragment and the country was torn by political instability. It’s been out for several months now and nearly everyone who has reviewed it has labelled it noir fiction. Which is very fine with me.  As I noted in my last post, some have even dubbed it Asian noir, which sounds even cooler. 

Ghost Money is the story of a disillusioned Vietnamese Australian ex-cop called Max Quinlan, who is hired to find an Australian businessman, Charles Avery, missing in the chaos.… Read more

The Next Big Thing

Call me old fashioned, but I only just found out what an Internet meem is the other day when I was tagged to take part in the ‘Next Big Thing’.

A meme is something that spreads via the Internet. In this instance, it’s a string of short interview questions with various authors about their current book or work in progress.

I was tagged by New Jersey based crime writer Wallace Stroby. He also tagged Scott Alderberg, Alison Gaylin and Philadelphia author Dennis Tafoya. Esteemed company to be in.

Stroby is the author of a string of crime novels, the most recent of which I’ve read is Cold Shot to the Heart featuring the professional female thief, Crissa Stone. If you haven’t checked his work out already, I suggest you do so.

Since I have foresworn off blogging about my next book, I’ll answer the ten questions about my current novel, Ghost Money.

1. What’s the title of your current book?

Ghost Money, out through Snubnose Press.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

It came from working on and off as a journalist in Cambodia in the mid-nineties and becoming fascinated with the place, the people, and the contrast between the anything goes, Wild West atmosphere of Phnom Penh and the hardscrabble but incredibly beautiful countryside.… Read more

Great crime reads set in Asia

Okay, I’ve sat patiently through the hype about Scandinavian crime fiction, which shows no sign of ending, only to read recently that the next big thing in crime fiction is central Europe.

I keep thinking people will eventually discover Asia as a fascinating place to set crime fiction, but it looks like I’ll have to keep on waiting on that score.

Not that there aren’t some great crime reads set in the region. A few weeks ago I wrote the following post on some of my favourites for the site, Crime Fiction Lover. One book I could’ve included but didn’t was David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero. One CFL reader suggested the books of Seicho Matsumoto. I’d live to hear other suggestions as I’m sure there are heaps more.

Jade Lady Burning – Martin Limon

Low profile crime writer Martin Limon has so far written six books featuring Sueno and Bascom, officers in the Criminal Intelligence Division of the US military based in South Korea, and a seventh is on the way.

Jade Lady Burning was the first of the series, written in 1992, and for my money it’s still one of the best. Sueno and Bascom are assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a local prostitute which turns into something much more sinister.… Read more

Off Limits in Saigon

I’m very happy to welcome back to Pulp Curry my partner in crime, Angela Savage, reviewing the 1988 film, Off Limits (which also appeared under the title Saigon). I first saw Off Limits years ago and always liked the originality of the premise – two US military police on the beat in war-time Saigon. Watching it again recently, I’m curious to know, what if any unacknowledged debt the movie owes to the Martin Limon books featuring Sueno and Bascom, two US military police stationed in South Korea in the seventies. Oh yes, and I definitely agree with Angela that Fred Ward is an underrated actor.

Off Limits, set in Saigon in 1968, is a riveting crime thriller that conveys the madness of the US war in Vietnam while treating it as background to the main story.

The plot centres on Criminal Investigation Division (CID) cops Sergeant Buck McGriff (Willem Dafoe, all thin hips and big lips) and Sergeant Albaby Perkins (Gregory Hines, chewing gum like it’s the only way he can keep the bile down) and their investigation into what turns out to be the serial killings of Vietnamese prostitutes.

With a short-list of suspects made up of US military top brass, they have to navigate a case as off limits as the part of Saigon where the murders take place.… Read more

Book review: The Wandering Ghost

I glanced at the Martin Limon novels featuring Sueno and Bascom on bookshop shelves for years before finally deciding to crack one open and give it a try.

I’m really glad I did. After reading his first book, Jade Lady Burning (1992), I accidentally jumped three books to his 2007 novel, The Wandering Ghost. It was interesting to see how the series had developed.

Sueno and Bascom are officers in the Criminal Intelligence Division of the United States military, based in South Korea in the early seventies. The Vietnam War is waging, but it’s a sideshow when you’re on the beat in a country still technically at war with its northern neighbour.

For the most part, the South Korea depicted in Jade Lady Burning is cold, bleak, authoritarian and paranoid; the perfect backdrop for a couple of hard-boiled investigators to ply their trade.

A lot of the action is set amongst the bars and brothels that have sprang up to cater to the US military presence. Limon’s not the first writer to focus on what Western men do in Asia but his handling of the subject matter is vastly superior to most of what’s out there, focusing as it does on the culture clash that occurs when so many young men with money, most of them barely educated, are thrown in the middle of an ancient and very hierarchical society.… Read more