Book Review: Yin Yang Tattoo

Ron McMillan: Yin Yang Tattoo Sandstone Press, 2010 “If you’ll excuse us, we have stereotypes to explore,” says our hero, Alec Brodie, to a visiting investment banker as he heads off to a private room arm-in-arm with a Korean girl. Yes, there’s irony in the quip, but the stereotypes don’t stop with the expense-account prostitute. […]

An evening with Changrae Lee

LKL reports from the evening with Korean American author Changrae Lee, chaired by Erica Wagner, as part of the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature, 24 May 2010. The Asia House Festival of Asian Literature, now in its fifth year, for the first time included Korean representation this year. With such a title, you might […]

Book review: The Wandering Ghost

Martin Limón: The Wandering Ghost Soho Press, 2007 While North of the DMZ we have the ongoing series of the enigmatic Inspector O to keep us entertained with mystery, suspense and action, south of the border we have the maverick military police sergeants George Sueño and Ernie Bascom. Where Inspector O inhabits a contemporary world, […]

Brief review: A Ricepaper Airplane

Gary Pak: A Ricepaper Airplane University of Hawai’i Press, 1998 Synospis (from the back of the book) From a hospital bed a dying man unfolds the tale of an arduous life on the fringes of a Hawai’i sugar plantation in the 1920s. There Kim Sung-wha – labourer, patriot, revolutionary, aviator – envisioned building an airplane […]

Bamboo and Blood: Inspector O is back on form

James Church: Bamboo and Blood St Martin’s Press, 2008 After Inspector O’s slightly disappointing second outing, James Church is back on form with the third novel in the series, Bamboo and Blood. In another fast-paced story, set against the backdrop of the North Korean 1997 famine and the US-DPRK talks in Geneva, Inspector O is […]

The Gyopo PI

Leonard Chang: Fade to Clear Thomas Dunne Books, 2004 This is the third novel featuring the private investigator Allen Choice, a Korean American whose name indicates how far he has moved away from his Korean roots. He can’t speak the language, but he gets annoyed when people call him Chinese or Japanese. He dates a […]

James Church: Hidden Moon

(Thomas Dunne Books, 2007) After A Corpse in the Koryo, the rip-roaring start to the Inspector O series, Hidden Moon comes as a bit of a disappointment. Maybe the freshness of the debut is a tough act to follow, but somehow the first time round Inspector O had more character. He’s still got his quirky […]

Sex and the City, Korean-style: a review of Min-Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires

Min-Jin Lee: Free Food for Millionaires (Random House, 2007) I hesitated before packing this two-inch thick paperback into my suitcase for a week’s holiday. The cover design doesn’t give much away — a black top hat and slightly messy collection of different typefaces spelling out a title which leaves a lot to the imagination — […]

Racial tensions in Queens

Leonard Chang: Fruit ‘n’ Food Black Heron Press, 1996 Leonard Chang’s first novel is proof that giving away key elements of the plot in advance need not ruin the enjoyment of a work of fiction. The book starts at the end, with the hero in hospital, blinded and incapacitated. You are told how the story […]

Book review: Brother One Cell

Cullen Thomas: Brother One Cell — Coming of Age in South Korea’s Prisons Pan Books, 2007 A “powerful, harrowing and moving memoir”, proclaims the blurb on the back. “A Korean tear in the muscle round the ribs, a Korean hernia…” reads the selective quote. The cover design, a Getty image of hands grasping prison bars, […]