Sunday, April 30, 2017

This is a Bust: Ed Lin

Published in 2007, this book is the first of three books about Robert Chow, a Chinese-American policeman in New York's Chinatown in 1976.


The description at Kaya Press is very apt:
This Is a Bust, the second novel by award-winning author Ed Lin, turns the conventions of hard-boiled pulp stories on their head by exploring the unexotic and very real complexities of New York City’s Chinatown, circa 1976, through the eyes of a Chinese-American cop. A Vietnam vet and an alcoholic, Robert Chow’s troubles are compounded by the fact that he’s basically community-relations window-dressing for the NYPD: he’s the only Chinese American on the Chinatown beat, and the only police officer who can speak Cantonese, but he’s never assigned anything more challenging than appearances at store openings or community events.
Robert Chow is a Vietnam vet and that experience changed his view of the world.
Then in 1969 the draft came to Chinatown. I didn't care about getting out of it. I had finished high school and was drifting. But I knew how bad it was in China and how we should be grateful for the better life we had in the U.S. I knew that serving was the best way to prove how much I loved America. We had to stop Communism.
....
I was real stupid and innocent back then. That was before we were in basic training and the instructor pulled me out of line, faced me to the company, and said: "This is what a gook looks like. He's the complete opposite of you, and he's out to kill you. What are you going to do about it?"
Robert is not happy in his job as a policeman, where the powers that be have chosen him to be the Chinese cop poster boy for the Chinatown precinct.  He makes a effort to get on the detective track and gets pushed back every time he tries. Somewhere along the way he has become an alcoholic.

This is a very unusual book, and I mean that in a good way. Even though the story is generally a downer, it has something of an upbeat ending, which I did not expect at all. A large part of the story is dialogue, which I don't usually care for, but it worked here. There are great characters that you meet and get to know along the way. I don't know that This is a Bust will appeal to everyone, but I found it memorable and enlightening, and compelling.

There are two more books in this series, Snakes Can't Run (2010) and One Red Bastard (2012). Ed Lin's second series, the Taipei Night Market series, is set in Taiwan.


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Publisher:   Kaya Press, 2007 
Length:       345 pages
Format:       Trade paperback
Series:        Robert Chow, #1
Setting:       Chinatown in New York City
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       I purchased my copy.

8 comments:

  1. Great review, Tracy - time to move my copy up the pile!

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    1. Thanks, Col. I really did enjoy this book. I want to try the Taiwan series also.

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  2. This does sound interesting, Tracy. I like the New York City setting, and that different perspective is appealing, too. Glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. The story and the characters are very interesting, Margot. I have now read (parts of) three series set in New York's Chinatown, and it is a very different place from any that I have experienced.

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  3. Really like the sound of this Tracy, thanks very much. Off to hunt up a copy right now in fact ...

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    1. I hope you find a copy, Sergio, and if you read it, that it is a good experience. It certainly was for me.

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  4. That back cover is beautiful! I always like a book with a Chinatown setting, so am very much drawn to this one.

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    1. I like Chinatown settings also, Moira. I have several series that I have already read, am in the middle of, or planning to read, mostly New York and San Francisco. I did love the back cover too. A very nice cover design for this book, front and back.

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