Monday, May 14, 2012

Interview with Jake Needham @JakeNeedham

The Digital Ink Spot interviewed Jake Needham, author of five contemporary crime novels set in the cities of Asia. Needham was born in the United States and graduated from Rice University and the Georgetown University Law Center. Needham practiced international law and worked the borderlines of the Pacific Rim until he turned to writing and has since sold over 100,000 books in four languages.

Visit the author's website:
Visit the author's Facebook:
Follow the author on Twitter: @JakeNeedham
Read the weekly 'Letters from Asia:

The Digital Ink Spot: What can you tell the readers about THE AMBASSADOR'S WIFE?
Jake Needham: THE AMBASSADOR'S WIFE introduces Inspector Samuel Tay, a detective in the elite Special Investigative Section of Singapore CID. Inspector Tay is something of a reluctant policeman. He's a little overweight, a little lonely, a little cranky, and he smokes way too much. Thinking back, he can't even remember why he became a policeman in the first place. He talks about quitting all the time, but he hasn't. Because the thing is, he's very, very good at what he does.

The first body is in Singapore, on a bed in an empty suite in the Marriott Hotel. The second in Bangkok, in a seedy apartment close to the American embassy. Both women. Both Americans. Both beaten viciously and shot in the head. Both stripped naked and lewdly displayed. The FBI says it's terrorism, but the FBI always says it's terrorism. The whispers on the street are that a serial killer is stalking American women across Asia.

Singapore CID gives the case to Inspector Tay. It's high profile, and he's the best they have. Then why is it, Tay quickly begins to wonder, that nobody seems to want him to find the women's killer? Not the FBI, not the American ambassador, not even his bosses at CID.

When international politics takes over a murder case, the truth is the next victim.

The Digital Ink Spot: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing this story to life?
Jake Needham: I've lived in Asia for the last twenty-five years -- in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bangkok -- so I know the territory pretty well. I'm also published by Marshall Cavendish International, a venerable old UK publishing house that has had the headquarters of its trade publishing division in Singapore ever since the company was bought by a major Singaporean media group, so I'm in Singapore three or four times a year. I'm even a fairly familiar figure in the press and on television and radio there, pontificating about the foreign point of view on all sorts of things. 

Because of that it was easy for me to make THE AMBASSADOR'S WIFE authentic in both its overall tone and the procedural details of police operations in Singapore without having to do a lot of specific research. I know a lot of people in Singapore, and they know a lot of people in Singapore. On the whole, people like talking to novelist since we're not journalists. Everyone understands we make it all up, don't they?

The opposite side of that coin, however, is that not a small number of Singaporeans are remarkably sensitive to what is being said about their country in the media, particularly by foreigners. Although I write fiction, I found that quite a few people were still offended by my failure to portray everything about the Singapore police force in a completely flattering light. I lost a lot of sources that way, particularly in government and in the police force itself. I even made a few enemies, and enemies in a tightly controlled society like Singapore can be a problem. Sometimes I wonder a little these days who exactly is watching and listening when I'm in town.

The Digital Ink Spot: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 
Jake Needham: He's hardly a new author, but R.J. Ellory is new to most Americans since he's a Brit and until recently his books weren't widely available in the US. THE ANNIVERSARY MAN is one of the great pieces of modern crime fiction. It hasn't gotten nearly the attention it deserves. 

The Digital Ink Spot: What books have most influenced your life most?
Jake Needham: Long before I ever thought of writing novels myself, as a reader I discovered the fiction of Ross Thomas. Thomas died about fifteen years ago and has in my view been undeservedly almost forgotten since. I was traveling back and forth from the US to Asia a lot when his books were more popular, and I thought them a revelation. It was possible, I discovered, for Americans to write well about other cultures. Read OUT ON THE RIM or any of Ross Thomas' other wonderful books and discover an American writer who shares my bemusement at these Asian cultures that are so unlike our own and which Americans fail to understand so completely. I thought back then, if I ever try my hand at writing novels, I want them to come out with the same light-touch and beguiling sensibility that Ross Thomas brings to his work. And then I did start writing novels, and I've been trying to live up to that vow ever since.

The Digital Ink Spot: What can readers expect from you in the near future?
Jake Needham: My most recent book was just published a few weeks ago at the end of March. It's called A WORLD OF TROUBLE (A Jack Shepherd crime thriller) , and it's the third entry in my Jack Shepherd series of international legal thrillers. The first was LAUNDRY MAN and the second was KILLING PLATO . Think of Shepherd as Jack Reacher with a laptop and you'll have a sense of the tone of the series. 

As with all of my other books, the printed edition of A WORLD OF TROUBLE is only available outside North America, but the e-book edition is available worldwide. 

Right now I'm working on a second Inspector Tay novel to follow THE AMBASSADOR'S WIFE. It should be out in the early fall. I would tell you the title, but I've got three titles right now. I love all of them and can't make up my mind. Maybe that's a sign from the literary gods that I'm going to have to do two more Inspector Tay novels after this one, just to use up all the good titles.

And feel free to share this post via your social network of choice. Let's help these authors get the word out to other readers.