When I heard Kelli Stanley talk about City of Dragons at the LA Times Festival of Books author panel, Mysteries: Dangerous Histories, I knew I had to read this novel so I downloaded it onto my Kindle immediately. I’m so glad I did!
I have to tell you a bit about Kelli for you to realize the kind of research she does for her novels. She has a Master’s degree in the Classics and is an award-winning author. She is probably best known for her Roman noir series, Nox Dormienda, a sub-genre she created that combines a Raymond Chandler hardboiled style with a complex and in-depth classical historic perspective.
From listening to her speak about her work, I realized Kelli loves San Francisco, its history, and crime fiction with a passion. She brings all of that passion to City of Dragons. As she told us in the author panel, she loves the 1940’s era and would love to write about Miranda Corie, the main character, for the rest of her life. It was fascinating to listen to her tell the back story for Miranda, a story which adds immense depth to City of Dragons. Miranda is a very well developed character.
The depression era was not kind to anyone but it was especially unkind to women, and even more so to single women who had to earn a livelihood. My mom used to talk to me about the limited options available to women then, if they could find any work at all. You could be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary, and that was pretty much it for legitimate professions. Very few women broke ground in other areas. Miranda Corbie is one of those few women. Desperation was rampant in those days and people did whatever they could to just survive, legitimate or not. Miranda is an ex-escort who trained with a hard-boiled detective to get her detective’s license so she could get out of that life. She is an extraordinary person who takes no prisoners in her quest for justice.
City of Dragons takes place in San Francisco, in the Spring of 1940, after the city had rebuilt from its devastating earthquake and had become a golden city. It was going to be hosting the World Exposition/Fair for the second year in a row. It looked like a picture postcard city on the surface but tensions between the Chinese and Japanese people in San Francisco had reached a boiling point because of the Sino-Japanese war.
When the novel opens, a Rice Bowl party is being thrown in Chinatown to raise money to help fund the war and feed starving Chinese. Rice Bowl parties often turned Chinatown into one huge party, like some drunken celebration on a massive scale. Miranda is walking on Grant, listening to Billie Holiday music drifting from an apartment window and firecrackers going off while watching the beginnings of the Rice Bowl party. She sees a young Japanese boy fall on the sidewalk in front of a Chinese herbal shop unnoticed by the crowd more interested in partying. When she kneels down to help him, she realizes he has not only been beaten badly but he has also been shot in the chest. Miranda knows enough about how the police work to suspect they won’t do much, if anything, to solve the murder of Eddie Takahashi, and talking to them confirms her suspicions.
“’A few feeble courtesy calls on Filipino Charlie, who’ll have an alibi, and then you’ll forget about it, stick it in a drawer, because a Japanese kid had the bad luck to get plugged in Chinatown on a day when the Chinese are raising money to fight the Rising Sun. Happy, happy fucking New Year, Phil. Gon Hay Fat Choy to you too.’”
And so Miranda begins to follow the trail to find Eddie’s murderer. She can’t even explain to herself why she’s drawn to do it except that no one else will do anything and, underneath her hardboiled exterior, Miranda is driven to find justice for the underdog. The trail she follows leads her into the underbelly of the city and makes for one hell of a roller coaster ride for us as readers. We also begin to find clues to why Miranda is the way she is, and we learn a lot about Chinese and Japanese culture in 1940 San Francisco as well as what it was like to live in that era. All of this is packaged in one hell of a fun, complex crime story.
This is the first novel in what I hope will be a long series. I believe you’re going to love reading City of Dragons as much as I did! And to make it even better – one lucky reader will win an autographed copy!
City of Dragons Autographed First Printing Book Giveaway!
Here’s Our Final Giveaway during the May Popcorn Reads Giveaway Week!
This Giveaway has ended – the winner is TeaWench!
A huge thank you goes to Kelli Stanley for graciously providing an autographed first printing copy of her latest book, City of Dragons, for one lucky reader to win! Isn’t that cool?!
And all you have to do is comment. Comment about the review, Kelli Stanley, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, any of Kelli’s novels, San Francisco, the 1940’s, any of the characters mentioned, women detectives, Chinese or Japanese in California, Chinatown, the 1939-1940 San Francisco World Exposition/Fair, cable cars – basically whatever you think could be related. Be outrageous – Have fun with it!
Rules: All comments must be submitted before Sunday, May 22, 2011 at midnight PDST. Your chances of winning depend on the number of comments made, so go for it on the comments! You can comment every day until the date/time limit is reached, so don’t think you’re limited to your number of comments. Each comment counts as 1 entry. If you want this book, you can win it, so go for it!
One winner will be chosen at random from all comments submitted and from a list of all Email Club members* who had joined by Sunday, May 15, 2011, at midnight PDST. *Email Club members only get the equivalent of 1 comment (one entry) in addition to any comments made below.
The winner will be chosen by a stranger who picks the name out of a hat filled with everyone’s names/email monikers. (If you leave 5 comments, for example, your name/email moniker will be in the hat 5 times.) We’ll announce the winner on Monday, May 23, 2011. Good luck! Whoever wins this is in for a great popcorn read!
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