Tuesday, 15 April 2014

500 Words From Ezra Kyrill Erker

500 Words From...is a series of guest posts from authors, in which they talk about their newly-published books.  Here Ezra Kyrill Erker explains the background behind Salaryman Unbound, published by Crime Wave Press. 

Ezra Kyrill Erker was born in Germany and grew up in Europe, California and the South Pacific, before settling in East and Southeast Asia. The longest and most formative stint of his adult life so far was spent in central Japan. He now lives in Bangkok, working as a freelance journalist.

Salaryman Unbound  is set in a Japan of corporate intrigue, suburban loneliness and homicidal urges. Against this backdrop Shiro is having a midlife crisis. Unexceptional in his job, he works in the shadow of his charismatic boss. Unappreciated by his family, he has nothing to show for decades of doing the right thing - so he decides to try doing the wrong thing, and begins to plot the murders of strangers. His researches into methods of killing bring a dark structure to his life, and a black self-belief. Eventually, he targets Sayuri, a neglected housewife, and soon the would be killer falls victim to love. When a body is found, Shiro’s and Sayuri’s lives are thrown into upheaval, and the divisions between guilt and innocence are lost.

So: 500 Words From Ezra Kyrill Erker:

Salaryman Unbound began as a diversion while sitting in a café in Vientiane, a few months after leaving Japan. In an afternoon, an experimental paragraph had turned into a chapter. In three days, without plotting ahead, my longhand filled a small notebook. In three leisurely weeks I had a 20,000 word novella on my hands.

I wasn’t sure where it had come from, what dark recess of the subconscious could conjure such a disturbing tale. I’d just finished writing a collection of stories (which became A Bridge of Dreams: Asian Tales, published by Orchid Press) and a long, heavy coming-of-age novel (Embers, which should be out next year). Salaryman Unbound was a crime tale as far removed from those efforts as a book could get, and it had pretty much written itself. The question was: what to do with it?

Like many hastily written first drafts, it was a bit rubbish. Set in San Francisco, it had some flat dialogue and prose, and characters that didn’t leave much of an impression - but the main idea, of murder becoming an outlet for a mediocre man’s midlife crisis, seemed immediate and frightening. With the right set of circumstances it could be the story of my neighbour, a colleague or a friend. The difficult part was creating those circumstances.

The best fit was Japan, where a man’s company can become his purpose, his social life, his crutch, where it is harder to change careers or start over with a blank slate. Failure seems more permanent and more pervasive, and it makes sense that crime might become an outlet, a grasp at self-affirmation. I didn’t have to invent much - I knew provincial Japan very well from experience - and once I’d made the necessary cultural adjustments the story fit right in, like puzzle pieces fitting into place. I did some research into physiology and crime psychology, and the novel, now three times longer, with twists in the tail, was complete.

The novel is about how an everyman’s attempt at plotting the murder of a lonely housewife transforms his personality, so that suddenly everything seems possible. The new possibilities, however, include being more susceptible to suggestion, and the character becoming prone to a growing certainty that he is the ruler of his own destiny when in fact there are more variables at play than his awareness can take in.

We’ve all watched a heist film, or a television series about a rebel, a meth cooker, a gangster, a warrior, and caught ourselves cheering for the criminal, the outsider. There are elements of their situation we can relate to, and getting one over the system is something most of us at one point or another have secretly wished we could get away with.

In Shiro we have such an anti-hero. Told mostly through his eyes and mind, this is not a conventional crime novel but a literary and very personal drama, at the core of which just happens to be murder. I hope readers can find in its pages a story they both relate to and are frightened by. I was aiming to write a compelling and unpredictable page-turner. I hope Salaryman Unbound exposes some of the flaws and hopelessness of the human condition.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Seen Elsewhere: London Book Fair / Korean Market Focus and Cultural Programme

The London Book Fair 2014 is now over.  As noted in earlier posts, Korea was selected as the county for this year's Market Focus, and the accompanying Cultural Programme.  Here is a quick round-up of how both initiatives have been reported around the web. 

The London Book Fair - click around the site for updates on the Korean Market Focus.

The British Council  - click around the site for updates on the Korean Cultural Programme.

The Korean Blog - a Korean perspective on the London Book Fair.

English PEN  - an account of Shirley Lee challenging assumptions about North Korea through an examination of its love poetry, as part of the Korean Cultural Programme.

The Guardian (UK) - the ten Korean writers chosen to visit the London Book Fair discuss the problems of living in a divided country.

Publishing Perspectives (US) - New York agent Barbara Zwiter on bringing Korean literature to world markets.

Publishing Perspectives (US) - an account of discussion between Korean author Yi Mun-Yol, writer Marina Warner, and publisher Christopher Maclehose as part of the Cultural Programme. 

Moving away from the Korean focus: 
See here for  CCTV (China) reporting from London on the digital future of publishing, seen from a Chinese perspective. 

See here for Xinhua (China) reporting from London on why China's economic development is leading worldwide to growing interest in literature from China.

See here for The Straits Times (Singapore) reporting on Singapore's delegation to the London Book Fair.

Mexico has been chosen as the Market Focus country for the London Book Fair in 2015. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Incheon in London

World Book Capital is a title bestowed by UNESCO annually to a city in recognition of the quality of its programmes to promote books and reading.  

Incheon will be the UNESCO World Book Capital next year, so the city is exhibiting in the Korea Market Focus Pavilion at the London Book Fair to spread the word that it is preparing a variety of events to entertain the many visitors it expects from all over the world.

Mayor of Incheon, Young-Gil Song says: "Our city will spare no efforts to turn itself into an educational and cultural city by sharing culture through books and narrowing cultural gaps through latest technologies, which echoes UNESCO's ideology." 

Amongst other reasons, UNESCO runs the World Book Capital initiative to promote exchanges across borders and ideologies. Incheon is geographically well positioned to facilitate cultural exchange with North Korea. A spokesperson for the Korean Publishers Association says that having Incheon as the World Book Capital in 2015 will: “promote Korean citizens' cultural development and awareness, and connect with North Korea providing a foundation for the re-unification of the South with the North. Also, it will be a central city of international cultural exchange via books, and will continuously contribute to the global community even after this event.”

Incheon hopes to use its status as World Book Capital to demonstrate how a city's industrial and technological infrastructure can contribute to society.  Mayor Young-Gil Song says: “Incheon has some people who are isolated from cultural access and information as some people live on islands far away from the mainland, or due to other environmental reasons. Hence, the city has been managing a various number of cultural businesses such as the mobile library, which visits each island, and the Reading Incheon mobile application, which enables the 2.9 million citizens of Incheon to get access to an online library via their mobile telephone.”

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Published Today: The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World by T.V. Paul

The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World by T.V. Paul, James McGill Professor of International Relations, McGill University, is published today. 

In 2013 Pakistan ranked 133rd out of 148 countries in global competitiveness. Currently, Taliban forces occupy nearly 30% of the country, and it is perpetually in danger of becoming a failed state - with over a hundred nuclear weapons that could easily fall into terrorists’ hands. In recent years, many countries across the developing world have experienced impressive economic growth and have evolved into at least partially democratic states with militaries under civilian control. Yet Pakistan, a heavily militarized nation, has been a conspicuous failure. Its economy is in shambles, propped up by international aid, and its political system is notoriously corrupt and unresponsive, although a civilian government has come to power. Despite the regime's emphasis on security, the country is beset by widespread violence and terrorism. What explains Pakistan's unique inability to progress? Paul argues that the geostrategic curse - akin to the resource curse that plagues oil rich autocracies - is the main cause. Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has been at the centre of major geopolitical struggles - the US-Soviet rivalry, the conflict with India, and most recently the post 9/11 wars. No matter how ineffective the regime, massive foreign aid keeps pouring in from major powers and their allies with a stake in the region. The reliability of such aid defuses any pressure on political elites to launch far-reaching domestic reforms that would promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions. Paul shows that excessive war-making efforts have drained Pakistan’s limited economic resources without making the country safer or more stable. The book offers a comprehensive treatment of Pakistan’s insecurity predicament. It also compares Pakistan with other national security states, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Taiwan and Korea. 

T.V. Paul is a leading scholar of international security, regional security, and South Asia. His books include: Globalization and the National Security State (co-authored, Oxford University Press, 2010); India in the World Order: Searching for Major Power Status (co-authored, Cambridge University Press 2002); The India-Pakistan Conflict: An Enduring Rivalry (Cambridge University Press, 2005); and South Asia’s Weak States: Understanding the Regional Insecurity Predicament (Stanford University Press 2010).

The Warrior State is published by OUP in hardback, priced in local currencies.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Malaysian publisher Fixi wins big in London

The winners of The London Book Fair International Book Industry Excellence Awards, in association with The Publishers Association, have been announced at a prestigious Awards ceremony held on the first day of The London Book Fair.

The Awards provide recognition from the UK for the best companies and individuals from across the international publishing industry, as such UK companies are not eligible for the majority of categories.

The line-up of winners was truly global with Belorussia, Pakistan, India, Denmark, Australia, Malaysia, the US and China all coming up trumps.

The US publishing industry led the pack with three winners including the University of Chicago Press in the Academic and Professional category, The Best Translated Book Award won in Literary Translation Initiatives category and Robert Kirkman who created Walking Dead won for the best use of IP. The evening saw a real coup for Fixi, the Malaysian publisher, who picked up The Bookseller International Adult Trade Publisher Award despite having set up only three years ago. They have gained a great reputation at breakneck speed including snapping up huge authors for their translation list.

Jacks Thomas, Director, The London Book Fair, said: “In the course of our preparation for The London Book Fair, my team and I are lucky enough to meet so many inspirational individuals and learn about fascinating initiatives from publishing companies around the world. So it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate the best international talent at our Awards. From new companies like Fixi in Malaysia to publishing stalwarts like renowned Danish agent, Anneli Høier, the winners tonight provide a fascinating showcase for international publishing.”

Richard Mollet, Chief Executive, The UK Publishers Association, said: “The London Book Fair is the perfect location to celebrate the achievements of international publishing and the range of talent on display across the industry. Around the world, publishers are innovating and developing new ideas of how and what publishing could and will look like in the future and these awards are a great opportunity to demonstrate our success as an industry.”

Cortina Butler, Director Literature, British Council, said: “We are delighted that the winning organisations and individuals in this inaugural awards demonstrate the exciting creative entrepreneurship in today’s international publishing industry and the continuing impact of The London Book Fair Market Focus programme.”

Korea Cultural Programme at the London Book Fair

See the previous blog post for an overview of the Korea Market Focus at the London Book Fair.  See here for an update of how it went on day 1.