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Woman with a Blue Pencil
Cover of Woman with a Blue Pencil
Woman with a Blue Pencil
A Novel
"Woman with a Blue Pencil is a brilliantly structured labyrinth of a novel—something of an enigma wrapped in a mystery, postmodernist in its experimental bravado and yet satisfyingly well-grounded in the Los Angeles of its World War II era. Gordon McAlpine has imagined a totally unique work of 'mystery' fiction—one that Kafka, Borges, and Nabokov, as well as Dashiell Hammett, would have appreciated."

JOYCE CAROL OATES
What becomes of a character cut from a writer's working manuscript?

On the eve of Pearl Harbor, Sam Sumida, a Japanese-American academic, has been thrust into the role of amateur P.I., investigating his wife's murder, which has been largely ignored by the LAPD. Grief stricken by her loss, disoriented by his ill-prepared change of occupation, the worst is yet to come, Sam discovers that, inexplicably, he has become not only unrecognizable to his former acquaintances but that all signs of his existence (including even the murder he's investigating) have been erased. Unaware that he is a discarded, fictional creation, he resumes his investigation in a world now characterized not only by his own sense of isolation but by wartime fear.
Meantime, Sam's story is interspersed with chapters from a pulp spy novel that features an L.A.-based Korean P.I. with jingoistic and anti-Japanese, post December 7th attitudes – the revised, politically and commercially viable character for whom Sumida has been excised.
Behind it all is the ambitious, 20-year-old Nisei author who has made the changes, despite the relocation of himself and his family to a Japanese internment camp. And, looming above, is his book editor in New York, who serves as both muse and manipulator to the young author—the woman with the blue pencil, a new kind of femme fatale.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"Woman with a Blue Pencil is a brilliantly structured labyrinth of a novel—something of an enigma wrapped in a mystery, postmodernist in its experimental bravado and yet satisfyingly well-grounded in the Los Angeles of its World War II era. Gordon McAlpine has imagined a totally unique work of 'mystery' fiction—one that Kafka, Borges, and Nabokov, as well as Dashiell Hammett, would have appreciated."

JOYCE CAROL OATES
What becomes of a character cut from a writer's working manuscript?

On the eve of Pearl Harbor, Sam Sumida, a Japanese-American academic, has been thrust into the role of amateur P.I., investigating his wife's murder, which has been largely ignored by the LAPD. Grief stricken by her loss, disoriented by his ill-prepared change of occupation, the worst is yet to come, Sam discovers that, inexplicably, he has become not only unrecognizable to his former acquaintances but that all signs of his existence (including even the murder he's investigating) have been erased. Unaware that he is a discarded, fictional creation, he resumes his investigation in a world now characterized not only by his own sense of isolation but by wartime fear.
Meantime, Sam's story is interspersed with chapters from a pulp spy novel that features an L.A.-based Korean P.I. with jingoistic and anti-Japanese, post December 7th attitudes – the revised, politically and commercially viable character for whom Sumida has been excised.
Behind it all is the ambitious, 20-year-old Nisei author who has made the changes, despite the relocation of himself and his family to a Japanese internment camp. And, looming above, is his book editor in New York, who serves as both muse and manipulator to the young author—the woman with the blue pencil, a new kind of femme fatale.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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About the Author-
  • Gordon McAlpine is the author of Hammett Unwritten and numerous other novels, as well as a middle-grade trilogy, The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe. Additionally, he is coauthor of the nonfiction book The Way of Baseball, Finding Stillness at 95 MPH. He has taught creative writing and literature at U.C. Irvine, U.C.L.A., and Chapman University. He lives with his wife Julie in Southern California.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 28, 2015
    McAlpine (Hammett Unwritten as Owen Fitzstephen) once again ventures successfully into metafiction, jumping back and forth between two separate manuscripts while delivering a masterly critique of the mystery novel. Author Takumi Sato must revise the manuscript of his novel about a Japanese-American academic, Sam Sumida, who turns detective after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. One version of Sato’s novel is a jingoistic tale of American heroism in which all Japanese characters are villains; the other focuses on Sam Sumida, a character who’s no longer allowed to exist, either in the novel or in the United States. Between chapters, readers see the interjections of Maxime Wakefield, Sato’s editor, who urges him to excise any critiques of America, and any mentions of homosexuality and racism, even as Sato himself, as a second-generation Japanese immigrant, is forced to move to an internment camp. McAlpine’s greatest accomplishment is that the book works both as a conventional mystery story and as a deconstruction of the genre’s ideology: whichever strand readers latch on to, the parallel stories pack a brutal punch. Agent: Lukas Ortiz, Philip Spitzer Literary Agency.

  • JOYCE CAROL OATES "A brilliantly structured labyrinth of a novel.... Gordon McAlpine has imagined a totally unique work of 'mystery' fiction--one that Kafka, Borges, and Nabokov, as well as Dashiell Hammett, would have appreciated."
  • Shelf Awareness STARRED review "McAlpine's creative talent is rare and this novel is an exceptional literary treat."
  • MysteryPeople PICK OF THE MONTH "A masterpiece of metafiction.... I don't know the last time I read a book that made me think that much AND had that good of an ending."
  • Publishers Weekly BOXED, STARRED review "A masterly critique of the mystery novel... McAlpine's greatest accomplishment is that the book works both as a conventional mystery story and as a deconstruction of the genre's ideology: whichever strand readers latch on to, the parallel stories pack a brutal punch."
  • Suspense Magazine "Not like any other murder mystery now in print.... Intricate. Unique... a definite work of art."
  • Paste Magazine "Hard-boiled fiction fans could use more books like [McAlpine's]: novels that work on multiple levels, and take the genre to such strange and fascinating places."
  • Booklist "A truly original crime novel."
  • Reviewing the Evidence "Gordon McAlpine has created not just a pastiche or a homage, but rather a refreshing, brisk, yet fully and brilliantly realized work...--a work that is nearly perfect and manages to pay homage to Hammett's celebrated work, while still being an incredibly engaging read for the uninitiated.... [An] inspired tale that delivers as expertly drawn meta-fiction and a compelling mystery."
  • Mystery Scene "This mash-up of biography and mystery novel is fascinating.... An engaging, highly imaginative book."
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    Prometheus Books
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