DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS: ASIAN AMERICAN PULP FICTION
Down These Mean Streets: Asian American Pulp Fiction - See more at: http://thelifesentence.net/book/some-thoughts-on-asian-pulp/#sthash.aidpuuv2.dpuf
I have always enjoyed a good mystery. Even so, I didn’t recognize the genre’s true potential until I read Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. “The ideal mystery,” Chandler once wrote, “was one you would read if the end was missing.”* In other words, a good detective novel isn’t dependent on some big reveal, but on something more significant: “a certain intensity of artistic performance” involving character, style, and tone—among other things.** Inspired by Chandler’s literary aspirations, I began writing my own mystery novel featuring Sanjuro Jones—a half-Japanese, half-white journalism major searching for a missing student in a sleepy college town. Was I simply using the mystery genre to write about myself? Certainly not. I was a half-Chinese, half-white English major living in a sleepy college town—completely different.
All joking aside, Sanjuro’s creation arose from necessity. Simply put, I noticed a dearth of compelling Asian and Asian American characters in detective fiction. Even in the Chandler novels I admired, characters of Asian descent served as little more than window dressing—perhaps less overtly racist than in the fiction of the time, but no less stereotypical. In fact, it seemed like the only existing Asian detectives in pop culture were walking, talking stereotypes—Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto, and Mr. Wong, all of whom were portrayed by white actors on the silver screen. Despite whatever heroic attributes these “Oriental detectives” were meant to embody, there’s no denying their blatant phoniness—in mannerism, accent, and appearance. “Yellowface” was never about casting the best actor; it was simply a product of Hollywood racism.
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*Introduction to the 1950 edition of Trouble Is My Business.
**Letter to Erle Stanley Gardner dated January 29, 1946.