October 2013 
No. 9

Awesome October Debuts!

Two newcomers prove their leading ladies are anything but timid

Table of Contents


Exclusive Q&A with James Ziskin


Exclusive Q&A with Thatcher Robinson

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No one likes a boring routine, which is why we love getting the chance to try something new. Well, this month we'd like to invite you to read something new!  We've got two great debuts that are anything but drab. Whether you're hitching a ride back to 1960 with Ellie Stone or heading over to Chinatown with Bai Jiang, these strong women take the lead.

shamesQ&A with James Ziskin


With a taste for whisky and a reporter's insight, Ellie Stone, a modern young woman in 1960s New York City, plays by her own rules while searching for a killer among the scholars at Columbia University. Library Journal says Styx & Stone is an engrossing start to "a fascinatingly complex series...sure to appeal to both fans of academia and Mad Men."


'Zine of the Crime: Tell us about the setting for Styx & Stone. Why 1960?

James Ziskin: 1960 works for Styx & Stone for many reasons. For one, it's just fifteen years after World War II, whose fading memories play a haunting role in the plot. And for another, the role of women in the workplace was still extremely limited in 1960. Of course times were starting to change, and many women, including Ellie Stone, wanted careers. That creates conflict and gives Ellie a wall to butt her head against.


James Ziskin
Photo Juan Tallo

Ellie describes herself as a "modern girl." What was your inspiration for her character?

Ellie is a patchwork of attractive qualities and tragic flaws. She's not based on anyone in particular. Sexually speaking, Ellie is indeed a "modern girl." In the bedroom as in the workplace, Ellie wants to call the tune. Given her gender and the world of 1960, of course, she usually can't have her way. But that doesn't stop her from trying.


I don't recall even one mention of a gun in this book. Isn't that peculiar in a crime story?

Guns make a lot of noise. They attract attention. And since Ellie is a reporter not a cop, she wouldn't know what to do with a gun. In my stories, I like blunt objects.


You studied Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Is that where you found inspiration for the machinations of the academics in this book?

There is so much I admire in academics, who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of knowledge and culture. They're like athletes, but they develop the brain instead of muscles. Our society could use a lot more of that just now. That said, like any other trade, academia produces its share of blowhards, blackguards, and jerks. Ego is a huge factor. Fertile ground for a murder story.


What's next for Ellie Stone?

Trouble. And lots of it. No Stone Unturned (June 10, 2014) finds Ellie in her adopted upstate town, New Holland, New York. A society girl is found dead in a local wood, and Ellie is ensnared in a twisted, voyeuristic tangle, fighting for her job as she investigates the baffling crime.

Armed with Buddhist philosophy and wicked knife skills, Bai Jiang, San Francisco's best people finder, is called upon to track down a girl who's gone missing in Chinatown.  Thatcher Robinson's novel White Ginger is filled with "delicious characters and an intriguing setting," says RT Book Reviews. Booklist says "fans of feisty female investigators will find much to like in Robinson's first novel."



'Zine of the Crime: White Ginger has some violent scenes. What's the reason for including explicit violence in your work?

Thatcher Robinson: Bai Jiang is a practicing Buddhist. Like most of us, she attempts to become a better person through her thoughts and deeds. And, like most of us, she sometimes fails to reach enlightenment. With her violent nature, she'll obviously need a lot more practice. The contradiction of her beliefs and her behavior sets the stage for a bit of dark humor, which, in my opinion, provides more interest for the reader. The extreme contrasts in her life are also a caricature of the contradiction of any person's beliefs and behavior.

Thatcher Robinson 
Photo Gerry McIntyre


What have you learned of Buddhism while researching White Ginger?

Buddhism is an interesting philosophy. The basic premise is that you only find yourself by becoming selfless. In the covetous western world, this premise is contradictory to everything we've been taught, which is that he who has the most wins.

Also, in America, self-delusion seems to be king. We believe we can be anything we can imagine. A Buddhist would suggest we're only as real as our delusions allow. Try wrapping your head around that one.


You set White Ginger in San Francisco's Chinatown. Why?

The obvious answer would be that they're Chinese, but that would be simplistic. Few Chinese actually live and work in Chinatowns, but these small inner-city enclaves offer a flavor of life you won't find anywhere else in the western world. The inhabitants speak a different language, eat different foods, and live by different rules. To walk into a Chinatown is like visiting a foreign country without leaving home. I've tried to impart that unfamiliar ambiance to the reader.


Who did you have in mind when modeling your main character, Bai Jiang?

Bai is a composite character. She's made up of bits and pieces of women I've known and women I'd like to have known. My wife, like Bai, is a tall, beautiful and assertive Asian woman. Bai's sarcastic tone comes from a Korean actress by the name of Kim Sun Ah. Her fierceness is derived from a very young Kelly Hu, and her gentle thoughtfulness from Joan Chen. If any of these ladies ask for my number, please feel free to give it to them.


What's next for Bai Jiang?

The follow up to White Ginger has already been penned and is being edited. The next book has even a faster pace than the first novel and will hopefully please Bai's fans. I start work on the third novel in early 2014, an adventure that will take Bai to Hong Kong. 

We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at two great debuts! Don't forget to join us on Pinterest, Facebook and
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Lisa Michalski  

Seventh Street Books™, an imprint of Prometheus Books