"China City Flame," Bill's "film noir" crime short story about Los Angeles in 1939, appears in Asian Pulp.

 

(See an excerpt, below)

Bill's happy to have a noir crime story, "China City Flame," in Asian Pulp, an anthology of original stories about characters of Asian descent. "China City Flame" is his first published short story without fantasy or science fiction elements.

The story offers "secret history" after the original Chinatown was leveled to make room for the L.A. Union Station, and two communities—"New Chinatown" and "China City" —were created nearby. In our real history, China City was burned that year. This is Bill's fictional take on what might have happened ....

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Asian Pulp: A distinctive anthology, from Pro Se Press!

 

Asian Pulp features short fiction also by Naomi Hirahara, Gary Phillips, Calvin McMillin,

Dale Furutani, Steph Cha, and Henry Chang, among many others, and an Introduction by Leonard Chang, novelist and writer and co-producer of the TV crime drama Justified.

"Mysteries, westerns, stories of crime and noir, and more, all with Asian characters in the lead! Between these covers are 17 tales of action, adventure, and thrills featuring heroes and heroines of a different shade that will appeal to audiences everywhere! Asian Pulp! From Pro Se Productions!" Edited by Tommy Hancock and Morgan McKay.

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An excerpt starting at the beginning of "China City Flame":

February 19, 1939

Los Angeles, California

 

            Two crooked cops lay dead in the alley behind me when I regained consciousness in the dead of night. No one else was in sight. Sirens wailed in the distance, coming closer.

            My blood pulsed with panic as I stood up in the shadows. Across Main Street, red and yellow flames roared inside China City, the walled tourist district. With my ribs and jaw aching from a beating I had taken earlier in the evening, I staggered out to the sidewalk and watched the blaze through the outer gate, made of high stilts supporting symbolic tiled roofs. China City was all business, so no one lived there. The employees were long gone.

            I didn’t know who had set the fire, but right now I couldn’t afford to care.

*****

            You might say this case was a beauty. She stopped in the doorway of my office, her pretty features distorted as she looked around with a skeptical scowl. Her fiery red hair was parted on one side and fell in large, natural curls to her shoulders. A narrow forest-green hat was pinned to her hair at a forward angle, with a sharp point in front and a black feather curving back. In her mid-twenties, she was just a few years younger than I was. On a slim frame with excellent curves, she wore a clinging cream-colored silk blouse with padded shoulders and long sleeves over a snug gray skirt.

            “‘Lee Gum-Sum Leung,’” she read off the black lettering on the glass in the open door. “That would be you, I suppose.”

 

            “I suppose.” I had barely finished stenciling my name before her four o’clock appointment, so the paint was still wet. Since my boss, George Moorville, had just rented this second story office for me, I didn’t have a receptionist. My desk, where I was sitting, was scratched and dented. As I glanced her over, my suit from a secondhand store seemed cheaper than ever.

 

            She entered, studying the worn, slightly sagging hardwood floor and blank walls of old white paint.

 

             “Derry MacSwain?” I walked around my desk. My mother had taught me that a woman should have the prerogative of shaking hands or not, so I let her choose. “I’m Lee Leung.”

 

            She held out a pale, slender hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Leung.” Her grip was firm and her green eyes met mine as she spoke. A spray of freckles crossed her cheeks and nose.

 

            “I’m pleased to meet you. Please sit down.” I patted the back of the only chair in front of the desk, an uncomfortable straight-backed piece from the same secondhand store.

 

            Those green eyes flickered toward the seat of the chair, as though it might be unsanitary. Still, she angled her butt to plant it carefully before leaning back against the upright slats and crossing her legs. I figured her arrival was the best thing that every happened to that chair.

 

            “How can I help you, Miss MacSwain?” I sat down.

 

            Instead of answering, she gazed over my right shoulder, where the window was open without a screen. Like most late February afternoons in Los Angeles, the day was comfortable as long as the sun remained up. The evening would cool quickly.

 

            “China City,” she said quietly, as though to herself.

 

            China City had been built to attract tourists on a block inside Spring, Main, Ord, and Macy streets. The place had opened last June, three weeks before the so-called New Chinatown on Broadway nearby. Both developments resulted from the original Chinatown of Los Angeles being razed for the new Union Station, which was still under construction.

 

            I was enjoying my own view.

 

            The hem of the gray skirt just barely draped over her knee. She held a small red leather purse on her lap. The foot that dangled in the air wore a shoe of deep red, with a three-inch heel and a rounded toe with a little bow. Her nylons were more beige than the pale skin of her arms. The golden sunlight played on her pert Irish nose and classic cheekbones like Katharine Hepburn’s. The red lipstick didn’t quite match her hair or her shoes. Her eyes had a very faint droop, perhaps as though she were sad.

 

            “Miss MacSwain?” I gave her my most professional voice, disguising the fact that I earned a living hauling crates at my uncle’s warehouse in New Chinatown.

 

             “You’re from here, aren’t you? You don’t have an accent.”

 

            “Neither do you,” I said, with a poker face.

 

            “My grandmother grew up in New York City,” she said, as if that explained her speech. “Are you a licensed private investigator, Mr. Leung?”

 

            “I work under my boss’s license, Miss MacSwain.”

 

            Her eyes shifted to the bulge under my suit jacket created by a snub-nosed .38 Colt Detective Special revolver in a shoulder holster under my left arm. She nodded, apparently taking my gat as confirmation of some sort.

 

            What the hell, I’d been eyeing her chest, too.

(End of excerpt)

 

Copyright 2020 by William F. Wu. All rights reserved.