One day in 1995, a large, heavy middle-aged man robbed two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight. He didn’t wear a mask or any sort of disguise. And he smiled at surveillance cameras before walking out of each bank. Later that night, police arrested a surprised McArthur Wheeler. When they showed him the surveillance tapes, Wheeler stared in disbelief. ‘But I wore the juice,’ he mumbled. Apparently, Wheeler thought that rubbing lemon juice on his skin would render him invisible to videotape cameras. After all, lemon juice is used as invisible ink so, as long as he didn’t come near a heat source, he should have been completely invisible.
Police concluded that Wheeler was not crazy or on drugs – just incredibly mistaken.
So when I sat down to write my Ava Lee series, it seemed natural enough to have a Chinese-Canadian as my heroine. It also made sense to make her a forensic accountant—initially working as a debt collector in Asia—since it allowed me to tap into my many years of experience doing business there. Those experiences included exposure to bribery and other forms of corruption that were standard practice.
I tried to make the books as realistic as possible. The crimes and scams that Ava pursued usually had a basis in reality and I think that in most of the books I achieved a level of authenticity. But I’ve never been as challenged as I was when it came to writing Ava’s latest outing, The Princeling of Nanjing. The book’s subject is political corruption involving a member of China’s political elite. The challenge was to create fiction that matched the reality of the marriage between modern-day politics and corruption in China.
At Fitzgerald’s best, that was the perspective he, too, could conjure: of a specific moment in historical time that somehow symbolised timelessness. Daniel’s fascinating collection of stories and, despite its flaws, Brown’s biography stand as timely reminders: if Fitzgerald ever “lost track” of time – which I doubt – he certainly never lost track of history, and neither should we.
Life is movement. Shadows lengthened through the backyard, creatures whirring and growling, plants growing tall and blossoming, fecund and irreverent, while inside the tank the conch sat in its corner. I kept a calm vigil, well after hope was reasonable.