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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Tom Lin
Tom Lin was born in China in 1996, and immigrated to Flushing, Queens, New York City, at the age of four. A graduate of Pomona College.

“The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu” won the 2022 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, making Lin the youngest to win the award, and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

Tom had always been writing things, and wanted to write books. As a child he must have spent thousands of hours at his local library, this gorgeous glass facade triangular building at the corner of Main and Kissena. But he’d come to realize that it was not something that he would be able to pursue full time and be able to eat. So he made a resolution to be as close to literature as he could be, which was to attend grad school, study English, and attempt to close to literature through criticism and analysis.

However he had this project. One that he had been talking about for so long and had been telling all of his friends about, and he had generated an immense amount of social anxiety around not finishing this book. So when he sat down finally, he started to write out of panic, which is sorta what it took.

Having grown up in New York, he came out to California to attend college, where he also got his first car. So he was driving around a bunch, fully unsupervised, and he saw Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert. He went to all of these places, and had never seen anything like that in his whole life.

He really loved the landscape and he was thinking he was going to pen a Western, just to pay tribute to that landscape. And he wanted to have a Chinese American lead character because it was important for him to write about somebody that was like him. Then the more research that he ended up doing, he just felt the more urgent the story ended up becoming.

He never read or watched all that many Westerns, however he did read several books which subverted or satirized the Western genre, like Cormac McCarthy, who allowed Lin to get to know the Western genre through his sort of meta-Western universe, which is an interesting thing for him to read around a thing yet never actually encounter the full thing.

Yet paradoxically he still felt well prepared to write a Western, and never felt anything was lacking because he had never read Westerns, since he felt as though he had been reading Westerns all his life in other forms.

Tom’s said that he hates writing, which he thinks is also not all that true. But he does. It is one of the most difficult things that he does. However what he does instead of writing, since writing can be so hard, is he researches. This is something that he finds to be far more satisfying and there is much less hair-pulling and heartache involved with that.

His writing process is very research heavy. And he typically thinks and imagines, and ultimately writes in short scenes, just these bursts of action or description, and produces what he considers to be fragments. And then when he’s ready to begin stitching the entire thing together, it becomes a process of mortar and bricks, rather than weaving something out of whole cloth. His writing process, in a word, is a slow one. There are days where he is lucky if he can get 250 words. Tom can’t even imagine how writers can write for a full eight hours every single day.

His approach comes from his training in looking for sources, looking to find the research first, and then building an analysis off of that. He believes when it comes to writing fiction, it is almost the same exact process except that at the end what he’s built is not some interpretation, however actually something which seems to attend to all of those issues which came up during his research.

“The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2021. An astounding debut novel which reimagines the classic Western through a Chinese American assassin’s eyes on a mission to rescue his kidnapped wife and get revenge on her abductors.

Ming Tsu was orphaned young and was the son of Chinese immigrants, is raised by the notorious leader of a California crime syndicate, who has been training him to be his lethal enforcer. However when Ming falls in love with a powerful railroad magnate’s daughter, named Ada, and the couple end up eloping, he jumps at the chance to escape into a different life. Shortly after, in a violent raid, the henchmen of the tycoon are able to abduct Ada and conscript Ming into service for the Central Pacific Railroad.

Ming, now heartbroken, battered, and yet still defiant, partners up with a blind clairvoyant that is known only as the prophet. Together the two work to rescue his wife and get revenge on the men responsible for destroying Ming, aided by a troupe of magic-show performers, some of whom have supernatural powers, whom they meet on Ming’s journey. Ming blazes his way across the West, and settles old scores with a single-minded devotion which culminates in an unexpected and explosive finale.

This is at once a romance, thriller, and the story of a man’s quest for redemption in the face of a distinctly American brutality.

This is a special pleasure of a read, with humor and blood, wide knowledge and wit, in his telling of a revenge odyssey which rambles its way across the harshness, vastness, and myriad dangers of the Old West. Tom’s nuanced prose is evocative and firm, and we’re given a luminous, gritty, and fantastic take on the people and the era.

At times this novel stands staunchly within a perfectly researched historical world, and then strolls nonchalantly past these barriers and into the world haunted souls and magic. This is a story which is both brutally dark and brilliantly vibrant.

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