Blade Runner meets The Maltese Falcon - an explosive love story and thriller set in 1919, weaving real-life and fictional characters.
Chinatown Nights - A Novel by Alexander Stuart (author of The War Zone)
Conceived as a novel about NOW, but set in 1919, Chinatown Nights mixes the noir, romance and thriller elements of Blade Runner and The Maltese Falcon with characters inspired by the London and New York underworld of the explosive period of change following the First World War.
Sam Edmunds, an American in London for the first time, finds himself caught up in the illegal after-hours nightclub world of a beautiful but infamous Chinese woman, Lady Shao (known to the tabloid press as "The Madonna of the Underworld").
Through her, Sam finds himself drawn ever deeper into a world populated by characters such as the wonderfully named Brilliant Chang (inspired by a mysterious real-life figure of the period); a sinister police detective who reminds Sam of a creature from a dime museum - and a still more sinister Belgian arms dealer and financier, Eero Gronlund, who is one of Lady Shao's lovers and may or may not have business with Sam's father.
The Background To The Novel
Chinatown Nights is a project that has consumed several years of my life, since it was first commissioned by Doubleday in the UK.
I have researched the period extensively, with particular help from the library of the University of Miami and the USC School of Cinematic Arts Library in Los Angeles. When I lived in England, I had an apartment ("flat" in English:) for well over a decade in London's Soho, where much of the novel is set. I feel that I know the period and the environment so well that I have lived it!
But Chinatown Nights is not intended as a period novel. Although it is set in 1919, I have always wanted it to be exciting, seductive and provocative, with a powerful sense of the present - and even the future - informing the characters and events in the book.
The period immediately following World War 1 - which soon came to be known as the Jazz Age - was as much of a social and technological explosion as our own times. Long before I heard the term "Steam Punk," I was writing a novel that combined the technology of the day with futuristic technologies I was imagining.
The world in 1919 had been transformed by the first major international and horrifically mechanized war, World War One. Theater audiences in London had run outside to see German Zeppelins raining bombs down upon their city.
New and recent technologies - including automobiles, radio, telephones, the subway (the Underground in London) - had transformed how people lived their lives, just as the Great War had overturned many social conventions, and given women, minorities and the working classes far greater freedom than they had ever had before.
Above all, Chinatown Nights is about the characters - Sam Edmunds, an American ne'er-do-well (but with a wealthy father) set loose in a London of after-hours drinking clubs, gangsters, wild socialites...and notorious figures, inspired in part by the subjects of the tabloid-style newspapers of the day: Brilliant Chang, a mysterious Chinese man, caught up in London's underworld; Kate Meyrick, owner of the famed 43 Club in London - and branded by the press, "The Madonna of the Underworld" and "The most dangerous woman in London."
The novel is a complex love story and thriller, interweaving the fates of Sam, the glamorous Chinese nightclub owner he falls for, Lady Shao, and the various men she is involved with, including Brilliant Chang and a secretive and deadly Belgian arms dealer and industrialist, Eero Gronlund.
What Your Kickstarter Contribution Does
I have spent years researching and writing Chinatown Nights, since it was first commissioned by Doubleday in the UK.
It is the longest book I have written, and by far the most complex. Your contribution will help give me the time to complete it at my own pace and allow it to breathe.
The complex interrelationships of the characters have surprised even me, and since I believe this will be a major work in my life - as challenging as my novel about incest, The War Zone, but with a very different, socially broader canvas - I don't want to rush what happens to them and between them.
Especially after writing for the major Hollywood studios for the past decade, where everything is under a tight deadline and story decisions are essentially made by committee, I want to enjoy writing the rest of Chinatown Nights - and to explore new ways of expanding the book into new media.
I am an addict of new technology, and while I still love traditional novels, I think the emotional complexity, the action and drama - and the powerful visual opportunities - of Chinatown Nights make it ideal for expansion as a movie, a graphic novel, a dark and intriguing app and online gaming experience, a web series, a television series...and maybe something that hasn't even been thought of yet.
I hope you will join me in the adventure of Chinatown Nights. Please contribute at any level - and tell your friends. I look forward to your participation in what has become a major arc of my life.
The Opening of the Novel
(Please note that although I use the word, "Negro," in keeping with the period, a large part of the intent of the novel is to challenge the racial, sexual and gender stereotypes of the day - and of now - and I counter the use of such language with the overall tone and narrative of the book.)
Tells of a Shooting ~
& the Madonna of the Underworld
“Stop him!” she cried.
She turned to me only because I was close, squeezing past at the edge of the dance floor when the first bullet smashed the mirror behind the bar.
The dancers around us were in an uproar, shouting, pushing for cover. She gripped my hand, her alien flesh smooth against mine. I could feel her breath on my cheek, smell it: cool, moist, a trace of liquor and something that reeked to my ungovernable mind of sex.
“Don’t let him hurt himself!”
I thought at first she was joking, for the gunman in question was a Negro of considerable proportions and the risk of him injuring himself rather than somebody else seemed slight. But she spoke as if we were already bound by some common cause, and such was the power of her scent or sex or race that I hesitated only an instant, then moved with her toward the stairway and the door. She stumbled against my back, but her words now were for her doorman, his vast impassive face turning toward her like a block of chalk in the night:
“For God’s sake, don’t let him kill Chang!”
There is a Facebook page for Chinatown Nights that contains extracts from the novel, images, background information and more - and will be updated from time to time during the writing of the book:
Please "Like" the page. Many thanks, Alexander :)
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Aug 22, 2012 - Sep 6, 2012 (15 days)
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