Woman With a Blue Pencil
By Gordon McAlpine
Seventh Street Books, 2015. 191 pgs. Mystery.
When the LAPD fails to properly investigate the murder of Sam Sumida’s wife, he takes matters into his own hands and becomes an amateur PI. As he watches The Maltese Falcon at the theater on December 6th, 1941, the movie temporarily cuts out, but when it starts back up everything has changed, the movie, the date, and history. Sam, a Japanese American, suddenly finds himself in the other side of Pearl Harbor, but what’s worse, no one knows who he is, his wife’s murder never happened, and all signs of his existence are gone. Sam is unaware that he is a fictional character that has been written out of a novel. Despite all of this, he continues his investigation, unaware that the novel has become an anti-Japanese spy thriller.
Meanwhile, the young author, an American citizen of Japanese heritage, has been relocated to a Japanese internment camp, and his New York editor—the woman with the blue pencil—manipulates the story to fit what she thinks will be successful.
I love the concept of this book. It’s really three stories woven together as one: Sam Sumida’s murder mystery, Jimmy Park’s spy thriller, and Takumi Sato’s life and struggles as an author. Each writing style was distinct and well executed, with the stories intertwining seamlessly. My heart ached for Takumi, and I was horrified by what his editor— ignorant, bias and manipulative—was asking him to write. Be aware that racism is a major theme in this book, but is done in a very tongue in cheek way. Overall, I really loved it and would easily recommend it.