About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"X" is for Qiu Xiaolong Again

For “X” in the 2012 Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise I am returning to Qiu Xiaolong. Instead of trying to add to my previous profile I wrote to him about one of the best parts of his mysteries, the inclusion of poetry. They add a dimension found in few mysteries. His sleuth, Chief Inspector Chen Cao, is both an accomplished police officer and a superb poet. Some of the inspector’s poetry is part of the series.

My email to Qiu with my questions and his answers in bold, for which I am most appreciative are:


I am a book blogger from Saskatchewan in Canada. At my blog, Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan, I focus on mysteries. For the past 23 weeks I have been participating in the 2012 Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at her Mysteries in Paradise blog. Each week I have posted a profile of a different author whose surname began with the letter of the week. For next week I am putting up a profile of yourself for the letter “X”. Last year I had also posted a profile of yourself.

I have read 3 of the books in the Chief Inspector Chen Cao series and enjoyed them.

For this year’s profile I was hoping I might include answers from you to a few questions.

The questions are:

1.) Beyond Inspector Chen Cao I am aware of a couple of further mystery series where poetry was a significant part of the books. They are the mysteries of P.D. James featuring Adam Dagleish and the Canadian series of Louise Penny mainly set in the fictional village of Three Pines which has a resident poet, Ruth Lardo. I know you are a poet but wondered if any existing mystery sleuth or prominent character in a mystery series helped inspire you to make the Inspector a poet?

A: Adam Dagleish is known by others as a published poet, but he does not write poems in the books of P.D. James. So you may say while initially inspired by him, I made one step further by having him write poems in the midst of investigations. In the tradition of classical Chinese novels (not necessarily mysteries), however, it's common for characters to write poems in the development of the stories. For me, that may have been another source of influence.

2.) I find it rare to know someone in North America who can quote poetry. Is the Inspector an exception in China or is it common for people to quote poetry?

A: It' used to be very common in China, but not so nowadays. Still, you may still quite often find people quoting poetry. For example, the current Premier Wen is known for his passion for poetry quoting in speeches or press conferences. Quoting poems out of the context could be difficult for the interpreter to translate, and for the journalists to grasp, so people sometimes ask the Premier about the possible quotes beforehand, and discuss about them afterward.

3.) Most of the poetry quoted is from distant times in China’s history. The books refer to the upheavals in Chinese life, including the arts, from the Cultural Revolution. Was there poetry written in that difficult time that may find its way into the series?

A: That's a good question. But for years after 1949, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, poems as well as other literary works were supposed to serve politics, in the interests of the Communist Party. So most of the poems written during that period were more like rhymed political slogans. A very small number of them are of course different, so they may still find their into the series.

4.) In your books I occasionally feel there is a rhythm to the words that reminds me of poetry. Do you attempt to have a rhythm to your words in prose?

A: It's possible. But most of the time subconscious, I think. Recently, there's a photography and poetry entitled DISAPPEARING SHANGHAI, (with pictures by Howard French, poems by me), and the poems are written from Inspector Chen's persona and perspective.

5.) Your books have rich complex plots with readers required to consider layers of meaning in the actions and words of the characters. Poetry has subtlety in image and meaning. Do you think being poet has aided you to write better mysteries?

A: Personally. I think so. Inspector Chen being a poet also helps him approach the investigation with an alternative perspective, not merely in terms of whodunit.

Thank you for considering my questions.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Bill Selnes

Thank you very much for your mail. I appreciate your interests in my books.
I will be adding another post to the meme this week as my next post will be a review of Qiu Xiaolong’s book, A Loyal Character Dancer.



  1. Bill - Oh, this is such an interesting post! I'm so glad you got personal (and really enlightening) answers to your questions. I appreciate that you went to the trouble to ask them. I was especially drawn to your question about poetry during the Cultural Revolution. I'm looking forward to your review of A Loyal Character Dancer.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Qiu made "X" a special letter for me with his answers.

  3. What an awesome post. It's really great that you were able to interview Qiu Xiaolong. I definitely should give his books a try!

  4. Bev: Thanks for the kind words. I am confident you would enjoy reading his books.

  5. This is a very interesting post. It is good to get this author's perspective. I have several of his books and plan to read the first one soon. I read your review of the 2nd book also ... and enjoyed that too.

  6. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Asking authors questions about their work has stimulated my interest in their books.

  7. I read my first book by Qui Xiaolong as my "X" book for the Crime Fiction Alphabet and was very impressed. Thanks for the great profile and interview of this new-to-me author!

  8. Mary R.: Thanks for the comment. I would probably have not have read him but for Crime Fiction Alphabet meme. It would have been my loss.