(Censored–Sort Of) Singapore Crime Fiction

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Today’s blog post is on Jake Needham, whom I interviewed in December!

WHO IS JAKE NEEDHAM?

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Jake Needham writes crime/noir fiction set in Asia, including squeaky-clean Singapore.

He is a lawyer by education and held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors. He has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for over twenty-five years.

And he posts great, snappy updates on Facebook.

BRAGGING RIGHTS

Described by The Straits Times as “Asia’s most stylish and atmospheric writer of crime fiction.”

Described by The Bangkok Post as “Michael Connelly with steamed rice.”

Wikipedia: Jake Needham

WHO IS INSPECTOR TAY?

Libris Reviews describes Inspector Samuel Tay as “a world-weary Singaporean homicide detective.”

Tay is a senior inspector in the elite Special Investigation Section of Singapore CID. He’s pretty much the best investigator the Singapore police have, albeit he is somewhat of an outsider.

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THE DEAD AMERICAN is the third book which features Inspector Tay.

The blurb for the book mentions the following:

“A young American software engineer hangs himself in his Singapore apartment. At least that’s what the police say happened. Emma Lazar, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, thinks otherwise. She thinks Tyler Bartlett was murdered to keep him quiet, and the Singapore police are covering it up.”

That description immediately brought to my mind the case of Shane Todd, an American engineer who was found hanging in his Singapore apartment.

The author does mention in a blog post that the book is not a fictionalized account of the death of Shane Todd. It is, however, set in Singapore, which Jake Needham feels is a “country whose rulers have perpetuated themselves since its first day of nationhood through ruthless censorship and the relentless suppression of effective dissent.”

SINGAPORE CENSORSHIP (OR, “OB MARKERS”)

Jake’s readers have noticed some spooky parallels between the Shane Todd case and a novel he first published years ago about the death of another American in Singapore.

One would think that there would be a natural market for Jake’s book in Singapore, since all the Tay books are built on real events and real places related to Singapore.

However, the content of the Tay books cut Jake off from his publisher in Singapore — he can’t get any local press coverage either. One can assume that this is due to two factors:

(1) the controversial content of his Works of Fiction, and
(2) the unsavory depiction of Singapore authorities in his Works of Fiction.

After all, we are all told that Singapore is to be recognised as clean and incorruptible.

STDesmond Wee-CPIB

“Singapore is [a] clean and incorrupt system and country.” — excerpt from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech at the CPIB’s 60th Anniversary celebration, 2012.

And if you’re like Alan Shadrake who published a well-researched, non-fiction book about the human rights abuses in Singapore, you get thrown into jail at the very least for “scandalizing the Singapore judiciary.”

This makes it difficult for Jake Needham to connect with a Singaporean audience and introduce them to his characters and stories set in Singapore, since his books have disappeared from local booksellers and he receives virtually no local press coverage because everyone knows they are expected to toe the party line.

It brings to the forefront the sense of self-censorship in Singapore.

Can you imagine a scenario where Mike Connelly’s books cannot be sold in California because some of the cops he writes about are stupid, or motivated by politics, or even downright crooked?

JAKE’S VIEW(S) ON THE SITUATION

In an interview with I-S Magazine (original link and blog link), Jake said:

“When The Ambassador’s Wife (the first Inspector Tay novel) was published, all my contacts abruptly stopped returning my calls, and not another word about the book ever appeared in any publication in Singapore. . .

I certainly don’t consider [the Inspector Tay books] to be negative depictions of Singapore. Quite on the contrary, I think they are authentic and honest depictions. That’s always what I strive for, regardless of where I set my novels.”

Jake’s reply to my email on the situation:

“As I recall, it’s very difficult for Singaporeans to buy from Amazon and almost everyone there is forced to source ebooks locally from locally controlled sources. Needless to say, none of my ebooks are available through any of those sources. There is very little popular fiction published internationally that features contemporary Singapore, and I have little doubt a fair number of Singaporeans would enjoy meeting Inspector Tay and seeing their city though his eyes if only they knew he existed.

I’d be happy to support any source in Singapore who could make the Tay books available there — heck, I’d even give a bunch of them away if that was the only way to get them into the hands of people in Singapore.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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Screenshot of Amazon page in Singapore — Kindle edition unavailable (thanks to my friend in SG who took this screenshot)

At the moment, Kindle books in the Amazon US store are unavailable for purchase or download for people in Singapore.

THEREFORE, if you’re in Singapore and would like to support Jake Needham’s work of authentic/fresh/exciting fiction set in Singapore, you can help out by doing one of the following:

— Buy his books from iTunes

— Buy his books from Smashwords (coupon code available for people reading this post: see below)

— Sign up for his awesome newsletter

— Follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Share on social media. Here’s a sample tweet.

COUPON AND A NOTE

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Here’s a Smashwords coupon that’s good for a 50% discount on any ebook edition of THE AMBASSADOR’S WIFE (first book in Inspector Tay series) until February 28, which will take the price for you lovely readers down to US$2.50:

Link: The Ambassador’s Wife, by Jake Needham (Smashwords)

Coupon Code: DX49S

* The first two Inspector Tay novels — THE AMBASSADOR’S WIFE and THE UMBRELLA MAN — are available on iBooks and Smashwords. THE DEAD AMERICAN is exclusive to Amazon until March 1 and won’t be available on iBooks and Smashwords until March 2 or just after.

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