Friends and neighbors,
The Singapore Straits Times said, “Jake Needham is Asia’s most stylish and atmospheric writer of crime fiction,” and living up to their praise is something I take very seriously. That’s why I work so hard at getting the atmosphere of my novels exactly right.
This past week, I’ve been in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, spending time at some places I may use in a novel one of these days.
The only way to get around Hanoi efficiently is on a motorbike. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how everybody gets around Hanoi so the streets can get pretty crowded…
Here I am one morning with my guide, Ms. Nga, about to head out to find some of the places where I wanted to spend time. As you can easily tell from the expression on my face, I was thinking hard about how to avoid becoming a hood ornament on a Vietnamese bus…
One thing I was particularly happy to have convinced my hosts to show me was the abandoned bomb shelter beneath the hundred and ten year old French colonial Metropole Hotel. It’s where Joan Baez took shelter from the American B-52’s that were bombing Hanoi while she was in the city in December 1972, either to dramatize the commitment of America’s anti-war activists or to get publicity for herself, depending mostly on your personal view of the Vietnam War.
We enjoyed beautiful sixty-degree evenings the entire week and most nights Aey and I joined the sidewalk crowds in the Old French Quarter to dine on Hanoi’s famous street food…
But one evening we were hanging out in the sidewalk cafe in front of Hanoi’s beautiful Metropole hotel instead and a passing stranger joined our table. I liked him. He laughed at all my jokes and to everything else I said he responded energetically, “Oh, man!”
Hanoi is an absolutely lovely city and a sense of Asia as it must have been in Graham Greene’s time still somehow miraculously survives there. There aren’t many places where it does. High rise apartment buildings and the Mercedes Benz have pretty well obliterated it everywhere else.
I don’t know when, or even for sure if, I will use Hanoi in a new book, but I’ve got plenty of other titles on the shelf right now to keep you busy until I do. You have read all four of the books published so far in my Jack Shepherd series as well as all four books in the Inspector Tay series, haven’t you? You haven’t?? Well, damn it all…get cracking!