My review of Woman With a Blue Pencil first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am posting it today with their permission. Hope you enjoy...
First line: "On the evening of December 6, 1941, Sam Sumida shifted in his seat at the crowded Rialto Movie House in downtown Los Angeles."
In this refreshingly innovative detective novel, Hammett Unwritten author Gordon McAlpine follows the life of a character cut--via the vicious blue editing pencil--from a novel.
Takumi Sato is a Japanese-American in the Manzanar relocation camp during World War II who has written a novel featuring Sam Sumida, a Japanese-American sleuth investigating his wife's murder. In order for the book to be published, Sato has to agree to change his own name, his protagonist's ethnicity and various other elements of the work. But Sumida has come to life and simply will not die.
Sumida walks into a movie theater on December 6, 1941 to watch The Maltese Falcon and emerges to find his world in complete chaos. No one knows who he is--in fact, there's no evidence he ever even existed--but every one is hostile toward him. With nowhere to go and a million baffling questions, Sumida sets to work unraveling this isolating conundrum.
Woman with a Blue Pencil is the intricate plaiting of excerpts from Sato's novel, The Orchid and the Secret Agent, published as William Thorne; correspondence from Sato's editor, the woman with the blue pencil; and a novella merely labeled The Revised. McAlpine ingeniously blends the three plots to create a multi-dimensional, absorbing mystery, simultaneously bringing out the mortifying miscarriage of justice occurring in the United States. He also takes hilarious, yet subtle, jabs at the tropes of "commercial" fiction.
McAlpine's creative talent is rare and this novel is an exceptional literary treat.
Woman With a Blue Pencil is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 9781633880887) from Seventh Street Books. You can find a copy at your favorite independent bookstore or the following retailers: