I don’t think there’s a writer on earth who wouldn’t long to make it in the way Jake Needham is about to describe. I know I do.
But there’s another reason I’m happy to feature Jake’s Moment, and that’s due to the strands and connections afforded by the world wide web, the things that keep me blogging and FB-ing and Tweeting, because they’re the things that bring me to you and you to me. As soon as I started reading this post, spots lit up like satellite connections. Tim Hallinan! went one spot. Lisa Brackmann! These writers have to be a part of each other’s world!
Which brings me back to Jake’s Moment. In the end it reminds me of nothing less than that saying: To the world you may be somebody, but to somebody you are the whole world.
Four or five years ago my publisher asked me to teach a short course in contemporary crime fiction at a Hong Kong university. Since I was in town anyway, they also asked me to speak to assemblies of seniors at two private international schools in Hong Kong.
I have to admit that rather gave me pause. I doubted I had many readers among seventeen and eighteen year olds, and I didn’t see why seventeen and eighteen year olds in Hong Kong would be particularly interested in listening to some old fart talking about crime fiction when they were probably far more interested in getting on with their lives, making a lot of money, and having a lot of sex. Still, my publisher had always supported my books energetically, and they were pretty insistent, so I agreed.
As it turned out, it was a wonderful experience. The kids were bright, interested, and engaged. A number of them had read at least one of my books and quite a few even brought copies for me to sign.
Okay, all of that was nice, but none of it was really that big a deal. Here’s the big deal…
In the weeks following my appearances at these two Hong Kong prep schools, I got a lot of very nice email from students thanking me for meeting with them. There was one of the emails in particular that I will never forget.
A young man in his senior year wrote to tell me that he had attended my appearance somewhat reluctantly. He had never read a book, he said, not a single one, other than the ones he was forced to read in school. What he wanted to tell me was that a friend of his had given him one of my novels after my appearance at his school. Having nothing better to do when he was riding the tram home the next day, he had opened it and begun to read. After a bit he looked up, and he told me he was absolutely astonished to realize that the place I was writing about in the story at that moment was just outside the windows of his tram. So amazed was he by the coincidence, that he went straight back to my book and finished reading it in two days. ‘I never knew that novels could have anything to do with my life,’ he wrote to me. ‘But you tell stories about the kind of people and places I know, and you make me see them in ways I never realized I could. I’m now a reader for life. Thank you so much for that.”
How did I know I had made it? There you go….
Jake Needham has had an unusual career for an American writer. The Bangkok Post once called him, “Probably the best known American writer almost nobody in America has ever heard of.”
Jake is the author of five international crime novels — THE AMBASSADOR’S WIFE, THE BIG MANGO, LAUNDRY MAN, KILLING PLATO, and A WORLD OF TROUBLE — all of which were released by a British publisher owned by a Singapore media group and have been best-sellers in Asia, Europe, and the UK, but none of the print editions of Jake’s books have ever been sold in North America. It was only at the beginning of this year, when his books finally became available worldwide in new ebook editions, that American and Canadian readers began to discover Jake.
Jake was a lawyer, a television news correspondent, and a screenwriter before he became a crime novelist. For the last twenty-five years, he has lived and worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and Thailand, and his novels — all set in the cities of modern day Asia — have been praised for their authenticity by CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and a host of international newspapers and magazines. “Needham is Asia’s most stylish and atmospheric writer of crime fiction,” the Singapore Straits Times concluded.