June 21, 2012

Made It Moment: Jake Needham

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:35 pm

A World Of Trouble

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.

Jake Needham

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.


  1. *WAVES!*

    Boy I am starting to feel that my world is collapsing in on itself — or that there are no degrees of separation in the crime fiction world — I had the pleasure of “meeting” Jake on Twitter and have one of his books to read on my cursed electronic reading device (can you tell I’m still a fan of paper?).

    That is a truly awesome “made it” moment — to think that you had that kind of impact on someone’s life.

    Comment by Lisa Brackmann — June 22, 2012 @ 12:32 am

  2. Wow! What a great story. That would make any author’s day – heck, it would make your life!! Another book added to my TBR. Best of luck Jake.

    Thanks for another great ‘Moment’ Jenny.

    Comment by mountainmama — June 22, 2012 @ 6:58 am

  3. Awesome post! As a Canadian, I’m thrilled to know his books are now available to us – off to purchase! Thanks.

    Comment by Dianne Yetman — June 22, 2012 @ 7:51 am

  4. . . . and then we can imagine all the other readers who felt the same way but for one reason or another didn’t email us. Thanks, Jake.

    Comment by Sara — June 22, 2012 @ 8:01 am

  5. “Probably the best known American writer almost nobody in America has ever heard of.”
    I love that!

    And his post made clear he’s very down to earth. I’m also VERY jealous that he had the opportunity to be in Hong Kong and talk to young readers. Great story about how he got someone to read. It’s a big achievement and we need more of that. Far too many illiterate young people nowadays. ;-)

    You go, Jake, go and get them all!

    Comment by Stella Deleuze — June 22, 2012 @ 8:03 am

  6. This is the kind of moment that any author would die for. To know you had that kind of effect on someone???

    That’s wonderful Jake and whats even better is that your books are finally available in America.

    Comment by Karyne Corum — June 22, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  7. Wow! That is a great story and I can only imagine the pride you must feel from learning that you changed that young man’s life. Good for you and congrats on your success. Another book to add to my every growing tbr list.

    Comment by Kellie — June 22, 2012 @ 9:36 am

  8. aww!

    Comment by SavvyBlue — June 22, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  9. Fantastic “Moment”! Thanks, Jake, for sharing. And thanks, Jenny, for your wonderful support to all us authors.

    Comment by P.L. Blair — June 22, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  10. Wow, great story, a reader for life.


    Comment by Arthur Levine — June 22, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

  11. What a wonderful Made It Moment!

    Comment by Sandy Wolters — June 22, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

  12. Yo Jake! A Made it Moment from Hong Kong. How cool is that?

    Comment by "Doctor Barbara" - Barbara Ebel — June 22, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

  13. That is a heart-warming story. Making a reader out of a non-reader is such a great gift.

    Comment by Penelope Marzec — June 22, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

  14. Awesome made it moment. Thanks for sharing it!

    Comment by frank mundo — June 22, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

  15. What a wonderful story! And, Jenny, what an amazing service you offer to our whole community and industry–telling stories–isn’t that what it’s all about!

    Comment by Donna Fletcher Crow — June 22, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  16. What a gift you gave him, and he gave you in return. Thanks for sharing that story, Jake.

    Comment by Anita Page — June 23, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

  17. What a wonderful moment for you! My mother-in-law never read books. She decided she wanted to proofread one of mine, and after that we couldn’t bring her books fast enough. When she lost her vision she turned to audio books. You never know the effect you can have on “non-readers”. Congratulations on a job well done.

    Comment by Marja McGraw — June 23, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

  18. Jake, that’s such an inspirational Made It Moment! As a fellow writer, ex-lawyer, lover and one-time resident of Southeast Asia I feel like we have a lot it common. I bet I would really like your books!

    Comment by Johanna — June 25, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  19. You’re on a roll with resonating posts, Jenny. As a high school English teacher, it’s my goal to get kids to relate to the stories we’re reading. I have long discussions before the book even starts about the themes of the story in order to get them talking about how these themes relate to their every day lives. And it’s always been a pleasure to see students go on to read more books by a particular author we study.

    I think popular thought among Language Arts educators is that most young people can be readers, you just have to introduce them to a writer or topic they would enjoy. Sounds like this particular student found that connection. Great post.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    Comment by Paul D. Dail — June 26, 2012 @ 9:23 am

  20. Great comments, everyone. I’m especially taken with the fissures and connections here–the fans of Sourtheast Asia, the fellow teachers. I hope this is a conversation that goes on. Sparking that passion in young readers is really the work of the angels, I think. (Good on ya, Paul!)

    Comment by jenny — June 26, 2012 @ 10:58 am

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