A Q&A with Qiu Xiaolong

We ask Qiu Xiaolong a few quick questions...

Posted on September 17, 2015 in Author Q&A
Tags: qiu xiaolong

Read our Q&A with Qiu Xiaolong, the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of the Inspector Chen series. Read our guide to his acclaimed Chines crime series here.


Tell us a secret or a joke.

According to my wife, I was starved into being a so-called gourmet during the “three years of natural disasters from 1959 to 1961,” when more than thirty millions of Chinese died of starvation. In other words, I am far from a sophisticated gourmet to her standard.

Inspector Morse Boxset

If you were stranded on a desert island and could take one crime novel, one DVD boxset and one character from a crime novel, who/what would you take?

If on a desert island like that, I would take an Inspector Chen manuscript still in process as I might forget myself in writing, an Inspector Morse boxset, and Pepe Carvalho from Manuel Vazquez Montalban’s books, who takes crime-writing and eating to an existential level.


Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and what would be on the menu?

Overseas Chinese Lu, a recurring character in the Inspector Chen series, used to be my schoolmate and friend in real life, but we lost touch in China’s dramatic transformation. He was an ever-imaginative gastronomical experimenter who infected me with the passion to cook, so it would be up to him to make the menu, preferably including the white paper fish soup he gave me the recipe for, and which earned me a rare compliment from my wife about my cooking.


Are you a hero or a villain?

Not a villain, but perhaps less than a hero.

The Waste Land

What would be the title of your autobiography? 

I have not written an autobiography yet. But the next Inspector Chen book has some autobiographical elements in it, with first, second and third person perspectives intermingled, which is tentatively titled Becoming Inspector Chen.


What is your favourite line from a film/TV series/book?

“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” East Coker. T. S. Eliot


Does your writing ever scare you?

It has scared me, but it scared my elder brother more than anybody else. He was broken during the Cultural Revolution, and has since been bed-ridden, invariably shuddering at the adventures of Inspector Chen.


Who would your Clue character be and what would be your murder weapon?

For Shanghai Redemption, the Clue characters are in the Forbidden City, Beijing; as for my murder weapon, I have been thinking about the combination of the river crab and persimmon—the fatal concoction according to traditional Chinese medical folklore. Perhaps in a future Inspector Chen investigation.


If you could write a book with any other crime or thriller writer, who would you choose and why?

Perhaps with Andrea Camilleri. Inspector Montalbano is an even more impossible foodie, but Inspector Chen could introduce Chinese delicacies to him.


When did you know you were going to be a writer?

Maybe when the guilty plea written for my blindfolded father was approved at the first try by the Red Guards in hospital. What a boost to my confidence in writing! A different writer, of course.


If you could rewrite history, what would you do?

No Cultural Revolution for China.


Who would you chose to survive the apocalypse with?

Possibly with Li Shangyin, who survives his “apocalypse” in his many “untitled” poems.




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