I was late when I reached to attend a session on "Women and Crime" late in the afternoon yesterday. The panel comprised three writers: Kathryn Fox (Australia), F T Batacan (Philipines) and Nuri Vittachi (Hong Kong).
When I entered the Black Box, a Q&A session was on. Members of the audience were keen to know several things. Some of the questions were interesting: Why is there so much of crime writing in the West? And why is there so little of crime writing in the East?
Vittachi said that love and death were two primary human emotions and that's why almost all bestsellers belonged to the genre of either romance or crime. He said that even the best children's fiction writers such as Philip Pullman were writing about love and death in their novels.
Batacan said that death is such a personal inevitability, an experience that everyone has to go through that there is a certain affinity to it. We are curious to know about it, and that's what we do through the crime novels.
Kathryn Fox said something that I don't remember. She was so good looking! She is a doctor turned writer.
As for why so few crime writers from the East, Vittachi said that it was not just about the crime writers published internationally from the East but in general about writers in English from the East. He said that the simple reason was that there was no machinery to promote writers from this region: no literary agents, no publishers, no editors. But there was hope, he said. Two literary agents are now setting up office in Asia: one in China and another in Hong Kong.
Vittachi himself is one of the few Asia-based novelists to be internationally published in multiple languages. He has written more than 20 books, and has more than 100,000 books in print. He is best known for comedy-crime novel series The Feng Shui Detective, about a Singapore-based feng shui master. Born in Ceyon, he now lives in Hong Kong with his English wife and three adopted Chinese children.
Vittachi jokingly added that there used to be a literary agent in Hong Kong. She unfortunately had no writers to represent and so she had to shut shop! Too bad.
Things would be better now, I guess.