Meet the real Iris Fang

In THE SILENT GIRL, I introduce a female martial arts master named Iris Fang, a mysterious figure who may — or may not be — the force behind a series of murders in Chinatown. One reporter who interviewed me asked if the whole woman warrior thing wasn’t a bit over the top. Is a woman martial arts master really believable?

Absolutely. In fact, the character of Iris Fang was inspired by a real person, Bow Sim Mark, who coincidentally has just been profiled in the Boston Globe:

In July, Bow Sim Mark will celebrate her 35th year teaching wushu in the United States. A martial art that includes tai chi and other ancient disciplines, wushu and its movements were first standardized by the Chinese government in the 1950s. Over the decades, Mark has developed them into performances that are wholly her own and has collected an impressive list of accolades along the way. In 1984, she won the gold medal at the First International Tai Chi Chuan and Sword Tournament in China. More recently, Black Belt magazine named her one of the most influential martial arts masters of the 20th century; Inside Kung-Fu magazine upped the praise, declaring her one of the most influential of the last millennium…

Watching Mark work through wushu forms is to see a kind of otherworldly refinement. All her movements seem to exist within a carefully constructed sphere that shifts when she does. There is a radius of power and a circumference of grace that are meditative until, suddenly, Mark brings her sword from a position of rest into a powerful downward chop or upward thrust. The lethality of the action was always there; it had just been hidden by the beauty of the movements surrounding it, like swaying reeds that conceal a tiger.

Well sure, you think. She looks great onstage. She moves with grace. But are those fighting skills actually effective? Read what one Navy SEAL, Shannon Phelps, had to say about Sifu Mark:

Despite Phelps’s size, he recalls, Mark “used to just take me and wrap me and throw me on the ground. Then she’d giggle and say: ‘How come you’re on the ground? I’m just a little lady.’ Then she’d laugh and laugh, but she made her point more than once.”

“She’s playing at such a high level that it can be like a cat with a little ball of twine,” he says. “She knows we’re trying hard, but what she’s got we’re never going to get.

Truth really is more fascinating than fiction.

TV commercials for books?

Sometimes it’s a very long day’s shoot!

Check out the behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the TV commercial for THE SILENT GIRL. They managed to find Angie and Sasha look-alikes for the shoot!

Dear readers: please donate to a morgue!

I’m not talking about body parts … just a bit of spare change, or perhaps more, to fund an amazing new morgue and research facility in Dundee, Scotland. For each pound (only $1.62) you donate, you’ll get the chance to cast a vote for your favorite author… which is, hopefully, me! With hotshot authors Lee Child, Val McDermid, and Stuart McBride also in the running, competition will be stiff.

Because here’s the utterly cool reason I’m hoping my readers will come through: the morgue will be named after the author with the most votes.

Here’s the background from BBC

A group of best-selling authors has teamed up to urge the public to donate money to a cutting-edge university facility – a morgue.
The Million for a Morgue campaign aims to match the £1m University of Dundee has offered for a new forensic centre.
Several crime writers, led by Val McDermid, are supporting the centre, which will be named after one of them.
Having a new morgue would allow researchers at the university to adopt the Thiel method of embalming.
This would give surgeons, dentists, students and medical researchers a more realistic method of testing techniques, practising procedures and developing new equipment and approaches.
‘Grisly technical details’
The link between the morgue project and the crime writers emerged through a friendship between Val McDermid and Professor Sue Black, director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) at Dundee University.
Ms McDermid said: “I’ve known Sue for years and she has helped me tremendously with a lot of the sort of grisly technical detail that goes into my books.
“When she told me about the project for the new mortuary I thought this was a chance for myself and other writers to give something back to a community that is of tremendous value to us.”
CAHID is a world-renowned centre in the fields of human identification, forensic anthropology, cranio-facial reconstruction and the study of the human body.
Its team has developed groundbreaking techniques in areas such as hand identification, which has led to the prosecution of paedophiles identified from images of their hands found in obscene photographs and films.
It also runs Disaster Victim Identification training for police offers to help them deal with mass fatalities around the world.
Prof Black said: “The work I have done with Val has always been very interesting and I am always happy to have been able to help.
“To receive such enthusiastic support from Val and her fellow writers is tremendously gratifying and I cannot thank them enough for lending their support to this project.
“We will be the first university in the UK to exclusively use Thiel embalming and it is an area where, working together with other colleagues in the university, we can make real breakthroughs and change the face of scientific, medical and dental research and training.”
‘Sadly underfunded’
The international fundraising campaign has already enlisted the support of author Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen and Stuart MacBride.
Stuart MacBride, who sets his crime thrillers in Aberdeen, said: “I’ve been very lucky to pick the brains of some of the UK’s top forensic experts – their support and advice has been invaluable in making sure that what goes on in the books is as close to what really happens as possible.
“It’s not often that crime writers get to give something back to that community – other than buying them drinks, of course – so I’m delighted to be involved in helping Sue raise money for a new mortuary.”
Chinese-American novelist and retired physician Tess Gerritsen added: “I write merely fiction, but these scientists work in the very real world of death investigation, a field that is sadly underfunded.
“How wonderful that that my fictional detectives can now help support the true detectives.”

You can donate here.

And I hope you’ll vote for me!

(After you donate, you will be contacted by email about your author vote. All nationalities can contribute. You’ll see a question asking if you’re a UK taxpayer; it’s only for VAT purposes. If you’re not, simply select “no” and go on to the shopping cart.)

Bloody Words Conference, Victoria

For photos and a rundown of what I saw and did in Canada, hop over to Murderati!

ICE COLD a finalist for the Nero Wolfe Award!

I’m thrilled to share the news. (With thanks to Janet Rudolph’s blog.)

The Nero Award is presented by the Wolfe Pack each year to an author for the best mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. It is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City. The Nero Award celebrates literary excellence in the mystery genre.

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen — Ballantine Books
The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds — St. Martin’s Press
Bury Your Dead byLouise Penny — Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group
The Midnight Show Murders by Al Roker — Delacorte
Think of a Number by John Verdon — Crown

The Wolfe Pack, the literary society that celebrates all things Nero Wolfe, also presents the Black Orchid Novella Award (BONA) in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the Novella format popularized by Rex Stout. The BONA is also announced at the Black Orchid Banquet in December.


Preview it here: