October 17, 2013

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“The Ex-Club Tong Pang” finally emerges

If there ever was a case of “don’t do as I do,” it would be the saga of my first novel, “The Ex-Club Tong Pang,” which was published as an ebook by Twilight Times Books on Tuesday and will arrive as a paperback on Dec. 15.

I began writing the story many years ago, not long after I moved out of the Los Angeles neighborhood that inspired it. But it turns out that although I am an efficient journalist, I’m a very slow fiction writer, and it’s taken all this time to finish what is really a very short book. Note to self and other potential novelists: Oddly, you actually have to work on a book in order to finish it. Who knew?

“The Ex-Club Tong Pang” is a “comic suspense” story, set in 1980s Los Angeles, and follows the adventures of retail worker and part-time playwright Hannelore Herald, whose thwarted attempt to check out the Korean nightclub down the street from her apartment leads to a meeting with an attractive but unreliable man who claims to be investigating a baby-buying ring. There are some characters that are based pretty darn closely on real people, which just goes to show you should not hang around writers if you don’t want to end up in their stories.

The following is a short excerpt. You can read the first three chapters at

“The guest I await will arrive

With a blue robe over his weary person.

    —Yuk sa Lee

Los Angeles, the late 1980s

It never occurred to Hannelore Herald that the Club Tong Pang would disappear. She assumed it would be there when she got up the courage to step through its enormous wood and iron doors. No one she knew had ever been inside the Tong Pang. Its windowless exterior cloaked foreign and fascinating conversations and transactions. Its doors were that of a fortress. She was determined that one day, in a fit of dizzy valor, she would storm it.

Hannelore had to admit that perhaps because she spent so much time around theatre people, her thought processes were sometimes a little melodramatic. However, she did make it her mission to go places in her neighborhood no other white people did, partly to pick up ideas for plays and partly because she was just nosey. 

She loved the idea that there were layers of life going on all around her, all the time. In the space of a few blocks in her ’hood, she would encounter faded but gallant people who could remember when Norma Talmadge (or was it Constance?) really lived in The Talmadge apartment building; young, black female office workers with attitude and five-inch heels; unbuttoned Latino families barbecuing in their parking lots; buttoned-up Korean families gardening in their front yards; and, quite possibly, her Armenian landlord and his Rumanian wife, out for an afternoon stroll. Life in her neighborhood could change rhythms with one blast of a car horn playing La Cucaracha or the next-door neighbors turning on ’Retha real loud.


October 17, 2013

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