I finished the book, Jade Lady Burning, last night, and I think I found one way Limón has changed: He shed some of Raymond Chandler’s influence as he found his own voice. Granted that every hard-boiled writer since Chandler has been compared to him, and that such comparisons can be glib and facile, I'd say they’re valid here.
The ride from Seoul into the countryside in Jade Lady Burning, the scenery changing from urban to thinly settled rural, is pure Chandler. The novel’s wistful ending has a whiff of Chandler about it as well, and co-protagonist/narrator George Sueño is a bit more the lone wolf here than he is in later books, when his colleague Ernie Bascom comes more to the fore.
Maybe Limón never borrowed from Chandler. Maybe he did, but unconsciously. But if he did use Chandler as a model, he did so effectively and well. And a remark that Limón made during our panel at Bouchercon 2011 demonstrated that he is highly conscious of his own efforts to find his voice.
Limón's publication history has closely paralleled American military involvement during the post-Cold War era, with spurts of books following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and then the second Iraq war. I suggested that interest in his military mysteries might have waxed and waned along with public interest in military news.
Nope, he said, the occasional gaps in his output (seven books in nineteen years) are due to his efforts over time to figure out how to be a novelist. I say that he’s gone a long way toward figuring out and that Chandler was part of the process.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011