Read an excerpt from Woman with a Blue Pencil


…The rain had stopped and Sam Sumida stood for a moment on the sidewalk outside his house. Aside from the lights burning inside, everything looked as he had left it. He couldn’t help thinking about Kyoko, who had picked out the bungalow from among those in Echo Park they could afford. The neighborhood was reasonably safe and centrally located, with a lovely urban park near enough that he and his wife planned to one day walk there hand-in-hand with their children. But there were no children and there never would be. There was no Kyoko.


Still, Sam couldn’t help remembering.


They had held a housewarming party in the backyard just three years before. Friends and family had come. Dr. Shinoda, whose thriving Little Tokyo dental practice Kyoko managed, brought champagne and toothbrushes for everyone. The head of the art department at UCLA had brought, as a housewarming present, a print signed by Diego Rivera. It hung in the living room. Kyoko loved the print. She loved the house. She loved Sam too, at least for a while. But some bastard with a .22 ended all possibilities of their ever being happy again. Why? It had fallen to Sam to find out. READ MORE



In Conversation: Gordon McAlpine & Joseph Goodrich

Tuesday January 26, 2016
07:00 pm

Tags: Event




Photo Credit Joe Modzen


Woman with a Blue Pencil is a brilliantly structured labyrinth of a novel—something of an enigma wrapped in a mystery, postmodernist in its experimental bravado and yet satisfyingly well-grounded in the Los Angeles of its World War II era. Gordon McAlpine has imagined a totally unique work of ‘mystery’ fiction—one that Kafka, Borges, and Nabokov, as well as Dashiell Hammett, would have appreciated.” —Joyce Carol Oates


What if your life had been erased by an editor holding a blue pencil over a manuscript? In Gordon McAlpine's new novel Woman with a Blue Pencil (and Edgar Award nominee!) he takes the reader on a meta-fictional investigation of this question. A serious exploration of racial tensions during WWII, wrapped up in a hard-boiled detective story, this novel and this event are not to be missed. McAlpine was joined in conversation by award-winning author and dramatist Joseph Goodrich



About Woman with a Blue Pencil 

What becomes of a character cut from a writer's working manuscript? 


On the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sam Sumida, a Japanese American academic, has been thrust into the role of amateur PI, investigating his wife’s murder, which has been largely ignored by the LAPD. Grief stricken by her loss and disoriented by his ill-prepared change of occupation, Sam discovers that, inexplicably, not only has he become unrecognizable to his former acquaintances, but also all signs of his existence (including even the murder he’s investigating) have been erased. Unaware that he is a discarded, fictional creation, he resumes his investigation in a world now characterized not only by his own sense of isolation but also by wartime fear.


To make matters worse, Sam finds himself on a collision course with a Korean American PI with jingoistic and anti-Japanese attitudes—the revised, politically and commercially viable character for whom Sumida has been excised.


Behind it all is the ambitious, twenty-year old Nisei author who has made the changes, despite his relocation to a Japanese internment camp. And looming above is his book editor in New York, who serves as both muse and manipulator to the young author—the woman with the blue pencil, a new kind of femme fatale.



Gordon McAlpine is the author of the novel, Woman with a Blue Pencil, which Publishers Weekly describes in a starred review as working “both as a conventional mystery story and as a deconstruction of the genre’s ideology: whichever strand readers latch on to, the parallel stories pack a brutal punch.”  He is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel Hammett Unwritten and three previous literary novels, and he has been described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a gifted stylist, with clean, clear and muscular prose.”  Additionally, he has co-written a non-fiction book called The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH and is the author of a popular trilogy of novels for middle grade readers, “The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe”. He has published short fiction and book reviews in journals and anthologies both in the U.S.A and abroad. He lives with his wife Julie in southern California.


Joseph Goodrich is an author and dramatist whose plays have been produced across the United States and are published by Samuel French, Playscripts, the Padua Hills Press and Applause Books. Panic won the 2008 Edgar Award for Best Play. He is the editor of Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 (Perfect Crime Books, 2012), which was nominated for Anthony and Agatha Awards. His fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Noir Riot, Dark Corners, Bullet, Vacant Funhouse, and two MWA anthologies. He is a frequent contributor to Mystery Scene. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists, an active member of Mystery Writers of America, and a former Calderwood Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. He lives in New York City.