Reviews for Woman with a Blue Pencil

“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

“McAlpine (Hammett Unwritten as Owen Fitzstephen) once again ventures successfully into metafiction, jumping back and forth between two separate manuscripts while delivering a masterly critique of the mystery novel. Author Takumi Sato must revise the manuscript of his novel about a Japanese-American academic, Sam Sumida…after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. One version of Sato’s novel is a jingoistic tale of American heroism in which all Japanese characters are villains; the other focuses on Sam Sumida, a character who’s no longer allowed to exist, either in the novel or in the United States. Between chapters, readers see the interjections of Maxime Wakefield, Sato’s editor, who urges him to excise any critiques of America, and any mentions of homosexuality and racism, even as Sato himself, as a second-generation Japanese immigrant, is forced to move to an internment camp. McAlpine’s greatest accomplishment is that the book works 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.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“… McAlpine has skillfully melded the mood of rage at Japanese treachery and bits of Hammett-era noir with the sensibilities of metafiction and postmodernism into a truly original crime novel.” Booklist