Qiu Xiaolong on genre and conventions
"When I wrote the first book, I had not intended to write it as a `detective story,' so I did not pay much attention to special conventions or tricks at the time. I merely wanted to write a book about contemporary China, which has been little introduced in the West, but it turned out to be a mystery. I think it is perhaps because mystery happens to be one of my favorite genres, and it provides a ready framework for the story.
"I chose to set the story in the early 1990s, as it's a transitional period, in which the old value system is being questioned, while the new is not being established. In that sense, I may be more or less like Chief Inspector Chen, an intellectual questioning and being questioned all the time. As a result, the drama is staged outside as well as inside.
"Of course, I am not Chief Inspector Chen. I have never been a cop, or a Party member, but as far as his passion for poetry (for Eliot especially, whose poetry I have translated into Chinese) and for food, he has my shadow. Another passion I share with him is go chess games, as described in the novel. With my second book, my editor insisted on the discovery of a body at the very beginning, and I complied, which may be a trick, but not really mine."