Emperors Once More by Duncan Jepson


Author Duncan Jepson speaks with Ying Lo about merging Eastern and Western ideologies in his new crime-thriller

By day, he may look like any other normal (by normal we mean highly professional) corporate lawyer, but come nightfall – metaphorically speaking – Duncan Jepson is an entirely different beast altogether. He’s a film producer, two-time documentary director, humanitarian, and founder and former managing editor of the Asia Literary Review. He is also writer of graphic novel Darkness Outside the Night with Beijing-based illustrator Xie Peng, and author of the critically acclaimed 1930s social novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai. On March 6, the 44-year-old Bruce Wayne-esque author releases his latest work, Emperors Once More, a crime novel which is already attracting TV-attention from the States and the UK.

Part of a two-book deal made last March with British publishing house Quercus (known for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Emperors Once More is a crime-thriller set in the not-so-distant future year of 2017. Based in a Hong Kong rife with heavy economic and historical issues derived from China’s recent development, two Methodist ministers are murdered on the eve of a G8 meeting. The tale follows Alex Soong and his pursuit of both a mysterious serial killer and a conspiracy that has risen from China’s tainted past.

Jepson’s careful equanimity and his graceful and thoughtful presentation of both Western and Eastern history and culture are some of the main elements that make the novel so compelling. Bypassing the erroneous ethnocentrism which is a common flaw of books in the same genre, the Eurasian author strikes between the two ideologies, a near-perfect balance.

This relationship between East and West is something that Jepson is very interested in, and in an article he wrote in January 2013, Why the West Fails to Understand Chinese Literature, he theorises that Chinese literature will not contain the same richness of characterisation as Western literature does for many years to come because of cultural differences. “A prime example of this can of course be seen in the much-vaunted freedom of the individual, so widely advocated throughout much of Western literature whereas in Asia generally it is considered to be of far less significance. I think this is probably the greatest sticking point for Westerners confronted with stories written about Asians for Asians.”

We’ve come a long way from our Big Trouble in Little China days, or at least the portrayal of China in Western media, but Jepson’s stories continue to strive for an even closer mutual understanding of Eastern and Western ideologies. With Emperors Once More, it appears he has pulled this off. The title has already gained film and TV interest from UK and US production companies looking for Asian content to produce. And recently, Jepson has begun working with a US production company and discussing the. potential of developing the story into a TV series.

“My story ultimately is about wanting to accomplish things I am passionate about and those things being difficult because they require time and experience,” Jepson explains. “I don’t see myself as being busy, I just see it as my life.”

Emperors Once More published by Quercus Publishing, priced $224.  


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