Will Kill for Food
When Dean James helps out at his uncle Jun’s store, he usually shelves stock and rings up sales. Today he’s using stock to fortify the store into a bunker and brandishing guns to keep customers at bay.
It’s 30 April 1992, the day after a jury returned not guilty verdicts for four police officers in the beating of Rodney King. Protests in Los Angeles have spread into a city-wide riot. People are being killed. Businesses are being looted and burned, especially Korean-owned businesses like Jun’s store.
Though half-Korean, Dean doesn’t care about the politics of the riots. He wants to leave law enforcement to the police, but they are nowhere to be seen. When Jun refuses to leave, Dean stays to help him defend the store against rioters working their way up from South-Central LA. Neither of them know about the gangbanger using cover of the riots to take over Koreatown businesses, like Jun’s, by any means necessary.
For three days, Dean has to keep rioters from destroying the store, keep his uncle from killing anybody, and fight to stay alive in the center of one of the the deadliest civil disturbances in US history.
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California Incline (a novel-in-progress) is set nearly a year after the Rodney King riots. The story follows three people: Yong Soo Bak, a Korean woman who’s husband was murdered, and their business destroyed, during the riots; Tanya Cho, a deputy Attorney General trying to help Yong Soo; and John Laughlin, an attorney in a corporate law firm whom Tanya recruits to help Yong Soo recover from fraudulent offshore insurance companies.
Yong Soo Bak lost everything when gang bangers murdered her husband and burned down their Koreatown store during the 1992 Rodney King riots. For corporate attorney John Laughlin, the week of violence was an excuse to leave town for an impromptu vacation.
Nearly a year later, Yong Soo is an indigent widow; John is on the verge of partnership. All he needs is to woo a deep-pocketed client by representing Yong Soo pro bono in a case seeking recovery from the insurer denying her business-loss claim.
John soon learns the insurer was a fraud. The case could take years, and even if Yong Soo wins, it is unlikely she will ever collect. What’s more, representing her presents a conflict of interest preventing the firm from bringing in another new client who promises hundreds of thousands in annual fees.
As the firm pressures John to drop Yong Soo’s case, he has to decide whether continuing to represent her is more important than advancing his career. The decision seems simple, until a tragedy changes John’s perspective of what’s at stake for Yong Soo.
California Incline is a look at recovery in the aftermath of the riots: Attitudes of the privileged toward victims of the riots; the role of institutions, such as the courts, in helping or hindering underrepresented groups.
Fire Illness (7k words-in submission) is the story of Yong Soo Bok, a Korean immigrant who’s husband was killed, and their business destroyed, during the 1992 Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles. The story takes place nine months after the riots, during the afternoon and evening Yong Soo tries to commit suicide by swallowing sleeping pills. Not knowing how many she should take, she takes one for every person to whom she feels indebted as she reflects on the debts she owes.
“Fire Illness” is the standard translation of hwa-byung, a condition unique to Koreans that develops over the course of years from repressing feelings of humiliation and shame. Fire Illness reveals an incident that took place immediately before the events in Will Kill for Food. It also details events alluded to in California Incline.
Shuttlecock is a longer short story (10k words-in submission) that takes place on a Sunday afternoon on an estate in West Los Angeles. The estate belongs to Glenn Saunders, the managing partner of the law firm Blaine, Charles & Moore. The occasion is an badminton match organized for the summer associates clerking at Blaine Charles, an annual bacchinale, one of many designed to convince top law students to work for Blaine Charles after they graduate.
This year’s badminton match is also a proxy for an internecine struggle between Saunders and Graham Bryson, an upstart partner, for control of the firm. As the tournament progresses, and Saunders gets progressively more drunk, the competition shifts away from the courts to Graham Bryson’s protege among the summer associates.
Shuttlecock details an incident, only referred to in California Incline, that forms the background for Saunders’s actions throughout that novel.
Bicycle Mojo (3k words-in submission) is the story about Harry Motian, a retired professor from UC Davis who is also an avid cyclist. One foggy morning, while racing to meet other riders at the eponymous local coffeehouse, Harry is run off the road by Gus Mahler, a native Davisvillain who is tired of seeing cyclists take over his town. While lying on the ground with a broken collar bone, Harry laments the violent end to his lifelong passion. But hope arrives when he is rescued by Angela Testa, a cyclist who is also an emergency room doctor.
Coffeehouse Mojo is excerpted and adapted from the novel, The Rides of March.
The Rides of March
The Rides of March (86k words) is an unpublished novel told in the form of a reverse mystery.
All winter some nutcase with a Prius and a hundred-decibel horn has been driving around Davis causing cyclists to crash. Now it’s March 1, the start of a month-long competition to see who can ride the most miles for charity. Early that morning John Laughlin finds his friend’s body lying next to his crumpled bike. A week later a second rider is run of the road. The daily mileage count is getting lower as the body count gets higher.
The police rule the accidents random hit-and-runs. John knows it’s the Davis Bike Stalker, and he refuses to let him get away with murder. Not that John’s an investigator: he’s a work-at-home dad building a home-office law practice after losing his job during the Great Recession. But he’s still bruised from being squeezed out of his firm. He’s not about to let a driver run him and his friends off the road.
John is in more danger than he thinks. There might be more than one stalker, and more than one reason for running over cyclists in the Bicycle Capital of the United States.