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Last Days in Shanghai

A Novel

List Price: $15.95

November 10, 2015 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 250 Pages | ISBN 9781619025905
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"Last Days in Shanghai evokes this world with sharp observations and a soulfulness that is often missing in outsider views of the country…. [Walker] is a talented weaver of stories..." —New York Times Book Review

Luke Slade, a young Congressional aide, begins this business trip to China like all other international travel he’s endured with “Leo the Lyin’”: buried under a slew of diplomatic runarounds, non-functioning cell phones, and humiliation from the Congressman at every turn. But on their first night in Beijing, a new challenge rears its ugly head: Leo goes on a drunken bender and disappears into the night. Unsure what dubious business his boss had planned, Luke must piece together the Congressman’s lies while maintaining appearances with their Chinese contacts.

Amidst the confusion, a little bleary from jet-lag and alcohol, Luke receives a briefcase full of money from the mayor of a provincial Chinese city. Luke accepts the “gift,” but when he later reconsiders and wants to return the cash, he discovers even more anxiety-inducing news. The mayor is dead.

As Luke tries to unravel the complex minefield of corruption he’s tumbled into, he must also confront his own role in the events. Unwitting marionette? Fall guy? Or perhaps someone more capable of moral compromise than he would have liked to believe? Last Days in Shanghai is an unforgettable debut by a writer to watch. It’s both a hold-on-to-your-seat thriller and a pitch-perfect exploration of present day China—the country’s rapacious capitalism, the shocking boom of its cities and the wholesale eradication of its traditions.

CASEY WALKER is currently a Teaching Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He has a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University. His essays and short fiction have appeared in The Believer, Esquire, Narrative, Boston Review and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, novelist Karen Thompson Walker.

Praise

“The mad faith in progress, the worship at the altars of construction and acquisition, and the scale of individual ambition all seem fantastical to anyone who has not seen it firsthand. Last Days in Shanghai evokes this world with sharp observations and a soulfulness that is often missing in outsider views of the country…. He is a talented weaver of stories…” —New York Times Book Review

Last Days in Shanghai features a fine menagerie of miserable characters… Casey Walker […] gets every China detail right… Full credit must also be given to the way Walker mines the sensory environment of China—its sights, sounds, smells—for symbolic fuel…. It is in these descriptions that Walker’s abundant skill most clearly shines through. As a Chinese political thriller in the style of Alex Berenson, Last Days in Shanghai is fine work, as solid and precisely crafted as the lacquered hair on a Chinese cadre’s head.” —The Times 

“…[An] entertaining first novel.” —Alan Cheuse, The Dallas Morning News

“Walker’s shockingly plausible literary debut…[is] an outrageous tale of embezzlement into a rollicking moral drama.” —Publishers Weekly Starred/Boxed Review

“Slimy all-American graft oozes from beneath the economic aspirations of contemporary China in this witty, illuminating thriller.Walker’s impressive debut novel is a post-millennial noir thriller in which the grubbier impulses of two superpowers intersect with life-altering results… Though its observations about China’s construction boom and the dismal state of American politics are as fresh as the morning news feed, Walker’s novel also feels like a disquieting peek deep into the coming decades of global economic upheaval.” —Kirkus Starred Review

“This edgy first novel delivers a scathing indictment of congressional politics as it follows a young aide on a business trip to China…Walker’s smart writing on a host of issues, including China’s frenzied construction boom, which has paved over ancient traditions block by block, and the sorry state of American politics, gives this cautionary tale frisson.” —Booklist

Last Days in Shanghai is about how easily we live our lives in thrall to our own evasions and how fervently we hope for redemption, and its protagonist, who imagines himself to be hardboiled but is really mostly softheaded, is one of those functionaries who helps our corrupt global system toot along despite being all confusion and hopeless compromise. For all his appeal, he presents himself as yet another Innocent Abroad for the same reason most of us do: to deny our complicity in the damage that follows in our wake.” —Jim Sheppard, National Book Award finalist and author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway

“Money, sex, and free enterprise: American politics isn’t as bad as you think it is. It’s much worse, and Casey Walker’s truly brilliant first novel about Americans in China pioneers a kind of hallucinatory realism on the subject that leaves the reader laughing and appalled and scared. Last Days in Shanghai knows just how bad things can get, and its hero, an innocent abroad before he gets wised-up, is as American as apple pie and the Republican Party.” —Charles Baxter, author of There’s Something I Want You to Do

Last Days in Shanghai is both a comedy and a horror story about mistaken identity and moral inertia; it’s also a dreamlike tour through the backalleys of Shanghai, a fever-bright landscape that corresponds to the mental labyrinth of fear and desire.The story is fabulous; the language will knock you flat.” —Karen Russell, author of New York Times bestseller Swamplandia!

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