Luke Slade, a young Congressional aide, begins this trip to China like all other international travel he’s endured with “Leo the Lyin’”: buried under diplomatic runarounds and humiliated by the Congressman at every turn. But on their first night in Beijing, their trip is plunged into a deeper chaos: Leo goes on a drunken bender and disappears into the night, leaving Luke to piece together the Congressman’s dubious business while maintaining appearances with their Chinese contacts.
Amidst the confusion, bleary from jet lag and alcohol, Luke receives a briefcase of money from the mayor of a provincial Chinese city. When he later reconsiders and wants to return the “gift,” he discovers even more anxiety-inducing news. There's been a mysterious death, and he’s under surveillance by Chinese police.
As Luke navigates this minefield of corruption, he must also confront his own conscience. Is he an unwitting fall guy? Or someone more capable of moral compromise than he once believed? Last Days in Shanghai is an unforgettable debut by a writer to watch. It’s a rollicking literary thriller and a pitch-perfect exploration of contemporary Chinathe country’s rapacious capitalism, the shocking boom of its cities and the wholesale eradication of its traditions.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Casey Walker is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and has a PhD in English Literature from Princeton University. His writing has appeared in The Believer , Boston Review , and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, novelist Karen Thompson Walker.
Read an Excerpt
We flew business class for nearly a day on a packed and pork-smelling China Eastern Airlines jet, chasing back the sunset. Ambien and all the in-flight Harry Potter movies, my companions. When I fell asleep, I was pursued by wizards and schoolchildren with the powers of the devil. Strange how much of life you spend wishing it would only pass, faster, even faster.
Our driver from the Beijing airport wore white gloves and a bellhop’s cap. A drifting April haze gave the city a gray tint, with dark and shapeless buildings that blurred out on the horizon even as we approached them. My first city view was from our Buick, at a stoplight: fifteen construction cranes strapped to naked three-quarter buildings, many of which looked too tall already to support themselves. I followed one up as far as I could see until the smog and sunshine swallowed it.
“See it, Luke?” my boss said, pointing. “The national bird of China.”
“What’s that?” I said.
“The construction crane,” he said.
I’d heard him try this joke around the office before we’d left. I’d heard all his bits. I made a laugh anyway. Congressman Leonard Fillmore Republican, California, 51st district; self-styled Asia hand, now embarked on his first visit to mainland China. He was a presidential hopeful with a familial claim to the office: Leo Fillmore was a distant relation of the thirteenth President of the United States, one of the least distinguished in our history. Nearing sixty, Leo looked to me much older, probably from carrying twice his body weight in grudge and grievance. To his friends he was sometimes known as ‘Leo the Lion.’ But the nickname had spread far and wide among his enemies, tooyou could hear it whispered up and down the Rayburn building corridors: ‘Leo the Lyin.’