Saturday, October 26, 2013

Daniel Kalla's "Rising Sun, Falling Shadow"

Daniel Kalla's latest novels, The Far Side Of The Sky and Rising Sun, Falling Shadow, weave together intrigue, medical drama and romance to bring to life the extraordinary and little-known chapter of the Second World War, when the cultures of Europe and Asia converged.

Kalla applied the “Page 99 Test” to Rising Sun, Falling Shadow and reported the following:
It’s been a long time—2008 to be precise—since I last faced the page 99 test. And since then I’ve switched genres: from medical thrillers to historical fiction. So I was quite curious where the test would land me this time around in my latest novel, Rising Sun, Falling Shadow.

Rising Sun, Falling Shadow continues the story of Dr. Franz Adler and his newlywed wife, Sunny (Soon Yi), through the bleakest year of World War II in Shanghai. It’s 1943 and Allied citizens are herded into prison camps while tens of thousands of German Jews are crammed into a ghetto already teeming with impoverished Chinese. Franz is a secular Jewish surgeon from Vienna, while Sunny, a Shanghai native, is a Eurasian nurse whose father trained her to be a physician. Despite the constant threats and hostilities surrounding them, Franz and Sunny manage to keep the doors to the refugee hospital open, saving several lives in the process. But conflict comes from within and without for the Adlers. Against Franz's wishes, Sunny risks her life to help the cause of the local Resistance, which puts a strain on their own marriage. And a mysterious stranger, who is brought to the hospital on the brink of death, could pose an even greater threat to the family and the hospital.

Page 99 coincides with the opening of chapter 15. The patient—who turns out to be a Chinese general and one of the most effective freedom fighters in the wilds of “Free China”—is recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg. Sunny and Franz are desperate to get this most wanted fugitive out of the hospital and away from the ubiquitous Japanese soldiers in Shanghai. To that end, Sunny goes to see her best childhood friend, Jia Li, at her place of work to see if she will impose on her underworld connections to get the general out of Shanghai.
As always, Sunny felt strangely at home inside the brothel. She had visited Jia-Li intermittently at the Comfort Home since they were both teenagers. Most of the prostitutes welcomed Sunny like an old friend. The proprietor, Chih-Nii, had been playfully trying to recruit her for years. “Half Eastern, half Western, you would be a delicacy to both worlds,” the madam would say. “We could make a fortune together, my Eurasian buttercup.”

Ushi had escorted Sunny into the drawing room, then went in search of Jia-Li, leaving her alone on the chaise longue. Sunny studied the paintings that had belonged to the house’s original French owners, wondering again why the portraits still hung on the walls. Perhaps Chih-Nii thought they imbued the room with a sense of history or European flair? Sunny found them depressing. She was relieved not to have left any pictures of her family behind when she and Franz had been forced out her parents’ home. She cringed at the idea of someone using photographs of her parents to add character to her old home.

Jia-Li entered the room in a form-fitting, embroidered maroon cheongsam, slit up one side to the top of her thigh. Her bright lipstick was perfectly applied, and not a strand of hair was out of place, but to Sunny, Jia-Li was never quite as composed as she pretended to be at the Comfort Home. While Sunny was well aware of the circumstances that had forced her friend into this world, she never understood how someone as beautiful and intelligent could continue to sell her body. Or why, now that she had been free of the opium pipe for over a year, she still needed to. She thought about Jia-Li’s recent financial generosity toward the Adlers with another flush of guilt.

“I thought I was meeting you Thursday,” Jia-Li said as she kissed the air on either side of Sunny’s face.

Sunny took in the smells of cinnamon and jasmine. “I am sorry, bǎo bèi, this could not wait.”

Jia-Li lowered herself into the chair beside Sunny, lighting a cigarette as she did. She brought her lips to the holder and inhaled languidly, then broke into a luminous smile. “I welcome any visit from you, regardless of the reason, xiăo hè.”

“You might not say that after you hear me out.”
Visit Daniel Kalla's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Daniel Kalla.

--Marshal Zeringue