Something’s going on in Youngstown, Ohio—and it isn’t pretty. Newly assigned to the field office, Special Agent Jade Hui is stumped by her predecessor’s do-nothing record when there’s every indication something big is going to happen. An Aryan Brotherhood convict tells her a new designer drug from Europe is about to hit the streets of the Midwest and Youngstown will be the launching pad.
Next, a female prizefighter winds up dead in a dumpster behind a bar with a shady reputation. That’s only the beginning of what turns out to be, in cop slang, a full-tilt boogie with Youngstown becoming one big crime scene.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Robb T. White to learn more about the latest book in his A Jade Hui Mystery, FULL-TILT BOOGIE:
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I could answer this question for any other novel, not this one. The reason is that the “book” sat in three different versions on my computer going nowhere for years. When the editor of a print boxing magazine I once wrote book reviews and interviews for wrote me out of the blue to ask if I had any manuscripts, I wanted published, I went straight to “Jade” and her three mss. versions to put a book together from them. I was too long delayed, and I was happy to see her go after her debut in Perfect Killer in 2018.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
I’ve partially answered this question with my preceding response because of the years-long delay in getting a single, coherent version together. Whereas her first novel came together easily, this one was a nightmare of starting and stopping, doubting myself (but not her).
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
The only books (thrillers) I read are the ones I’ve read several times: Thomas Harris, Martin Cruz Smith, and David L. Lindsey. The movies were Scandinavian crime or Korean horror films. I seem to be addicted to both. The music playing in the background was my usual Vocal Deep House on YouTube, but lately it’s been all Cannons, especially Holdin’ On (extended version), Golden (Harry Styles cover & extended version), and–anything by them. They don’t do a bad song.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
My inspiration for a female character, especially an Asian-American, stems from a goodwill trip to China in 2001 for my university. I met a bright, talented student named Annie Cheng at Peking University, who spoke three languages and escorted our small group around the campus. Email was fairly new at the time. I emailed her from my office to tell her I would name a character for her. Annie Cheng of Special Collections (New Rivers, 2014) was that book. I guess I’m still keeping my promise.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
No moral lesson, that’s for sure. Maybe a feeling that my character Jade is no superhuman, ass-kicking female like the films & TV shows today make caricatures of femininity. She’s smart, strong, resilient, and that’s enough. One more thing: if you have courage, you’ll be OK in this shitty world.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
Another Thomas Haftmann, p.i. collection of novellas and short stories. In this one, he’s not yet a private investigator. He’s a law student about to flunk out and change careers. It’s called The Dearborn Terrorist, and I’m using some of my long-ago sailing experiences on the Great Lakes as an ordinary seaman for it.
Robb T. White is a Midwestern writer of genre fiction, especially crime, noir, and suspense thrillers. White has two ongoing private-eye series. Betray Me Not, a collection of revenge tales, was selected by the Independent Fiction Alliance as a Truly Best Independent Book of 2022. Besides the Haftmann and Jarvi p.i. novels, he has four collections of short stories.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.