Paul French at Literary Hub:
For a city with such a reputation—back in the old days of foreign gunboats, spies and revolutions as well as now in the boom-boom modernity of the skyscraper city—Shanghai hasn’t generated that much crime fiction. Indeed, it has to be said, for a megalopolis of maybe as many as 24-million people it’s a pretty safe place. Novels about Shanghai have preferred to focus on the glitz, the glamour, the style of the city—China’s “capital of cool.” But, of course, there always was, and still remains, an underbelly down beneath the neon lights and the luxury penthouse apartments.
Shanghai has been such a success because it’s a port town at the end of the mighty Yangtze River where it meets the South China Sea, and port towns always have a reputation. And perhaps Shanghai’s modern origins are deeply entwined with crime? In the mid-19th century the British grabbed Shanghai after the First Opium War, declaring it a “treaty port,” throwing it open to any and all buccaneers and capitalist freebooters to moor up alongside the opium hulks on the Huangpu River as they fought to preserve the opium trade—perhaps the most pernicious of modern trade wars.
Shanghai’s attraction to a multinational bunch of ne’er-do-wells, pirates and gunrunners attracted thriller and crime writers early on. Francis Van Wyck Mason’s The Shanghai Bund Murders (1933) is full of warlords, gunrunners and damsels in distress. Mason, a Bostonian novelist, had a long and prolific career spanning 50 years and 65 novels mostly featuring his proto-James Bond character Captain Hugh North, a detective in America’s G-2 Army Intelligence.