Destination South Korea

Location, location, location. An interesting setting is a key constituent in a good crime novel, and since we started Crime Fiction Lover our reading has taken us to all kinds of places. We visited Ystad, Edinburgh and Miami a few weeks ago when we talked about our favourite story locations, and have been from London to Phoenix in our recent reviews. But the other day author Ron McMillan enticed us out to Seoul, South Korea.

McMillan’s Yin Yang Tattoo came out a year ago and it’s about how an ex-pat photojournalist becomes embroiled in the Seoul underworld. When he picks up a tasty assignment with a big company, perhaps it is too good to be true and indeed, he uncovers corporate corruption and for his troubles is framed for the murder of a prostitute.

On top of its unpicking of the seedier side of life in Seoul, there’s an interesting story about Yin Yang Tattoo. McMillan was invited to talk about the book by the Honk Kong International Literary Festival 2011 on account of it being one of the few English crime fiction novels set in Korea. However the author was un-invited again when the Chairman of the Festival described the book as being “Altogether too highly-coloured for our kind of festival…”

Nevertheless, a sequel is on the way, this time set in Thailand and Hong Kong. No doubt it will be another colourful visit to Asia for Ron McMillan who has spent many years living in the Far East. To promote Yin Yang Tattoo, he has had this graphic novel-style video trailer made which features his own Scots tones quoting from the story.

If you’ve read Yin Yang Tattoo, please let us know what you thought of it, and it’s Seoul setting, by posting a comment below.

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  1. Bert Deivert Reply

    I read Ron MacMillan’s other book BETWEEN WEATHERS first, and found it to be a highly entertaining travelogue on a part of the world not mentioned much, that of the Shetland Islands. After laughing out loud many times, I decide I had to read the YIN YANG TATTO when it came out, to see what the possibly seamier, lo-fi side of the author would be.

    I found it to be a highly cinematic tale of an area I knew nothing about. My knowledge of Korea is nil, but having traveled a lot in Thailand and having an interest in Japan, and like for some of the films I have seen from Korea, I thought it would be interesting to give it a try. I say cinematic because I think the author manages to capture moods and scenes that would be very effectively transferred to the movie screen. His descriptions are nearly like a storyboard.

    I read a lot of authors like Michael Connelly, Lee Childs, Patricia Cornwall, and the like, and I found this novel to fit into a similar genre, with a few exceptions. The exceptions are the political undertone and obviously the ethnic richness of the description of Korean culture and language. Since I don’t know Korean culture or language I can only speculate and say that it seems MacMillan knows his subject, and is able to create a very believable atmosphere in what sometimes seems to be very UNBELIEVABLE situations!

    I have read John Burdett’s novels of life in Thailand and really enjoyed them, especially having a bit of experience myself of being there. YIN YANG TATTOO actually made me want to go visit Korea, not that I wanted to experience the rough ways or places of the book’s very down and out and destructive protagonist. But I did find an atmosphere of something in the book that made me want to go there firsthand, combined with what little media knowledge I have had previously. The political undertones and intrigues in the book actually made this one stand out in a way that other political style thrillers (READ – AMERICAN) fail at.

    This did not romanticize or proselytize, which was a welcome relief!

    I would recommend it to anyone who want an intelligent, but violent and dark story, with a look at a world not open to our views via mainstream media.

    Whether based on fact or fiction, it is an exciting and interesting read. Can’t wait for the sequel. Though the protagonist, Brodie, is VERY dark, he might even be an interesting character for a series of books if we could find out more about what REALLY makes him tick, something that isn’t the main idea of this book and therefore not revealed more than superficially.

  2. crimefictionlover Reply

    Hi Bert – sounds like a great recommendation for this book. Maxine – the book is from Sandstone Press, drop them a line. We’re hoping to bring you a full review here on CFL soon. All our writers are busy working on new stuff so watch this space…

  3. crimefictionlover Reply

    Hi Maxine – no we’re independent. I think we’ve done one of their books. So far we’ve reviewed books by Penguin, No Exit, Mulholland, Serpent’s Tail, Little Brown… all kinds of publishers. Like your site, BTW.

  4. Ron McMillan Reply

    I’m Ron McMillan the author of Yin Yang Tattoo, and I appreciate Crime Fiction Lover giving the book a write-up here.

    If anyone who has read the book (or for that matter, anyone who is yet to read it) wants to put any questions to me here, I’d be delighted to field them.

    Best wishes,

    ron mcmillan
    chiang mai, thailand

  5. Shona McMillan Reply

    I’m Shona McMilland and Ron’s daughter. I thought the book was great and I’m not just saying that! It was fast-paced and interesting. If you haven’t read it, give it a go!

  6. Mark McTague Reply

    Crime-thriller fiction, like all genres, has its conventions, and that’s fine. Part of why we read them. What I liked about YYT was that it got me to care about a central character who’s far from likeable, to put it mildly. Alec Brodie is a womanizer, a boozer, and a bit of a con. And though I was cheering for him in the beginning, particularly as he suffers that brutal police beating, when I saw the less savory parts of his character, I was put off yet still interested to see if this lout had anything to redeem him. He does, and it’s a very-late blooming conscience. That the author manages to bring that struggle for redemption alive within a larger tale of corporate corruption and intrigue, and yet avoid the crowd-pleasing Hollywood ending (I won’t give it away), is testament to his talent. I also enjoyed the cultural backdrop to the story, which is more than local color. I saw it as evidence, in this first-person narrative, that the central character, though far from anyone’s hero, is nonetheless a person with not just a brain but something of a heart, however much he may have ignored it in his life, much to his own and others’ misfortune. I also wondered if my having lived in Korea a number of years made me more appreciative of McMillan’s deft weaving of cultural observations into the novel, but my fellow book club members, only one of whom was ever in Asia, said it increased their enjoyment of the story. So, I urge this book on crime fiction fans, and I look forward to McMillan’s next effort.

      1. Nick Mellor Reply

        I am definitely going to buy this book. I too love the Burdett BKK series and, in fact, any good, well-written novel of this genre set in the Far East. I’ve been to Seoul several times and I lived in Tokyo for a few years and I am, at the moment, trying to attract an agent to represent me with my completed crime novel set in the long, hot 1990 summer of Tokyo.

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