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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


On Sunday, when Kimmie and I did our weekly grocery shopping at Save-On Foods at Park & Tilford Centre, we strayed into the book section (as we often do), and I felt moved to buy a book: Paper Fan: The Hunt for Triad Gangster Steven Wong by Terry Gould. Steven Wong was (or is) a Chinese gangster who used to operate in Vancouver until his alleged death in 1992, when he disappeared in the Philippines after a motorcycle-taxi crash.

The book looks interesting, and I can already tell from reading the first chapter that it is well written and contains much interesting information, although the topic is rather outside my usual spheres of interest. The reason I bought it was because the issue of youth gangs was part of a project called The Guardians, a would-be TV series, that Warren and I wrote after our work on The Odyssey; but also because I was already familiar with Terry Gould and some of his work. In particular, he wrote a script for a TV movie called Racing with Dragons, about Iranian-born Vancouver gangster Bob Moieni and his murder in the 1980s, which I read as contract script-reader for CBC TV in 1991. Unlike the vast majority of scripts and proposals I read, Racing with Dragons was vibrant and exciting, and radiated a strong sense of authority on the fascinating subject of ethnic youth gangs in Vancouver.

I haven't met Terry Gould, although I believe he is or was a fellow resident of North Vancouver, but I would like to, since he is that (for me) relatively rare thing: a writer whose work I truly respect. I remember talking with Warren about Gould's script, my excitement at its authenticity and the daringly realistic portrayal of the young Chinese, Latino, and Iranian hoods.

"This should be a TV series," I thought. It could be the kind of edgy, shocking, politically incorrect show that would portray our city as it actually is, in one of its dimensions, and also draw in an audience. (Da Vinci's Inquest, the series created by Chris Haddock some years later, did much in that direction.) I contemplated contacting Terry Gould somehow to suss him out on the idea of a fictional series, rather than simply a true-crime movie of the week, but felt that there were too many conflicts, since I was a contractor with the CBC and would not otherwise have seen his script.

In the end, the CBC passed on Racing with Dragons, and Warren and I became embroiled in the writing and production of our own series. Terry Gould went on to become obsessed with tracking down Steven Wong, who he was certain had not died in the Philippines, and the product is this book, Paper Fan.

But there's probably still a pretty hot Vancouver-based series out there to be made. Are you reading this, Terry?

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