BY AMY SOMMERS
Rumors from Shanghai tells the story of an American lawyer who goes to Shanghai in late 1940 because as a Black man, he cannot find work in his profession in the Pacific Northwest. There, just as has been true for countless others since the 1840’s when the British kicked off Shanghai’s transformation from an unimportant backwater to international-crossroads-
meets-modern-metropolis lifeforce, he finds ample opportunity to explore his talents and relish the delights on offer for those with money in the “Paris of the East.’
After 9/11, news reported that warnings of a potential attack had been received by U.S. authorities, but ignored. I wondered if there was a historical precedent. It turned out there was: in the run-up to Pearl Harbor. America’s political and military leaders’ hubris and bigotry led to their pooh-poohing the possibility of life-threatening danger from the myopic, technologically inferior Japanese (as Americans then conceived of them).
I set out to write a historical fiction thriller that imagines a grandson of Bill Gross, who has received an education and opportunities rarely afforded at that time to African Americans. Unable to find work as a lawyer in Seattle, he heads to Asia to manage the operations of a successful businessman in the mold of the white settler who owed his start in Seattle to the good offices of Bill Gross.
“Shanghai in 1940 – an international city where anything was possible. Amy Sommers atmospherically recaptures Shanghai on the eve of one of its major turning points and snares the reader in a tale of war, international intrigue and a time when personal decisions were crucial.”
— Paul French, author of Midnight in Peking
“This is a story about the gifts that come with cultural exchange, the perils of refusing them, and what it’s like to lose them. By deftly shaping historical details, Amy Sommers has written a story for our precarious times.”
— Nancy Rawles, author of My Jim