June 9th, 2011

So what does “Stories for Japan” mean?

It means that you can go right now to this page on, and for $3.99 you can buy a collection of wonderful Japan-themed stories, knowing that your money is going to help people in the north of Japan who need it very badly.

It means that every nickel raised from this book will go to organizations working to rebuild shattered communities and shattered lives in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It means that twenty writers sat down and turned out twenty amazing stories to help men, women, and children in northern Japan.

It means that writers can now do, thanks to the immediacy of e-books, the same thing musicians and actors can do — pool their talents in a good cause.

It means that I’ve just finished working on the most magical project of my life, and I have to thank twenty first-rate writers, two translators of Japanese haiku, a favorite writer who surprised us all with this brilliant cover design, an e-book producer who worked her ass off for free, and the people at Japan America Society, who adopted the project so the money could all go to the right place — to their 2011 Japan Relief Fund.

And I thank you, too, in advance, for buying it.

I had been pretty much immobile in front of my television for days, stunned by both the magnitude of the disaster and the tiny details that made it tragic on the scale of a single human life.  As it became inescapable that tens of thousands were lost and that the survivors were coping with a courage and dignity the rest of the world can only envy, I said to myself that it was a shame we couldn’t hold a writer’s benefit to assist in the recovery.

And then I realized that we could — that e-books make it possible.

Within 24 hours, I had sent e-mails to about 30 of my favorite mystery and thriller writers, asking for a free story, and one day later I had 23 affirmative responses.  Over the next few weeks, four writers had to drop out, so I was left with 19 and me, for a total of twenty stories.

Those generous writers are:

Brett Battles, Cara Black, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, and Jeri Westerson.

If I were in charge of the afterlife, they’d all be admitted directly into heaven, without having to pass through TSA.  As their stories came in, it was immediately apparent that this book was going to work.  (You should look for their books, too — there’s not a dud in the carload.)

Not all the stories are mysteries or thrillers.  Some are memory pieces, stories of love thwarted, friendships damaged, racial prejudice exercised, parents rediscovered, revenge exacted — a pretty wide spectrum of life experiences.  Some are crackerjack mysteries or thrillers.  I couldn’t pick the best if my life depended on it.

Irish writer Adrian McKinty’s story wasn’t even fiction.  As a young man in Belfast, he’d bought a bunch of books in a bomb sale, which is just what it sounds like, and one of them was a charred paperback of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Years later, McKinty followed the great 17th-century poet’s footsteps up through Sendai, pretty much destroyed on March 11.  His remembrance of all that, “Matsushima Bay,” led to the inclusion of haiku by Basho and Issa as linking pieces between the story. Jane Reichhold, probably today’s pre-eminent translator of Basho, and David Lanoue, who has made beautiful translations of Issa, gave us permission to use their work free.

Gar Anthony Haywood, a writer I admire extravagantly, came up with the cover design and blew us all away.  (This project took shape through frequent group e-mails — it was collaborative in every sense of the word — and the reaction to Gar’s cover was a high point of the process.)

Kimberly Hitchens of, who produces my e-books, stepped up to this and got it done with maximum beauty in minimum time.  She even caught the fact that I’d left out the copyright page, and filled it in for me.

And the whole thing, one piece at a time, was proofed by our own Everett Kaser, for whom no detail is too small.  Thanks to you, too, Everett.

The way it works is almost magical in its simplicity. You buy the book, and the 70% of the purchase price that would normally go to writer royalties are instead deposited monthly by wire transfer directly into the account of the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.

I feel like I’ve spent the past six weeks in the middle of a stream of generosity.  I know how Scrooge felt when he woke up on Christmas morning.

I love this book.

30 Responses to “IT’S HERE!”

  1. I.J.Parker Says:

    I love Tim Hallinan. He’s done an absolutely stunning job with this book. And his own story is wonderful. I’m still reading, but the book is already a lovely thing.
    Do check it out! If you like Japanese people and culture, you’ll be pleased. If you love spell-binding mysteries, you’ll also be pleased. And if you just want to do a kindness to suffering human beings, the heavens will reward you and you’ll feel good.

  2. I.J.Parker Says:

    I tried! The word verification thing is giving me fits.

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    You succeeded, I.J. — you just need more faith in yourself.

    I. J. Parker is the author of THE FIRE HORSE, the last story in the volume, and the splendid 11th-century Japanese mystery novels starring Sugawara Akitada, who’s also the hero of the story in SHAKEN.

    Go get her books.

  4. Fay Moore Says:

    Hi, Tim. Congratulations and thanks are in order for your Stories for Japan project. I hope you don’t mind, but I pasted a large portion of your post on my blog at It is scheduled to post 6/14/2011. I wanted to do what I can to help promote the effort.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thank you, Fay — it’s absolutely accurate to say I don’t mind — in fact, I’m grateful.

  6. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Downloaded and done. Some of my favorites are there, and maybe I’ll get some more. Crispin-er-Jeri Westerson introduce the book on DorothyL today, and I’m hoping other writers will do that on the other blogs I frequent, or I will really earn my groupie points and recommend the book as well. Your grief and frustration was so moving. I hope you sell a ton.

  7. Kelli Stanley Says:

    Tim, watching you work around the clock, keeping us focused, updating us on progress, and generally showering all of us with good karma … well, the story behind the story is book-worthy itself.

    It’s been an inspiration and an honor to work with you, my friend … and oh, how good it feels to try to make a difference!

  8. John Lindquist Says:

    What a wonderful idea and perfectly executed. And my first Kindle book. Congratulations to all.
    (from my new kindle. Lets see if caPtcha works)

  9. EverettK Says:

    I’d say I love Tim Hallinan, too, but I’m afraid he might get the wrong idea (not to mention his wife and mine). None the less, Tim, you’re a saint (which is quite an achievement for a heathen like yourself). It’s too bad your other deadlines won’t allow you to take your well-earned R&R!

    Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray!

  10. Gary Says:

    Oh, Tim. Now I really am speechless.

    What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing to do! I’ve bought a copy, and also emailed this blog link to friends.

    Thank you so much for letting us be part of this with you.

  11. Stephen Cohn Says:

    Congrats, Tim! Well done. One might suspect that you’re waxing spiritual after all.

  12. Michele Says:

    After our talk I went out and bought a Kindle.(My b’day present to myself.) Now all I have to do it figure out how to hook up the damn thing.
    You’ve done a remarkable job and you can bet I’m sharing it
    Helping others is like touching the hand of god.

  13. Usman Says:

    Tim, I’ve been travelling, again. Just read this. I am speechless. This is so wonderful.
    I’ll order a copy as soon as I can. Will probably end up asking someone else to buy for me online. Difficult to do this from Pakistan.
    I’m sorry my blog is down for the past one year. Can’t forward links, but let me think what I can do.
    Well, sainthood has now been conferred upon you, please wear it carefully. I just trust good people, made of blood and flesh, more virtue than vice, and who respond to the troubles of others.
    Anything I can do for you, just say so. Can I vote you President of something?

  14. Usman Says:

    Ok, I have posted on my writers forum asking others to post on their blogs, and social networking sites.

  15. Tom Logan Says:

    Tim, once again, I am proud to be your friend.

  16. Stefan Hammond Says:

    Thanks so much, Tim, for letting me be a part of this. I’m honored to have my story in the same compilation as these other authors. And YOU tossed that pebble in the pond and created waves which will gently wash across the world.

    Here in Hong Kong, I’ll be contacting the HK/Japan friendship associations and other organizations, not to mention my personal contacts. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped with this project.

    I lived in Tokyo. I’ve stayed in Sendai. I know parts of the culture (both the light/dark sides) and I hope that’s reflected in my story. But whatever I missed, I know will be in another story in the same book. Thank you all…honto ni, domo arigato gozaimashita, o-sewa ni narimashita.


  17. Howard Marder Says:

    An amazing effort by amazing people who have acted selflessly. Kind of begs the question, why can’t we always be like this, not just in times of need? For the interest of those who don’t already know it you’ve all demonstrated the power of the pen (or is the ebook?). What a wonderful move on your parts.

  18. Howard Marder Says:


    I tried to send out a reply to your email but it got kicked back. So please pardon any duplication but we do not live in a perfect cyberspace world (or at least I don’t). Here’s what I sent to you and others on the list. Hope that you got it.


    Thanks for this effort. It is now sitting next to Bangkok Noir on my Kindle. Both collections go to wonderful causes monetarily and psychologically.

    But this raises another question that is lingering in my mind. Is anyone working on something to provide much-needed aid for the American victims of the spring tornadoes in the midwest?

    While not on the same scale as the tsunami victims, lives were lost and others shattered beyond facile repair. A whole city was almost completely destroyed. The survivors of this American natural disaster should not be forgotten and the much-needed repair of their physical and mental worlds needs to be addressed as much as those people who continue to suffer from the effects of the earthquake and tsunami.

    If we were able to reach out to the victims of the Thailand and Japanese tsunamis, I firmly believe that we must also find ways to help the survivors of the midwest tornadoes. The effort by you and the other authors who have so selflessly contributed to this collection is a wake-up call to me, and hopefully others, to make contributions to the charities that are helping these Americans who must rebuild not only their homes but their shattered lives as well. I’m going to do my part today and I hope others will as well. On top of that I’m going to contribute more than the cost of Shaken… to the agencies that continue to help the Japanese victims.

    That said, this should not diminish in any way the incredible effort that you and all the other authors have made in aiding the victims of the tsunami. There are psychic credits that you’ve earned that go way beyond the monetary rewards that could have been earned by your writing.

  19. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Oh, my God, I’ve really let things slip here. The past three days have been nonstop on this book, plus turning out an IRONCLAD 1500 words per day on the new Poke, and never quitting with fewer than 800.

    Lil — you have good taste this is a phenomenal group of writers. By all means, if you like the book lend a hand on all the mystery groups, websites, anywhere else potential readers gather.

    Kelli, working with you and the others on this has been one of the great highs of my life. Every time I started to read a story that had just come in, my heart rate accelerated from sheer satisfaction, and COOLIE was absolutely among the greatest pleasures. Kelli Stanley, for whose of you who — unlike Lil — haven’t read her, is the creator of “medieval noir,” and her books, featuring onetime crusader Crispin Guest are so much fun they feel like guilty pleasures, even though there’s nothing to be guilty about.

    John, if this is one of the first books on your Kindle, you’re going to get spoiled. Hitch and her team, especially book designer, Rickhardt Capidamonte, just outdid themselves. It’s beautiful.

    Oh, Everett, you big softy. You played an enormously important role in this; your proofing made me look at every story repeatedly as they were still coming in, which helped hugely when it was time to sequence them. Thanks for all the patience and the keen eye.

    Gary, thanks for being so nice and for passing it on. I was actually going to ask you to proof, too, but some day I’ll share with you the spread sheet my sainted wife suggested I create to track all the aspects of the project — it was too wide to be read on a single screen, and I just couldn’t bring myself to add five more columns (Sent to Gary? Received from Gary? Reviewed by me? Sent to writer? Received from writer) This was complicated on the order of string theory.

    Stephen and Michele — in harmony again. Thanks to both of youse. Michele, phone me about setting it up. It’s not hard. And it’s worth it.

    Got to write a late blog for another site to promote the book. I’ll be back in a few hours.

    You guys are great.

  20. Kelli Stanley Says:

    Tim, darling, I’ve just got to correct you on one thing–Jeri Westerson–another wonderful contributor to SHAKEN–created “medieval noir” and Crispin Guest. I created “Roman noir”, but am perhaps better known for the 1940 San Francisco-set Miranda Corbie series, the first of which, CITY OF DRAGONS, was a LA Times Book Prize Finalist.

    Now, promise us you’ll get some sleep!! 🙂

  21. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Your exhaustion is showing. Kelli writes wonder “Roman England” noir, and it’s like walking in history. Just delightful. Jeri Westerson writes the Crispin Guest medieval noir, and I have a crush on Crispin. Being technophobic, I can’t figure out to post the whole announcement on Murderati. Brett Battles used to post there, and you sometimes write there. So maybe you could do that. “Art for Heart’s sake,” indeed.

  22. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I am SOOOOOOO embarrassed — I know perfectly well that Jeri writes Crispin and Kelli writes Miranda Corbie, but I am (in fact) burning the candle not only at both ends but also in the middle.

    I love both writers and the only possible rationalization for this is that both their first names begin with an “i.” This is especially inexcusable because I know both of them personally in addition to literarily.

    Mea culpa. I should probably get some sleep. (The big problem has been doing all this PLUS my theoretical 1500 words per day — 2200 today, in addition to this howler of a mistake.

    Never again. I hope.

  23. #SampleSunday Excerpt from Story in ‘Shaken’ « Debbi Mack: My Life on the Mid-List Says:

    […] and truly an awesome anthology, not only because of the 20 short stories themselves, but because the proceeds from sales will go entirely toward Japanese tsunami relief efforts, i.e., we all pitched in and did this for free, peoples, and (speaking for myself, at least) would […]

  24. Beth Says:

    I have been leaving the comments to the professionals involved and it is great to learn that they have so many resources to promote the short stories.

    Jeff’s post on MIE Saturday gave me the opportunity to explain why people who think they don’t enjoy short stories (like me) will have their minds changed with SHAKEN.

    Readers should be prepared to carve out a block of time because, once started, it is nearly impossible to put the book down.

    Congratulations to all involved.

  25. Usman Says:

    Okay, I am getting replies and responses to my announcement of the writers forum. Just wanted to tell you guys.

  26. Kevin Says:

    Good on you, Mr. Hallinan.

  27. Jeffrey Siger Says:

    I am so happy I waited until now to post. There is utterly nothing left to say. Except, Tim, you created something SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPEALIDOCIOUS (sp).

    So proud to be part of it.

  28. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Well, this is just really gratifying, even if I seem not to be paying any attention. In fact, my life is pretty much divided into promoting SHAKEN, writing the new Poke, and everything else, with “everything else” getting short shrift.

    So to back up to the people whose notes I haven’t answered:

    Usman, thanks so much for getting the word out. I know it’s difficult to buy in Pakistan (Amazon doesn’t make it easy outside their home territories) but it matters just that people know about it and are thinking about it. When/if it becomes available, there will be some people waiting for it.

    I’ll be back tomorrow with more answers. Sort of caving in now.

  29. Philip Coggan Says:

    Ok, bought it. So far reading just one story at a time, as too many at once leads to indigestion. Out of interest, can you keep us posted on how the sales go? Here in Oz we now have a government minister, no less, predicting the death of retail bookselling within five years.

  30. A Few Macavity Nominees … « Debbi Mack: My Life on the Mid-List Says:

    […] THE QUEEN OF PATPONG by Timothy Hallinan. Now, if anyone deserves an award, it’s Tim Hallinan for any number of reasons. (Like making the anthology SHAKEN happen, for instance.) But trust me, this book is totally […]

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