Fortunately for his growing legion of fans, ebook editions of all his novels are now available worldwide.
Before becoming a bestselling author he worked as a screen and television writer who began writing thrillers when he realized he didn’t really like writing for movies and television.
He is a lawyer by education and has held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors in which he took part in a lengthy list of international operations he has absolutely no intention of telling you about.
Jake has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for nearly twenty-five years. He and his family now divide their time between homes in Bangkok, New York, and Virginia.
Jake Needham Interview
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Books by Jake Needham
Jack Needham Transcript
Tim Knox: Hi friends, welcome back in to Interviewing Authors. My guest today is Jake Needham and I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done, and I’ve done close to 80 of them at this point so this one must be really good.
Jake began his career as an attorney and then, somehow, got into the entertainment business. He was writing screenplays, he was writing for television. He even roomed with Larry McMurtry in college and he’s working on projects with people like James Gandolfini and many others.
Finally when he was not being satisfied writing for television and movies he became a bestselling novelist and he did it in kind of an odd way. He moved to Singapore, started writing books, found a publisher over there and became an international bestseller without selling a single book in the United States. Fortunately for us his ebooks are available worldwide.
Lots to learn from this one folks. Great entertainment; so get a cup of coffee and get ready for one of my favorite interviews so far with Jake Needham, on today’s Interviewing Authors.
Tim Knox: Jake, welcome to the program.
Jake Needham: Well thanks, Tim. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad you called.
Tim Knox: Well I’m glad you were there to answer the phone.
Jake Needham: I almost missed it. I forgot you were doing a call.
Tim Knox: Picking up on the eighth ring is as good as the first with me.
Jake Needham: Okay, I’m good.
Tim Knox: Jake, I’m proud to have you on the show. Great to have you home in the States here for a little while. Before we get started, if you will give the audience a little bit of background on you.
Jake Needham: Well let’s see, man it’s a long story. You get to be as old as I am and the story goes on and on. I really started out practicing law. I graduated from Rice University and Georgetown University and practiced law for quite a while in a bunch of different areas and somehow sort of ended up in the Pacific Rim. I lived in Sydney for a while and Hong Kong and Singapore and a bunch of places like that. And in the middle of a deal that we were working I ended up owning a kind of broken down television production company in Hollywood, which nobody else wanted in the deal so I ended up buying it out.
I think like every lawyer who ever got involved in Hollywood, I figured that these guys have just been sitting around all their lives waiting for me to come in and tell them how they could really make this thing work. I screwed around with a little company for a few years and did some stuff. That worked out pretty well but that got me into screenwriting and from screenwriting I slid into writing novels when I got sick of the movie business. That’s sort of how I got here. How about that for the Reader’s Digest version?
Tim Knox: Well that’s quite the trip. You started out as an attorney, ended up… was it a production company?
Jake Needham: Yeah, I was doing a deal in which one company acquired another one and this little broken down television production company was part of the deal and nobody wanted it. It sort of threatened to stop the whole thing so I ended up buying the damn thing to save the deal. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded because it actually had back in the great ol’ days of cable television, an output deal with a company called Wilshire Court, which in turn was supplying movies to USA and Showtime and at the time USA was doing about 28 original movies a year, which was a hell of a thing. It was like a drive-in movie business back in the old days. That was the real B movie business. These guys had an output deal. They were putting together four movies a year for Wilshire Court and USA and Showtime and that struck me as having some value. So I got involved.
Actually it’s a funny story if you want to hear it. I put together a business plan to try to get everybody on the same page. It seemed to me the problem the company had was that it was digging up scripts for films they wanted to make but then discovering they were beyond its resources really and then trying to retool the scripts into something that they could afford to make, which struck me as ass backwards.
The right way to go about it was to start out by figuring out what they could do, what resources they had not just in terms of money but who knew who, who could you get, what directors were free who might want to work with a little company and so forth, and put together a package based on what they could do well as opposed to working it from the other end.
So I brought out this business plan and sketched out the kinds of things I thought we could do and circulate it and probably forgot about it. About six weeks later one of my guys came in and he said, “I’ve got great news. That script you wrote, HBO wants to film it.” I had to say what script? I’ve never written a script.
He said, “Oh no no, that thing you wrote that you circulated.” It was a business plan. That’s not a script. He said, “Yeah I know but I showed it to HBO and they love it.” True story, absolute true story.
Tim Knox: So is that how you became a script writer?
Jake Needham: Yeah it was sort of a nutty outline I made up in 30 seconds because I thought it suited with what the little company could do and HBO bought it. So I sat down and wrote it and fiddled around and they said, “It’s fine,” and we actually shot it. Then an agent got involved and I started writing stuff for USA and Showtime.
I did mostly cable TV movies, which were really great fun because it was the B movie business back then. Nobody cared. If you delivered on budget and on time that was really all it took. We were so far beneath the radar that people didn’t screw around with us and we actually got to go out and do some stuff that was kind of fun.
Tim Knox: Yeah back in those days they were just looking for content, anything to fill the time.
Jake Needham: Yeah. The factory was out there churning it out. We were sort of the trainer of cable TV. Man, Wal-Mart called us up and we produced two tons of stuff for cable TV. That was how it worked and it was kind of fun. Being in the low end of the business everybody thought we were crap so it really didn’t make any difference. Nobody screwed around with us but it meant that we actually had what was really the greatest power in Hollywood, and that was the power to say yes. Yes, I will hire you and yes we will make this movie. Yes, we will start shooting on Thursday.
I did that for a few years and had a lot of fun with it and then decided I didn’t want to make any more movies because just got tired of the movie business and tried a novel to see if it would work and it worked out okay.
Tim Knox: Now had you always been a writer before law school or any of that?
Jake Needham: No, well I worked at NBC News for a while and I was a news producer for a bit so I had some rudimentary knowledge of how everything wrote but honestly, Tim, I never spent a second of my life sitting around saying, “Gee, I want to be a writer.”
When I was an under-grad at Rice University one of my roommates was Larry McMurtry and so I sort of lived with McMurtry through his early days. He sold his first novel which was called Horseman, Pass By, which became the movie Hud. He sold it for $2,500 and that was his first big break in Hollywood. While we were there at Rice he wrote The Last Picture Show, which I thought was Larry’s finest novel. We sat around and said things like, “Larry, baby, The Last Picture Show. What a crummy title. You can’t write a novel called The Last Picture Show. It just lies there.”
From that I got no ambition to be a novelist. It was purely accidental and so when people ask me how I became a writer, I always say it was an accident and it literally was. It was just something that I kind of fell into.
Tim Knox: I think the best thing about The Last Picture Show was Cybil Shepherd nude, if I’m being honest here.
Jake Needham: She was a lot younger then.
Tim Knox: She was a little bit younger. So let me recap here. You were an attorney who got into the production business, started writing screenplays I think because someone called your bluff.
Jake Needham: That’s actually putting it really well, yeah.
Tim Knox: So you went from that to writing novels. Talk a little bit about that transition.
Jake Needham: Well, you know, I had no idea how to do it, absolutely no idea. It only came about because honestly I just got sick of the movie business. The movie business is really no place for a grown man. It’s just not a good way to pass your life. It’s just so full of bullshit that you really get sick of it after a while. We were down in Thailand at the time for a few months and so I thought what the hell? I’ll see if I can write a novel.
Having no idea how to do it I think I wrote it sort of like a screenplay because my first novel was a book called The Big Mango, which has been optioned I think at last count 11 times without ever actually being filmed. Movie people seem to love it because I think when they read it they see a movie and that’s not because I was clever enough to write it that way; it was because I was dumb enough to write it that way. I had no idea how to write a novel so it broke out into scenes. When you write screenplays you write blocks of scenes and move them around and I wrote The Big Mango like that and the movie guys have always loved it. Who knows? One of these days it may get made.
Tim Knox: So you wrote it really like a screenplay, heavy on dialogue and blocking the scenes and that sort of thing.
Jake Needham: Yeah I think it was not so much that it was heavy on dialogue but it was that the scenes fell out like scenes in a screenplay because in a screenplay of course you don’t have transitions between the scenes. So it wasn’t sort of full of backstory and the kind of thing that you’d get in a novel. I mean it was thin to be perfectly honest, looking back on it now. It was real thin but because it was thin I think movie people saw in it what they were accustomed to reading in a script.
The guy who got most excited about it was Jim Gandolfini. Jim actually owned the rights for a while just before he died and Jim was determined way back to when he was on The Sopranos that as soon as he came off The Sopranos he was going to make The Big Mango.
I used to get summons to New York every now and then and we’d pace around The Sopranos set smoking cigars and talking about the script but HBO wanted Jim to produce it and he didn’t want to and HBO wanted me to write it and I didn’t want to so it all kind of bogged down and went around in circles and then Jim passed away and of course that was a great loss for everybody. I always can sort of see him in that role. I’m not sure I can see anybody else now.
Tim Knox: What was the storyline of The Big Mango?
Jake Needham: Essentially it was a guy, a sort of broken down lawyer in San Francisco who had never been terribly successful and therefore he wasn’t wildly happy with his life and suddenly he started getting these letters in the mail reminding him of moments when he had been a grunt back in Vietnam when Saigon had fallen.
As the storyline follows along it seems that he and a couple of other guys have been assigned to guard a warehouse, which he didn’t have any idea what was in it. It was later discovered that it had been filled with the gold that the CIA had gotten together from the Bank of Vietnam to keep it from falling into the hands of the North Vietnamese and then it disappeared.
The CIA assumed the North Vietnamese have it and they discover they didn’t. The North Vietnamese thought the CIA had it and they discovered they didn’t so everybody starts looking at Eddie Dare, who was my character, and asking him what the hell he did with the gold. He had no idea either. So that’s where the storyline developed from.
Tim Knox: Fantastic. I would like to see that on screen.
Jake Needham: I think it would be a fun movie. There’s a big time agent who’s picked it up again and was a friend of Jim’s and I was sort of determined to get it out there. I’d get hysterical calls from him every two or three days about how it’s going to be the next big movie but I think the place of the novelist in the movie business is to not have any place at all. Who is it that said… I think Harold Corbin. Somebody once said he thought the proper role of a novelist in dealing with a movie company was that somewhere out in the Mojave Desert there was a very high wall and the novelist rode up to one side, threw his book over and from the other side somebody threw money over and then they both ran like hell.
Tim Knox: That’s a really good description. It really is.
Jake Needham: I think they’re different disciplines and involve different sets of talents. Having been on both sides of the wall I’m even more convinced of that now. I have complete equanimity over the issue of anybody buying one of my books for its movie rights. If somebody shows up and hands me a check and it’s a check of a reasonable size I will kiss them on both cheeks, wish them well and ask them to send me an invitation when they make it.
Tim Knox: When you wrote The Big Mango how did you go about getting that published? Did you get an agent, go the traditional route?
Jake Needham: Yeah I did. At the time remember this was when everybody still sent typed scripts out. You sent these bloody big packages to agents and the enquiry letters. You know the whole sort of thing. I was incredibly fortunate that several agents who got the query jumped right on it and quite significant folks that I think they thought it was sort of romantic that I was mostly living in Bangkok at the time and I was barraged with a lot of phone calls.
A guy named Perry Nolton, who was really one of the huge movers and shakers back at the time, took it on but Perry got nowhere, just absolutely nowhere. What he ended up with was a whole series of, “Well it’s very interesting but Americans don’t really want to read stuff set in foreign countries,” and, “It’s too midlist. It will never be a big hit.” All the usual sort of stuff.
I just sort of shrugged. It wasn’t like I was paying my kid’s school fees and I’m still sort of hanging on the peripheral of film business and had just written it for fun. So I gave the manuscript to a decent little regional publisher that operated in Southeast Asia and just said, “Look, if you want to print it go ahead. It’s fine.” They loved it and put it out and they’re out of business now but when they were in business they sold a couple hundred thousand copies of it.
Tim Knox: Wow.
Jake Needham: It did exceptionally well.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk about that a little bit. You lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand for 25 years now and you’ve written seven international crime novels, all bestsellers, and none of them have been distributed in the U.S.
Jake Needham: It is a little weird, isn’t it?
Tim Knox: Just a tad, yeah.
Jake Needham: Well I mean it started out honestly as I just said. Nobody wanted it and it didn’t bother me a lot. It wasn’t a big deal. I mean everybody wanted to be published but I was perfectly happy to be published by an Asian publisher who got good distribution and I was fine with that. Then as another couple came out I moved to a larger publisher in Hong Kong. I finally reached the point at which I didn’t want them distributed in the U.S. because I thought long-term protecting the rights here was the right thing to do.
I’ve been around the movie business for a long time. I understood the argument that most Americans were not interested in foreign set material. I had heard it constantly from HBO, from Showtime, from all sorts of movie production houses. I wasn’t really surprised when publishers said the same thing.
To be perfectly honest with you, I think there’s some truth in that. But on the other hand because American publishers almost never publish anything set in a foreign country it’s a little hard to judge that objectively but when I started hearing that so much it just really didn’t bother me a lot. We lived in Thailand and had a home here as well but I spent most of my time in Asia, and so I was perfectly happy to have the books published there.
It was like the old days. Newspapers actually ran reviews. Reporters called you up and did interviews, put your picture in the paper. If you’re a writer what you want is an audience and I had a terrific one. I had major newspapers all over the region who wrote nice things about me and then my books sold well so what the hell? What was the big deal?
Tim Knox: Did anyone ever try to entice you or convince you to change the location for the books for the American market?
Jake Needham: Oh yes, oh yes. That was some silly stories and you know I’m not sure I did the right thing in not doing it from the standpoint of purely commercial success because now I have two series and I’m sort of stuck with them because the series have a lot of fans. I hear from people constantly who say when’s the next Jack Shepherd book? When’s the next Inspector Tay book? I just don’t quite have the heart to say I’m sick of them; I want to write something else.
I’m going to write about a detective who lives in Miami because I don’t know if I’d bring anything to that. I’ve loved Asia all my life and I think what I do is different from what other people do and so I keep doing it but yeah, every now and then somebody says why don’t you write a book set in L.A.? I just have to say I don’t know if I can do that better. A lot of people are doing that really well right now. I just don’t know what I would bring to it.
Tim Knox: I’ve had several authors who write series like you do that have kind of said the same thing. They’re hesitant to change location or even marry off a character because their fans just get ticked at them if they do anything that drastic in the books.
Jake Needham: Well I think that’s true. I mean people invest themselves in these and they like them. I’ve never quite figured out why people invest themselves so much in some of these series but they do. They’re terribly nice people and it’s not so much that you think they would be annoyed with you but more you don’t want to disappoint them. In fact, the Reacher books. They’re all sort of the same. The argument that Lee Child makes is that that’s what people ask him to do and so that’s what he does. He doesn’t have the character change. People like Reacher as he is and they want another Reacher book and so that’s what he writes.
I find that the people who like my characters seem to like them a lot and sometimes I think I ought to change them and do something out there in left field but then I think I’d be disappointing a lot of nice people. Maybe I’ll do it yet but I don’t know. I’m finishing another Sam Tay book now. When that’s done all bets are off.
Tim Knox: Maybe Sam Tay can take a vacation in Miami.
Jake Needham: You know, people mention that all the time. If you think about, for example, I’m a big fan of Mike Connelly’s but I’m not a real fan of what happened when he got a little bored with Harry Bosch. He did this kind of silly routine in which Bosch discovers that… I forgot the lawyer’s name but it’s his half-brother. I thought, geez, that doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s sort of like you remember the old soap operas? Sally was Fred’s cousin’s sister’s third brother’s second wife.
That was the way every plot unraveled by somebody explaining that everybody was actually related. Somehow I felt when Mike did that he cheapened a really nice character by trying to link him in with another character in a way that felt to me artificial. Now I’m sure it didn’t feel artificial to him or he wouldn’t have done it but I just don’t think it worked.
If you also look, he took Bosch to Hong Kong once. I forgot the name of the book but it was terrible. It was just one of his worst books because I think when you take your characters out of their comfort zone and try to make them somebody else there’s a long history of that not really working very well. I think there’s a good reason not to do that. I would certainly be gun shy about doing it.
Tim Knox: Right. After The Big Mango, what was your next book?
Jake Needham: That was when I started the Jack Shepherd series. It was a book called Laundry Man, which was the first of the Shepherd books. What kind of interested me about doing that character was that Shepherd’s an ex-pat, which of course I have much experience with. When I started thinking about it I couldn’t think of a single novel about an American who had thrown up his hands one day and gone abroad to live, which I had thought was a sort of interesting idea.
Also, The Big Mango was written in the third person and I wanted to try and do something in the first person because I thought that might be kind of interesting and being able to do a first person voice of somebody who had followed a course parallel to mine, not the same but sort of parallel I thought might be kind of interesting and the character worked out pretty well. There have now been four Jack Shepherd books.
Tim Knox: What attracted you to the crime genre?
Jake Needham: That’s a good question. I guess it’s what I always read and the kind of stuff I always wrote. When I wrote screenplays the standard joke was that every screenplay that I’d ever written was The Third Man with a different title.
Tim Knox: I love that.
Jake Needham: I think at the end of the day you take the stuff you like and you do write that over and over. You write it because you liked it and it somehow affected you and you thought it worked and you found new ways to make the same kind of thing work. Look at Spielberg’s movies. I mean your big writers, your big directors. Essentially most of us that have done pretty well tend to do the same kind of stuff. It’s thematically connected because I suppose if you wanted to sit down and so some sort of shrink job on us you would sort of say that’s who we are.
Tim Knox: So really Jack Shepherd is not really you but there’s maybe a little bit of you. He’s also an ex-pat who’s in Asia as you have been.
Jake Needham: Well the ex-pat idea basically came from me in the sense that it seemed to me that that was an interesting road to go down. It’s funny you would put it that way because probably the most common question you get at book signings and that sort of thing is always, “Isn’t the hero really you?” I keep saying if anyone ever comes up to me and says, “Isn’t the villain really you?” I’ll give them all my books for free. I think that’d be the greatest question in the world.
The answer to both questions is yes, of course. You can’t make people up. The people that you put in your books are all partly you and partly your wife and your kids and the people you’ve met and the people you hated and the people you loved because that’s what makes them real. If you don’t draw from those kinds of things they’re going to cardboard. They’re not going to be real and I don’t draw comic books.
Tim Knox: I think that’s a really good point. I had another author tell me once that all of the good characters in his books are people he knows that he likes and all of the bad people in his books are people that he knows that he hates.
Jake Needham: I’ve never been quite that direct about it. It seems to me that all characters are just some degree reflections of yourself and then you leaven them with things that you remember about other people – funny things they said, events that occurred. Part of the fun of writing is this stuff comes back to you.
Things you have long forgotten, people you haven’t thought about in a decade, an event which occurred to the two of you somewhere come drifting out of the great file cabinet in the sky and you get to chuckle about it a little bit and bend it around and put it into somebody else’s mouth and shove it in the book. That’s what writing novels is all about.
Tim Knox: Do you do a lot of deep background on your main characters? Do you know Jake’s shoe size?
Jake Needham: No, no, I never understood any of that stuff. I think it comes from writing screenplays. I make this stuff up as I go along. In fact, the hardest thing about a series is once you’ve written a couple of books then you’ve got to do some real mechanical work because then you’ve got to go back and comb through the first couple of books and write all that stuff done.
Tim Knox: That’s true.
Jake Needham: You can’t suddenly say that he hates Benny Hill and then two books later have him love Benny Hill. You can make it all up in a book or two but once you’ve done that and you’ve committed to a character you have a bit of a mechanical problem and you’ve got to go back and dig that stuff up and start making lists of what you’ve already said so you don’t contradict yourself.
Tim Knox: Such a great point. You can’t be in the third book and have him become a chain-smoker all of a sudden.
Jake Needham: People do that all the time. It drives me crazy.
Tim Knox: I know, I know. You’ve been doing this a while. Talk a little bit about how things are changing. You’re Asia-based, your books are, but things are changing with the traditional publishing, the indie publishing, the self-publishing. Thoughts on that?
Jake Needham: For me personally it’s been a boom. It’s changed my life. When I started out, as I said literally you printed up a typed script and then you put it in a big box and shipped it off to people who then didn’t look at it and shipped it back and all that kind of thing. It was very frustrating because the only way you could gain access to the market was through an agent and through a publisher and then even once you did that, as my first agent always said, “The problem isn’t getting published; the problem is getting well published.” You could get buried and all sorts of wonderful careers disappeared because strange things happened.
When eBooks became popular I very carefully kept all of my rights except licensing very specific rights to specific territories. Now it wasn’t because I was prescient somehow but it was because as I mentioned before, when I was thinking in terms of okay so I license these rights in Asia and the UK and so forth but I keep the North American rights. I always protected those because I was convinced that one of these days HarperCollins would see the light and come running and I wanted to make sure those rights were protected.
Low and behold when eBooks became a really big deal, I had all the rights. I had never licensed them to anybody. They still belonged to me. I was able to start putting out my first books as eBooks and suddenly when I was an unknown in the U.S. because none of my books had ever been sold here, I suddenly was selling thousands of books here.
About three years ago I killed my publishing contract with my publisher, my UK publisher called Marshall Cavendish which had been bought by a Singapore media group. That’s another story because they decided that they didn’t like the Inspector Tay character. He was not sufficiently filled with praise for Singapore so they started pressuring me to make some changes and it was great fun to be able to go in one day and blow them the proverbial raspberry. Once I killed that deal I got no print editions for three years, four years maybe and the last two books have come out purely in eBook formats and, man, I freakin’ love it. I absolutely love it.
Tim Knox: So all of your books are now available via eBooks on Amazon and the usual outlets.
Jake Needham: Yeah, everything is out there on Amazon, the Kindle. Most of the books are also on iBooks, all the usual suspects. I’m one of those guys who just says, look, the greatest thing in the world is I suddenly have access to readers and readers have access to me. It seems to me that what’s really happening here, people spend a lot of time talking about publishing companies and the change in publishing and so forth but I don’t think that’s really the point. Publishers have always been slightly irrelevant.
Way back 10 years ago I could easily see that writers cared a great deal about what they wrote and readers cared a great deal about what they read and in between virtually nobody gave a shit. It was a commodity business. We were cans of soup and publishers didn’t care much about readers. They certainly didn’t care about writers. They cared about retailers.
If Barnes & Noble thought it was cool then it was automatically cool. If Barnes & Noble didn’t think it was cool they weren’t going to publish it and nobody spent any time talking about what writers wanted to write and what readers wanted to read. Now that’s all anybody thinks about and I think that’s absolutely terrific.
Tim Knox: It really has kind of leveled the playing field, hasn’t it?
Jake Needham: It’s done more than that. I think when you say level the playing field that’s almost the kind of commercial term and that’s certainly true but more than that, partly because of eBooks and partly because of the prevalence of social media, readers now feel they have a direction relationship with the people whose books they read.
I find that I get enormous amounts of communication from extraordinarily nice people who don’t want anything. They just want to say, “Hey, I really enjoyed that. When’s the next one coming?” I get 40, 50 tweets a day from people who have small comments to make like that, Facebook, email, what have you. It’s not a volume issue. It’s a matter of there being a direct relationship. Nobody cares who the publisher is. Nobody cares about their guy sitting in a box in Manhattan who take each other to lunch and talk about how they must be the gatekeepers. Nobody wants a gatekeeper. Readers are smart. They know how to find books. They don’t need publishers to tell them what to find.
From a writer’s standpoint not only do we get an audience that way but it’s an audience who actually cares about us. We don’t have to argue with the audience. We don’t have to wonder if Barnes & Noble is only going to put two copies in each store and then people are going to call up and say, “Why can’t I get your book?” It’s Amazon that’s a great leveler because any book you want, you can have tomorrow afternoon, any book anywhere in the world. You can have it tomorrow afternoon.
What that has done is it’s taken the retailers out of the picture because the retailers were the real gatekeepers. They were the arrogant sods who wanted to tell you what you could buy. That doesn’t happen anymore and from a writer’s standpoint, man it’s the golden age because people who actually want to read what we write can access it immediately, they can access us and I just think that’s bloody terrific.
Tim Knox: You know, I agree with you totally and that’s one thing I hear from authors who are doing the self-publishing is that word you said, relationship. They’re now accessible to their readers and they’re building a relationship and as a reader it’s pretty cool to be able to tweet back and forth with a guy who wrote one of your favorite books.
Jake Needham: Yeah, absolutely right. The way the system previously functioned was the writer had to deal a publisher who had to deal with the retailer who presumably dealt with the reader but the fact was they put it out there. You bought it or you didn’t. Take it or leave it. You know the old song, “Readers don’t make bestsellers; publishers make bestsellers,” because if the publisher put out 50,000 copies and stuck 500 copies at the front of every bookstore you were going to sell a lot of copies. I mean hell, if they put a million copies of my book in every store in the world you’d sell a bunch of copies.
Tim Knox: Sure.
Jake Needham: Publishers don’t make bestsellers anymore. They’ve lost control and they’re going nuts because their role in all of this has always been suspect and now it’s clear that their role is virtually negligible. So you’ve got people like Patterson who are dependent on that old system who attack people who aren’t a part of that old system. That’s kind of ugly but that aside it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly or sweet.
What matters is that readers get access to what they want to read. I have an audience. I’m happy to have an audience. If I had an audience that was 1,000 times bigger than the one I have would I be 1,000 times happier? Not a chance. I’m fine. What every reader wants are books that they enjoy and what every writer wants are readers who enjoy his books. Man, the system is breezed for that now. You just can’t beat it.
Tim Knox: Great insight. What are you working on now, Jake?
Jake Needham: I’m doing the third Inspector Tay book. Tay is a CID detective in Singapore who is not real keen on being a cop and even less keen on being a Singaporean, which is why when the Singapore media group bought my publisher they weren’t real keen on Tay. I’m doing the third Inspector Tay book, which ought to be out in September, called The Dead American. The fourth Jack Shepherd book was called The King of Macau and that came out in February and has done brilliantly for me I’m happy to say.
So now I’ve got Shepherd living in Hong Kong and hustling the casinos in Macau and I’ve got Sam Tay in Singapore who’s on suspension because he shot the wrong guy at the wrong time and dealing with the Wall Street Journal, who’s trying to get in to help investigate a dead American who was found in Singapore to no one’s great interest and that makes a pretty good parley, huh?
Tim Knox: That does. On behalf of all of us folks here in the States, we’re glad we can get your eBooks now.
Jake Needham: Well Tim, I’m even happier about that. They’re all out there. I’m delighted when people discover them and I think the nicest thing you can get are the emails, the tweets and the Facebook postings and so forth in which people say, “Hey, I just discovered (fill in title here) and I just loved it and I’m going to go and buy all the others.” There’s just nothing nicer than that and that’s really what keeps you going day to day, and eBooks now make that possible because in the olden days, meaning a couple years ago, people had trouble tracking down physical copies. It is the availability of eBooks which I think has really changed the game. I just couldn’t be more delighted to be part of the game now. It’s a great time to be a novelist.
Tim Knox: Very good. Jake, this has been a pleasure. Where can folks find out more about you?
Jake Needham: Well Tim, the website is easy to remember. It’s just JakeNeedham.com and you’ll find on the website not only all the books but I used to write a series called Letters of Asia, which was about my sort of adventures as an ex-pat living in Thailand and Singapore but as you may remember we had a fairly nasty military coupe in Thailand a few weeks ago and my wife and I slipped out quietly when nobody was looking.
The last couple Letters of Asia were about the coupe and the military crackdown in Thailand, which is funny and sad at the same time. There’s lots about it there. There’s lots about the books. They can access sample chapters from every book and they can always find a way just to write me if they’ve got any questions right through the website, JakeNeedham.com.
Tim Knox: Very good. Jake, this has been a pleasure. You’ve got to come back when your new book comes out.
Jake Needham: Tim, I’d love to. Thanks, man. I enjoyed it.