Chief Inspector Chen Cao, the protagonist of St. Louis author Qiu Xiaolong's entertaining crime novels, is a lover of and writer of poetry. Perhaps not surprisingly, so's Qiu. In fact, it was poetry that lured him to St. Louis from his native Shanghai in the 1980s. A highly regarded Chinese poet, Qiu had translated many of T.S. Eliot's works. Still, he wanted to expand his knowledge of Eliot and how better to study the author of "The Wasteland" than to spend a year on a Ford Foundation Fellowship in the city of Eliot's birth? Then came the summer of 1989, and Tiananmen Square. But China's tragedy has been our gain: Qiu has lived here ever since, writing poetry and crafting the seamy world of Inspector Chen. These days Qiu concentrates mainly on his poetry-larded crime novels (he's written four so far), but he has also found time to publish Lines Around China (2003), a collection of his own verse, and Treasury of Chinese Love Poems (2003), which he edited and translated.
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