Casey Walker *10 is good at multitasking. While writing his Ph.D. dissertation on early 20th-century fiction for Princeton’s Department of English, he crafted his first novel, Last Days in Shanghai, which Publishers Weekly calls “a rollicking moral drama.”
“I was writing the novel in Brooklyn coffee shops and on NJ Transit — and writing my Ph.D. at the same time,” Walker says.
After completing his Princeton degree, Walker continued working on the novel while teaching for a couple of years, and then enrolled at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he met an agent who took on the novel. Last Days in Shanghai is a noir thriller about Congressman Leonard Fillmore’s junket to China with his young aide, Luke, who finds himself confronting the ethical ambiguities of his job in hair-raising fashion. The novel, originally 400 pages, eventually was slimmed down to a spare 230.
Walker was inspired to write about China after traveling there on a three-week cultural exchange trip in 2007. “Shanghai felt like just the clamoring insistent place to explore a story about political corruption,” he told Publishers Weekly. “It was basically built by Western decadence and dirty dealing.”
His next novel — set in the California town in which he grew up, on the Mexican border — takes place in the 1910s and 1920s, the period he studied for his dissertation.