SG Wong’s Crescent City is a fictionalized “Chinese Los Angeles” in an alternate history in which China established a city-state colony at the start of what came to be known as the Gold Rush. In addition, SG Wong adds the elements of ghosts and magic, making them normal parts of everyday life. Not every City dweller is haunted; not everyone can perform magic—but no one’s surprised when it happens.

The novels centre on Lola Starke, a gwai (non-Chinese) PI with a trust fund and a contentious relationship with her unwanted ghost, Aubrey. The novels start in 1934. Some of the short stories happen earlier; some later.

The short stories are an expansion on the City and on Lola’s circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. For the Crescent City short stories, SG Wong chooses to focus on characters that are involved, or have been mentioned, in at least one of the novels. Lola is referenced in some manner in each of these short stories.


Sometimes, readers like a boost to start putting their feelings into words. Here are some questions to spark discussion about the Lola Starke novels and the world of Crescent City.


Short Stories: The Comeback Kitty / Survivors' Pension / Parting Shot / The Fix / Movable Type

Swashbuckling Cats
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Sleuth Magazine
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AB Negative
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  • Arthur Ellis Award Finalist

  • Audreys Books Edmonton
  • Variant Edition Edmonton
  • Owls Nest Books Calgary

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"The Comeback Kitty" is published in Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas (Tyche Books, 2020) and is a departure from the other Crescent City-based stories listed here. Prompted by a Twitter exchange, S.G. Wong created this steampunk ghost-cat heist tale especially for this anthology. (More on the genesis and some related intel about this story here.)

"Survivors’ Pension" is published in Vancouver Noir (Akashic Books, 2018) and takes place in modern times, rather than in fictional Crescent City during the 1930s and earlier. The setting and world are extrapolated from the alternate history of Crescent City, as an exploration of what contemporary west coast life with ghosts and magic might look like—for the down and out. The anthology is part of the long and esteemed line of ‘City Noir’ anthologies.

"Parting Shot" is published in The Dame Was Trouble (Coffin Hop Press, 2018), an anthology of Canadian women crime writers, edited by a team of women, in acknowledgement of The Year of Publishing Women. This short story focuses on a particular member of the powerful Wu family, introduced in Devil Take the Hindmost.

"The Fix" is published in the inaugural issue of Sleuth Magazine (August 2015). Butch Starke, Lola’s father, is the main character in this tale, set in 1910, which also features Nicky Lo, who appears prominently in the Lola Starke novel, In For A Pound.

"Movable Type" is published in the Canadian crime writing anthology, AB Negative (Coffin Hop Press, 2015), and was an Arthur Ellis Awards finalist for Best Short Story. This story stars Valeria Monteverde, a reporter for the Crescent City Herald, and Lola Starke’s best friend. The action in “Movable Type” happens about two weeks prior to the events in Die On Your Feet.

Other (non-fiction): SG Wong was published in the September 2015 issue of Avenue Edmonton magazine. She wrote the #YEG essay for that month. Read it here.