Nassau prosecutor Andrew Fukuda's desk is piled high with legal papers outlining the details of some of Nassau County's most infamous crimes.
But the case that has haunted him most over the past decade is one that never really happened - the case, concocted in his mind, of a Chinese-American teenager suspected in a string of murders in an upstate town.
This year, "Crossing," a novel Fukuda wrote about the fictional case, was published by the newly launched Amazon publishing house, AmazonEncore. The book will be named one of Booklist's top 10 debut novels of 2010, Fukuda learned this week.
Fukuda, 38, of Dix Hills, began to write "Crossing" even before he went to law school, when he was working as a community activist with recently immigrated teenagers in Chinatown. For years, school, marriage, two children and a demanding career in the Nassau district attorney's office appeals bureau got in the way of finishing it.
But Fukuda never forgot the isolated immigrant teenager Xing Xu, whom he had imagined years earlier.
"Characters become wedded to your soul," Fukuda said in an interview last week in a Mineola deli. "He seemed that real to me. I really wanted to know what happened to him."
When Fukuda saw a notice requesting submissions for Amazon's 2009 Breakthrough Novel contest for unpublished books, it gave him the deadline he needed to finish the novel.
He sent the manuscript in and for long stretches forgot about it.
"Every once in a while, I'd get an e-mail that would say I'd made the cut down to 500 entries or 100 or whatever, and I'd think, 'Wow!' " Fukuda said.
Though he did not win, he was a semifinalist and got the attention of an editor at AmazonEncore, who agreed to publish the book.
"Crossing" tells the story of Xing Xu, the only Asian student in an all-white high school. As the novel opens, students are disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Known as a loner and an oddball, Xing Xu soon becomes a suspect.
The book, which has been categorized as both young adult and general fiction, received stellar reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.
"The author has Xing's voice dead on, and the loneliness of the boy's life . . . and his bitter demeanor makes it seem probable that he knows more than he's telling," the Publishers Weekly review said.
Despite a busy work and home life, Fukuda says he has no plans to stop writing fiction. His next book, he says, will again look at the theme of isolation - this time through the eyes of a vampire.
"I didn't just jump on the bandwagon," he says of his choice to write in the intensely popular genre. "I think I have an interesting take on it."