I would imagine that Adam Johnson couldn't believe his good fortune when he heard the news that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had died. Johnson, who teaches English at Stanford, was just about to publish The Orphan Master's Son, a novel set in North Korea. The book follows the adventures of Jun Do, an orphan, through his career as kidnapper and part of the state security apparatus, to ultimately becoming a victim of that same repressive system. Johnson uses elements of magic realism, along with prodigious amounts of factual research, to create a world where individual identity has been all but erased. And Kim Jong Il appears as a character. There aren't many novels that can claim that.