Writers from China's diaspora Sex works for Gerrie Lim - at least in his writing. It was only a year ago that he made waves with the release of his non-fiction best-seller Invisible Trade, about the secretive world of high-end escorts in Asia. The common thread between it and his latest book, Idol to Icon (launched in August at the Singapore Writers Festival), Lim says, is that 'they underscore my own personal interest in examining subcultures'. In Idol to Icon, Lim, 46, examines celebrity branding in music, film and fashion, returning once more to the familiar territory of pop culture that he charted in his 1997 debut, Inside the Outsider, a collection of his interviews with musicians such as David Bowie, Patti Smith and Pete Townshend. 'My fixation on pop culture comes from growing up in the 70s in Singapore - a very repressive place in a time of history when pop culture in America and Europe was flourishing and also changing the social-political landscape of the whole world,' he says. 'I saw what was going on over there and I couldn't reconcile that with being forced to get my hair cut by so-called authorities who clearly felt that the male human being should only look one way.' As a result, Lim left Singapore and stayed away for 20 years. It was time well spent in his second home of Los Angeles, where he graduated with a master's degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California and started writing about entertainment for magazines such as LA Weekly and Playboy. Being a Chinese- Singaporean was neither an advantage nor a hindrance while reporting in Hollywood, he says. 'Most people I worked with didn't even know where Singapore was. Most of them thought it was a city in China. One publicist kept introducing me as being from Indonesia. Most people assumed I was a native of Los Angeles and were surprised to find out I was actually from another country. Emotionally, I'm very much a native of southern California.' Although Lim doesn't regret his inadequacy in Putonghua, he says that having a better grasp of it or Cantonese might have helped when his subjects were Asian. 'When I interviewed John Woo he was often pausing, and I think he was translating into Cantonese in his head. I don't think the interview came off badly, but it could have been better in that I could've gotten more out of him.' One chapter of Idol to Icon is devoted to Asian celebrities, although Lim says he doubts that they'll ever become as successful as their counterparts from Hollywood. 'This is because of the long shadow cast by Bruce Lee, which has unfortunately led to stereotyping,' he says. 'Most people outside Asia think of Asian pop culture as confined to kung fu, swordfighting and triad gangster films. This won't change unless someone from Asia comes along with the Jennifer Lopez brand - someone who can act and sing and dance and entertain while also serving as a role model.' Lim now calls Singapore home, but says he doesn't think his prolific output over recent years is particularly inspired by his country. 'Perhaps I'm motivated by the fact that Singapore is a generally sterile and soulless place and so I strive to keep a lot of excitement in my own head,' he says with a smile. His next book is already under way. It will again be a so- called narrative non-fiction - a style he enjoys and thinks he does best. 'The secret to making non-fiction enjoyable is to unapologetically offer your own perspective and to make it personal,' says Lim, who cites pop-culture author Greil Marcus as a major influence. 'Subjective truth is so much more enjoyable than any attempt at objective documentary. I can go and watch the National Geographic channel for objective documentary, but who wants to write that?'