In his Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon moved seamlessly between history and fantasy, establishing himself as an author unafraid to mix themes and genres.

Now Chabon’s at it again. His new detective novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, takes place in a parallel universe in which Sitka, Alaska, is—and Israel never was—the place of last refuge for Europe’s Holocaust refugees. Yiddish thrives, but hope wanes, because after 60 years, control of the northern territory is about to revert back to its native inhabitants.

Michael Chabon talks to Nextbook about the many sources that fed his imagination as he worked on the novel, from a 1958 Yiddish phrase book to the writings of Isaac Babel.