Longtime readers of the blog know the drill: no introducing quotes means either an editorial piece, or a service announcement. Today we have a service announcement long overdue (mostly because I kinda forgot about writing the piece. Most of the time this blog runs 'automatically', as I have enough reviews ready and waiting to be posted until almost next year, so I'm not always in 'writing mode').
Two years ago, I was proud to announce that Locked Room International was going to publish Yukito AYATSUJI's The Decagon House Murders, and that yours truly was responsible for the translation of that devious homage to Christie's And Then There Were None. Around the same time last year, I had the honor to announce that LRI's new Japanese project would be Alice ARISUGAWA's The Moai Island Puzzle, a novel I personally see as one of the greatest Japanese experiments in deduction, surpassing Ellery Queen at his own game. Both novels were also critically well received, which to be completely honest, was something I was even happier about as a fan, rather than as the translator! And as we are once again in that same time of the year, you can probably guess what the announcement of today is about.
Edogawa Rampo. While he excelled at writing brilliantly atmospheric puzzle plot mysteries firmly set in unique backgrounds in the new, changing modern society of Japan of the thirties, he never did gain much fame back in those days. The war changed everything, as state censorship and being drafted into the army marked a cruel end to his career and his life. He became a forgotten author of the pre-war period, until he was rediscovered many years later, with influential writers like Tetsuya AYUKAWA praising as OOSAKA as one of the great losses of Japanese mystery fiction. His work has since then gathered much praise, and The Ginza Ghost contains a special selection comprised of twelve of his best tales: ten impossible crimes stories, plus two extra (non-impossible) stories that are commonly considered to rank among the best he had ever written. Mystery author Taku ASHIBE was so kind to write an informative introduction to the book.
And this is actually the first time where I don't have a handy link to an old review ready! Partly because this is an all-original edited collection. So while I can't link you to "proof" that shows how I was already impressed by his work before I ever got to work on it this time (save for this very old one about two of his stories, the first of them being included in the collection), I hope you believe me when I say that OOSAKA's work is really great. Not only did he come up with very solid mystery plots (written in a time when Japanese mystery fiction was more about horror and eroticsm than actually detecting), the atmosphere in these stories is unique, with a sense of pathos as we are introduced to all kinds of baffling cases set around workplaces and local industries that give you a glimpse into a Japan that was quickly modernizing and Westernizing in the thirties. Personal favorites this time are The Hungry Letter-Box and The Mourning Locomotive by the way.
Publishers Weekly already has a review available here.
Anyway, I hope you'll find The Ginza Ghost an entertaining read. I at least had a blast working on them. OOSAKA may have been a forgotten author for a long time in his own country, but I hope new readers will find out why everybody was so enthusiastic about him when his work was rediscovered. And if you haven't read The Decagon House Murders or The Moai Island Puzzle yet, why not try them out too?