Saturday, May 9, 2020

番外編:The Red Locked Room Released

Some readers may have been disappointed when Locked Room International didn't release a full-length Japanese mystery last year. Abiko's hilarious locked room mystery The 8 Mansion Murders was released in 2018 and while Abiko's short story A Smart Dummy in the Tent was published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in 2019, most people had probably expected something more from Locked Room International after the annual releases of The Decagon House Murders (2015), The Moai Island Puzzle (2016) and The Ginza Ghost (2017). But I'm happy to say we can offer you something now in these times.

For the short story collection The Red Locked Room was released today, with a selection of seven stories with locked room murders, perfect alibis and other impossibilities by none other than the illustrious Tetsuya Ayukawa. I was once again very fortunate to be involved with this project as the translator. Ayukawa (1919-2002) was one of most respected driving forces of puzzle plot mysteries in post-war Japan. His creative output was excellent, with meticulously written plots that often involved perfect alibis that had to be cracked, but he was also a master of other impossible mysteries like the locked room murder. While he has not been translated in English before, you may know his name from the award named after him: the Ayukawa Tetsuya Award is awarded annually by the publisher Tokyo Sogensha, which gives newcomers an opportunity to debut as a professional authors. Ayukawa was very keen on finding and nurturing new and old mystery talent, as he himself had a rather rough start as a mystery writer. Keikichi Osaka was for example a mostly forgotten author, but Ayukawa was one of the people who brought his stories back on the stage and for all we know, The Ginza Ghost would never have been released without Ayukawa. Many shin honkaku authors made their debut because of Ayukawa's editiorial efforts. Two of them are Taku Ashibe and Alice Arisugawa, the duo responsible for the initial selection of the stories included in Locked Room International's The Red Locked Room.

Unfortunately enough, Ayukawa himself did not see an English translation of his own works during his own life-time. One of his short stories was actually considered for Ellery Queen's anthology Japanese Golden Dozen: first that story didn't made it because it was considered perhaps too complex, and when it was finally included in the second volume of Japanese Golden Dozen, that second volume never got an actual English release!

The Red Locked Room includes seven stories, four starring the foppish great detective Ryūzō Hoshikage, three starring the ever-diligent Inspector Onitsura. The Hoshikage stories are about locked room murders and other impossibilities: a murder in a locked autopsy room, a killer clown disappearing from a tunnel and more. The Red Locked Room, The Blue Locked Room and The White Room form a colorful trio, and especially The Red Locked Room is regarded very highly among fans of the genre. The Clown in the Tunnel is a personal favorite with its brilliantly plotted impossible vanishing, and I don't even like clowns! We also have Inspector Onitsura, who is always facing suspects who appear to have a perfect alibi even though Onitsura's certain he's on the right trail. Both Whose Body? and Death in Early Spring keep you guessing what really happened as Onitsura investigates each possible trail, while The Five Clocks is a genuine masterpiece about a man with a perfect alibi vouched for by no less than five different clocks! The book also features an introduction by Taku Ashibe, who has been a tremendous help in making this project possible in the first place. His preface gives you insight in how important Ayukawa was for the genre both as writer as well as an editor.

My own reviews of the stories included are a bit scattered, as The Red Locked Room features an original selection: you can find the Hoshikage stories here and here, and the Onisura stories here (never reviewed Whose Body? I realize now). Publishers Weekly's early review is also available now, which gave the book a starred rating and says "The seven whodunits in this outstanding collection reveal Ayukawa (1919–2002) to have been one of Japan’s most accomplished writers of classic fair-play mysteries" and "Ayukawa’s ingenuity will make golden age fans hope his novels will also be translated." On The Threshold of Chaos also has reviews of the Japanese version of the Hoshikage stories here and here.


Anyway, I think that people who have enjoyed the previous Japanese release by Locked Room International will have a lot of fun with these stories too. The fantastical impossibilities of the Hoshikage stories and the slightly more realistic approach of the Inspector Onitsura stories cover a wide range and on a completely personal note, I am really thrilled to see Tetsuya Ayukawa finally getting an international audience! And that's it for today's service announcement. Enjoy The Red Locked Room!

26 comments :

  1. Awesome, thanks so much for translating this! Can't wait to get my hands on it

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    1. Hope you'll enjoy the stories!

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    2. I just finished them. Fantastic job as always, and a killer selection of stories as well! Standouts for me were the intricately plotted "Clown in teh Tunnel" and "The Five Clocks" (the latter is insane). And the trick in "Whose Body?" makes it a minor masterpiece. I won't lie, I was expecting simplistic plots like the early 20th century short stories. But I was blown away by Ayukawa.

      Not only that, he also helped promising writers get published like Arisugawa and Ashibe (and presumably Nikaido since he got an honorable mention in 1990). It was a nice touch getting those two to pick the stories. The mystery scene in Japan was really lucky to have had a guy like Ayukawa ^^

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    3. First reaction to the book I've seen yet, so extra happy to hear you liked it ^_^ As mentioned in the introduction, the initial list of stories was a bit longer, so eventually we ended up picking *the best* from a selection that was already supposed to be the best :P The line-up is completely unique too: even in Japan you will not find one single collection with all these stories together, and you'd need to buy several books.

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  2. Thanks for your hard work. I will get it as soon as the ebook version releases.

    As for me, I offered Mr PUGMIRE my services as a French to English translator (picking the first page of Spirale by Paul Halter as showcase). Sadly it didn't seem to attract his attention. Oh well...Best of luck for your next projects.

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    1. I don't know the details, but I seem to remember that the e-book versions of earlier books I worked on always followed soon after the initial listing, so it shouldn't be long!

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  3. Thanks as always, Ho-Ling, for your superb work in bringing these books into English for those of us not intelligent enough to learn another language. The preview of the introduction on Amazon makes Ayukawa sound very intriguing and -- on an entirely personal note -- the citing of both Carr and Crofts makes it sound like a collection crafted exclusively to cater to my tastes in the genre!

    Have ordered my copy, and am really looking forward to getting into these.

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    1. Thanks, and yeah, I think there's a good chance you'll like these stories. The locked room myteries with Hoshikage are quite Carr-esque, while the focus on time schedules/clocks and the slightly more realist angle of the Onitsura stories certainly invokes a Croftsian vibe.

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  4. You're doing the Lord's work with these translations, Ho-Ling! A collection crammed with impossible crimes and unbreakable alibis is something unlikely to disappoint me.

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    1. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts about the book!

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    2. What would you consider your favourite novels when it comes to breaking impossible alibis, Ho-Ling and TomCat? I've read the first of Ooyama Seiichirou's "Alibi Cracking, at Your Service" and enjoyed it, but I realize it's really the only alibi-breaking novel I've read.

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    3. Not my absolute favorite, but Tomonaga Rito's Yuureitachi no Fuzai Shoumei which I reviewed a while ago did make an impression. It's not a conventional alibi story, because it's about figuring out what the *exact* time of murder was, down to the minute, and that allows them to solve the murder. A reverse alibi story in a way.

      Matsumoto's Points & Lines, and its sequel Jikan no Shuuzoku are classics! A bit outdated in terms of method, but I still like both of them. Most of the post 2004 Kindaichi Shounen stories are also about alibis: the impossibilities there mostly arise from the fact all the suspects have alibis, making it seem impossible for anyone to have committed the murders. There was one story in Utano's Misshitsu Satsujin Game series which was pretty unique, with a whole earlier story proving to be the alibi for the murderer in the next story (because they were all videochatting in the earlier story, at the time of murder in the next story). Finished Arisugawa's Magic Mirror a while back by the way: it has an alibi lecture which can be interesting to read.

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    4. "What would you consider your favourite novels when it comes to breaking impossible alibis, Ho-Ling and TomCat?"

      Christopher Bush's Cut Throat has a marvelously imagined and executed alibi-trick, but not everyone likes the story surrounding it. So my recommendation goes to Bush's equally brilliant The Case of the Missing Minutes. Freeman Wills Crofts' The Mystery on the Channel has a very clever and practical alibi-trick and Arthur Porges' “Coffee Break, a short story, uses a locked room as a tool to create a cast-iron alibi, but one of my personal favorites is the Suspense episode “The Too-Perfect Alibi.” A 30-minute radio-play from the 1940s.

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  5. Congratulations on having your translation published again! I will certainly be picking this one up.

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    1. Thanks, and I hope you'll enjoy the book!

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  6. Dear Ho-Ling Wong.

    Nice to meet you.
    I'm Japanese and a fan of mystery novels.
    I learned about you from
    "The Honkaku Mystery World",
    supervised by Shoji Shimada.
    I've been reading your blog with pleasure.

    I don't usually comment,
    but I wanted to thank your hard working!!
    I just finished reading
    your translated
    The Red Locked Room
    on my kindle.
    This collection has several works, which I didn't read.
    So it piqued my interest.

    I think this book is
    worth buying
    for Japanese readers,
    as it contains Tetsuya Ayukawa's masterpieces in one volume.

    My best was
    "The Clown in the Tunnel".
    You did an excellent job
    in translating this complex trick
    into English.

    I hope Japanese Honkaku
    mysteries will spread more to the world.

    ※I know you understand Japanese
    as well as the Japanese,
    but it's an English blog.
    So I wrote it
    in my own poor English.

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    1. Hi!

      Thanks for the comment! Haha, I remember Mr. Shimada mentioned me in Honkaku Mystery World ^_^' I am very happy to hear you liked The Red Locked Room! Like you say, the selection is pretty unique, as in Japan you'd have to buy several books to get the same stories (like 鮎川哲也短編傑作選1+2 and another for 青い密室). Let's hope we'll see more international AyuTetsu fans soon!

      And your English is fine!

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    2. So the father of the Shin Honkaku movement mentioned you in what appears to be a honkaku magazine, and another great shin honkaku author (ayatsuji?) tweeted that they think your thesis is interesting. Man, you are such a lucky fan.

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  7. Just finished reading it, SO GOOD! I usually force myself through short story collections but every story here captivated me. The structure and catharsis of each case definitely felt more grand and engrossing than you would expect from its page count. Also, the imagery of a clown disappearing into a tunnel will haunt me for days.

    Thank you as always for your hard work, Ho-Ling! The book is now resting on my shelf next to your other four LRI translations. ^_^

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    1. Thank you for reading!

      I *don't like* clowns, so I was afraid the cover would end up with a clown at first :P Luckily none of the draft covers featured one ^_^'

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  8. lol, if the clown story is your favorite then how come you're not a Carr fan?
    Vg unf n fvzvyne cybggvat zrgubq bs hfvat nppvqragf va beqre gb znxr gur vzcbffvoyr fvghngvba frrz betnavp

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    1. I sorta get what you mean, but

      ROT13: Hygvzngryl, gur fgbel eribyirf 'whfg' nabgure vgrengvba bs Nlhxnjn'f erny haqreylvat gurzr: gvzr (perngvat cresrpg nyvovf/vzcbffvoyr fvghngvbaf guebhtu znavchyngvba bs creprcgvba bs gvzr naq gur hfr bs gvzr fpurqhyrf). V guvax V yvxr Gur Pybja va gur Ghaary zber sbe gung, guna 'cheryl' nf na vzcbffvoyr qvfnccrnenapr fgbel juvpu jbhyq oevatre vg pybfre gb Pnee.

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  9. Here's my review: moonlight-detective.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-red-locked-room-2020-by-tetsuya.html

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    1. Thanks! Great to see you liked the book!

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  10. I've enjoyed all your translations, although it was a challenge to get the EQMM 2019 issue from Amazon. I know you're really plugged in to the translation world and also that you're a HUGE mystery fan. Are you aware of the Akashic Noir series? They've not published a Japan book yet, but I think you'd be perfect as the editor. It really shouldn't be a challenge to get 10-15 of Japan's best writers Noir stories and really broaden the translation world. I was so excited for Rubin's Penguin Book Short Stories and so disappointed to see how many I had already discovered! You alluded to the unpublished 2nd volume of the Ellery Queen, just imagine if you could help bring that to the English speaking world (can you tell I'm monolingual but love Japanese fiction in translation?)!

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    1. Thank you for even going after the EQMM releases!

      I had to look up the Akashic Noir series, and while I'm honored you thought of me, I'm sure there are probably a lot of people better suited than for the job when it comes to noir ^_^' There's also a lot of hardboiled/noir stuff in Japanese, but I have to admit I'm not well-versed in that sub-genre at all.

      They actually released three volumes of Ellery Queen's Japanese Golden Dozen in Japan, so they're still sitting on two more fully edited anthologies by Queen, they just haven't published the English versions of them. I wonder how much they'd have to do to get them released now...

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