Crime fiction discussion in newbooks magazine

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the newbooks crime fiction supplement. The main magazine (May/June – website here) has a couple of good articles about crime fiction, also.

One of these (p 25) is "Japanese crime: the next big thing?". Liz Foley, publishing director of Harvill Secker, gives her opinion about whether Japan will be the source of the first "post-Scandinavian" wave of bestsellers. She notes that crime fiction has a long tradition in Japan, starting with Edogawa Rampo
Miyabe  (1894-1965), who was apparently heavily influenced by Poe and Conan Doyle. Rampo transposed the classic theme of the gifted detective who uses deductive reasoning to solve seemingly impossible puzzles to investigate areas of tension in Japanese society. 

Several other Japanese authors are discussed, particularly Natsuo Kirino, whose novels Out (review at The Game is Afoot), Grotesque and Real World focus on the role of women in society. I started Out once, but found it too harsh.  Others are Miyuki Miyabe and Shuichi Yoshida, whose Japanese takes on themes such as identity theft, internet dating and the Yakuza all sound very tempting! The article also touches on David Peace's Tokyo Year Zero. Peace is a British writer (author of the Red Riding quartet) who explores Japanese society since the end of the Second World War in this novel (which, on flicking through it in a bookshop once, looks a bit challenging for me). There is no online version of newbooks, so I can point you to a round-up of crime fiction from Japan, including these authors, at Japan Visitor site (lots of ads I'm afraid). Euro 
YoshidaCrime blog (no ads!) also points to some Japanese crime fiction, via the excellent author Catherine Sampson.

Gillian Flynn's Dark Places is the reading-group recommendation in this issue of newbooks (p 32-33). The book is about a woman whose brother has been jailed for murdering the rest of the family while she, aged 7, hid in a cupboard. Twenty years later, she is confronted by a group of people who believe her brother is innocent, and she begins to question the evidence that convicted him. I quite liked the author's debut, Dark Places, but not enough to rush out and buy her second. Now, with all these glowing recommendations from different reading groups, I am seriously considering changing my mind.

Another crime article in the magazine is a long excerpt from August Heat by Andrea Camilleri, beautifully translated by Stephen Sartarelli. On p 58, the translator writes about the experience. "… wife, normally accustomed to hearing me curse aloud at my desk or hurl books against the wall in despair over the sentences of my authors – whose number has included a post-Heideggerian Neoplatonic ex-Communist philosopher and a proto-Hegelian-post-Freudian-neo-Gnostic poverista art critic — my wife, I say, nearly fainted when, passing by my open study door as I was working hard on my first Camilleri novel, she actually heard me laughing."


7 thoughts on “Crime fiction discussion in newbooks magazine

  1. Maxine – Thanks for sharing these articles and the website. I’m going to have to start checking that site out : ). I have to admit to relative ignorance about a lot of Japanese crime fiction. Perhaps I should remedy that when I choose my “Asia” contribution for the Global Reading Challenge : ).

  2. It seems to me a lot harsher than the Chinese crime fiction I’ve read, Margot. A bit like the manga graphic novels – I haven’t read any of those but some have passed through the house and they are somewhat alien (that’s the point, I assume). There is a cruelty to many of the Japanese art forms, based on films I’ve seen and heard about, as well as the books I’ve read (and read reviews of) – not crime fiction, but mainstream fiction. I haven’t read much if any Japanese crime fiction (Out was somewhat off-putting to me, rather strong medicine), but I have read quite a bit of the country’s mainstream lit fiction.

  3. Re: Japanese crime fiction, I did read “Out,” but it perturbed me in many ways, especially the ending. I won’t discuss it but it could lead one to a therapist or a women’s group discussion or to a blog. Some women’s rights activists in Japan criticized it for this. I tried Kirino’s next book but couldn’t read it; it was very troublesome content-wise. I did read two by Miyabi and liked them. They were unusual and creative.

  4. I think Shadow Family is by Miyabi. Her books are good.

  5. Something about the title, and the cover design, is appealing to me. I am certainly going to give one of her books a try and this one seems a good place to start. Thanks, “k”.

  6. Miyabe is creative. You don’t find her plots in too many other places. But she is not gruesome or violent as is Nirino and many other writers.

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