Niimura, Ken. Henshin.

Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2015.

The title means “transformation” in Japanese, and that’s supposed to be the theme of the thirteen short graphic stories in this collection, but it’s sometimes difficult to see how it’s supposed to apply. Most of the stories themselves are not bad, though.


Published in: on 28 September 2018 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paine, Rhiannon. Too Late for the Festival: An American Salary-Woman in Japan.

Chicago: Academy, 1999.

I have a longstanding interest in the culture and social structure of modern Japan, and I read a lot of contemporary Japanese authors (in translation) and also memoirs written by Westerners who have lived and worked in Japan for an extended period. Many of those have been teachers of English, which gives them a certain angle on the country, and which also usually means they speak at least a little Japanese themselves and have done some research beforehand.


Published in: on 19 July 2018 at 5:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thomsen, Brian M. & Martin H. Greenberg (eds). A Date Which Will Live in Infamy: An Anthology of Pearl Harbor Stories That Might Have Been.

Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2001.

As a working archivist & historian for fifty years, and a science fiction junkie for rather longer than that, I’ve always been a sucker for the alternate history yarn. Change one tiny, believable thing and what are the consequences? (And the tinier and more mundane the change, the better.) The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has long been a popular “point of departure,” if only because what actually happened seems like such a confluence of coincidence and serendipity in retrospect. The Japanese basically caught every good break it was possible to catch.


Lord, Walter. Day of Infamy.

NY: Holt, 1957.

Lord was one of the best popular historians of the mid-20th century, best known for his classic books on the Titanic and the San Francisco earthquake and the major events of World War II. And seventy-five years ago last December an event took place after which the entire world changed completely and forever: The Japanese sneak attack on the American naval presence in Hawaii. It brought the U.S. into the war, all isolationist thoughts forgotten, with a thirst for revenge. (No one these days announces they’re about to go to war, but in 1941, Americans were still outraged at being jumped from behind.) And that did, indeed, change everything.


Published in: on 27 March 2017 at 7:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kakazawa, Keiji. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima.

Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1987.

There are a handful of key books that combined cartoon-style art and text narrative to create the modern graphic novel. This is one of them. The author was a seven-year-old resident of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped in August 1945


Nakamura, Fuminori. The Gun.

NY: Soho Press, 2015.

I kind of have a thing for detective stories and oddball thrillers by contemporary Japanese authors, but I haven’t read Nakamura before. He’s written a number of novels, all of them well-received, and has won several major literary prizes, so I decided it was time I made his acquaintance.


Published in: on 21 September 2016 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Appel, Allen. Till the End of Time.

NY: Doubleday, 1990.

The third book of this excellent time-travel trilogy — which turned out not be the last in what became a series, though it certainly felt like it at the time — puts Alex Balfour in the thick of World War II in the Pacific, beginning with Pearl Harbor and ending with ground zero at Hiroshima.


Crais, Robert. Stalking the Angel.

NY: Bantam Books, 1989.

The Elvis Cole/Joe Pike private eye novels have been called “smart guy noir” and that’s certainly the case in this second installment in the series. Elvis is definitely an oddball, with an office that sports a Mickey Mouse phone, a Pinocchio wall clock (the eyes move; “You go to the Pinkertons, they don’t have a clock like that”), a figurine of Jiminy Cricket, and a Spiderman coffee mug.


Higashino, Keigo. Salvation of a Saint.

NY: St. Martin, 2012.

This is the second novel featuring Tokyo homicide detective Kusanagi and his physicist friend, Yukawa, who helps out the police with their more technical mysteries and puzzles, and who has become known to the cops as “Detective Galileo.” The mystery this time centers on the death by arsenic poisoning in his own kitchen of Yoshitoka Mashiba, a corporate CEO.


Higashino, Keigo. The Devotion of Suspect X.

NY: St. Martin, 2011.

A little research will tell you that Higashino is the most widely-read author in Japan, with more than three dozen bestsellers to his credit and nearly twenty films and TV series based on his work. He’s won bunches of awards and even the U.S. critics have been effusive in their praise. So why have fewer than half a dozen of his novels been translated into English? American publishers are usually more awake and aware than that.