Tokyo Black by Andrew Warren has everything that thriller readers like. A burned ex-CIA operative hiding out in exile. High-stakes geopolitical tension. A gang of villains ready to kill anyone to bring out their plans. And most importantly, lots of action.
The Revolt 動乱 (Doran) is a Japanese movie from 1980 that seems like it was specifically made for me. It’s a sweeping historical drama set in 1930s Japan that deals with the internal politics of the Imperial Army and the two famous coup d’é tat attempts of 1932 and 1936.
As previously mentioned, I love San Francisco, noir, and the 1920s. Speakeasies, gangsters, and flappers – these might be clichés of the era but they’re what I love best about it. Wherever they appear, I’ll spend my money. Artist and writer Dan Cooney must have read my mind and created the Tommy Gun Dolls, a new graphic novel trilogy.
Edogawa Ranpo has become synonymous with Japanese horror and mystery fiction. Using a pen name based off of Edgar Allen Poe, (try saying it three times fast), the author Taro Hirai wrote many short stories and novels as Edogawa Ranpo (sometimes Romanized as Rampo). Like his namesake, Ranpo wrote mostly horror and mystery stories, basically introducing the genres into Japanese literature. While Ranpo has a plethora of material to choose from, here are my recommendations on where to start with his writing and films based off his work.
By April 1945, the war in Europe was winding down but hostilities in Asia showed no signs of ending in the near future. Perhaps as an unconscious way to remind Americans that the fight against Japan wasn’t over yet, Blood on the Sun was released. It’s a surprisingly well-made thriller, with hints of noir, starring an impressive cast such as Sylvia Sidney, John Emery as the arch villain Baron Tanaka, and most of all, James Cagney.
1932 was an important year in Sino-Japanese relations. In March, the puppet state of Manchukuo was proclaimed, manufactured out of the conquered northeast region of Manchuria. It was also a momentous year for Shanghai when the city became a battleground. It’s on the verge of the undeclared war that we regroup with Inspector Danilov and Detective-Sergeant Strachan in The Killing Time, the fourth book in this series by MJ Lee.
January 1937. On a bitterly cold night, the body of a young Englishwoman is found underneath the Fox Tower in eastern Peking. The murdered girl is Pamela Werner, the daughter of a retired British diplomat and her killer vanished into the darkness. Midnight in Peking by Paul French is the definitive account of this forgotten girl’s murder.
Before World War II, there was precious little cinematic depictions of Japan from Hollywood, especially when compared to China. However, after Pearl Harbor, a slew of propaganda films were made to depict the Japanese enemy. Even among these, they rarely showed the Japanese home front and even rarer, the internal politics of Japan in the 1930s. Behind the Rising Sun is a surprising exception.
Like Weimar Berlin, Shanghai in the 1920s and 30s has always held a unique appeal for me. It’s got everything: bloodthirsty gangsters, seedy prostitutes, glamorous nightclubs, spies, political intrigue, and a cosmopolitan feel that makes Berlin look like Oklahoma.
It was love at first site. The image of a running man, superimposed over the Golden Gate Bridge, his head slightly turned to look behind him for danger. With a cover like that, I knew I was going to like Japantown by Barry Lancet. Anyone who knows me knows I love thrillers, and stories set in Japan and San Francisco. Imagine my joy when I learned this book is all three.