There's always something new to learn about the world.
Author Michael Pronko wears many hats. He's a professor. He's a music fan who writes about jazz in Japan. He's written essays and memoir about living in Tokyo. And in this episode of It's a Mystery Podcast we'll talk about his Detective Hiroshi mysteries.
As you'll hear Michael and I discuss, Detective Hiroshi could be thought of as someone who represents the flip-side of Michael's experience. Hiroshi is Japanese, but was raised in the US, and is now back in Tokyo working for the local police force. (Where Michael is an American who has long lived and worked in Tokyo.)
After Michael reads to us from The Moving Blade, the first in the Detective Hiroshi mysteries, our conversation ranges from talking about sumo wrestlers as detectives, the secretive American military presence in Japan, and why April is the start of the year in Japan.
This week's mystery author
Michael Pronko is an award-winning, Tokyo-based author of the Detective Hiroshi mystery series. His first mystery, The Last Train, was selected as the winner of the Shelf Unbound Contest for best independently published book of 2018, and his second novel, The Moving Blade, won the Independent Press Award for Crime Fiction and was named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best Indie Mysteries and Thrillers of 2018. He also writes about jazz for his own website, Jazz in Japan, and teaches American literature and culture at Meiji Gakuin University.
To learn more about Michael and his books visit MichaelPronko.com
Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher, Android, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and Spotify.
You can also click here to listen to the interview on YouTube.
Excerpt from The Moving Blade
Hideyasu Sato rarely took jobs involving foreigners. They usually lived in tall apartment buildings, kept little cash and had bad taste in valuables. But this job was pitched as an easy in-and-out with good pay and a light load.
Getting into the house was, as always in Tokyo, a cinch. He slid a small tension wrench into the keyhole of the kitchen delivery door, levered it up, poked in a rake pick, and after a few tickles, the lock plug spun loose and he was in.
The homeowner had just died, so Sato timed the break-in during the funeral—the best time to rob anyone in Tokyo. After the long ceremony, cremation took an hour or so, depending. Since the owner was famous—Bernard Mattson was a name even Sato knew—the post-funeral chitchat by bigwigs would give him a further cushion.
Sato left his shoes by the door and stepped into the stately, old house in the Asakusa shitamachi “lower town” district of eastern Tokyo. The kitchen had surprisingly few modern appliances and looked a little like he remembered his grandmother’s in the countryside—spacious, simple, functional.
Walking into the living area, Sato admired the exquisite wood beams and intricate wood paneling. A tatami-floored room in Japanese style, empty save for a scroll, statue and vase, opened to the right. The main living room was Western style, with parquet floors that were wide and open, with a sofa, chairs, tree-trunk table and Japanese antiques.
Sato found the bookcase-lined study, and sat down at the computer to copy the two files he’d been hired to retrieve: “SOFA” and “Shunga.” It would be easy to download the files to two USB drives and erase the computer before carrying the drives across town, but the computer was old and slow, the fan whirling loudly as he downloaded the files. All around him, the wood frame house creaked like an old man’s bones.
When he’d downloaded one file on each of two separate USB drives, he pulled out a DVD to wipe the computer clean. He rebooted and waited while it worked its magic. He turned off the computer. Waited. Turned it back on.