About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, August 13, 2012

“M” is for Seichō Matsumoto

With the letter “M” we start on the second half of the alphabet in Kerrie Smith’s meme, The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, hosted at her blog Mysteries in Paradise. My “M” will be Japanese author, Seichō Matsumoto.

His life spanned most of the 20 century being born in 1909 and dying in 1992. Born on the island of Kyshu he neither attended secondary school nor university. Through personal dedication he was well read.

His writing career did not start until he was 40 after World War II. He was a very prolific writer. The Wikipedia article on him states:

Renowned for his work ethic, Seichō wrote short fiction while simultaneously producing multiple novels-at one point as many as five concurrently—in the form of magazine serials.

Overall the article says he produced 450 literary works in 40 years.

He has been credited with popularizing crime fiction in post-war Japan.

The World of Wolcott Wheeler blog has an interesting article on Seichō’s life. He describes him as:

Who was Seicho Matsumoto? Imagine a writer who is one part Raymond Chandler, one part John Steinbeck, and one part Gore Vidal. The closest thing we’ve ever had to him in America was the great Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate and Winter Kills.

He continues:

Like Condon, he was obsessed with conspiracies, like Steinbeck, he was a radical, like Vidal, he was a keen left-wing observer of his society who knew where the levers of power were located, and like Chandler, he was a riveting mystery writer with serious literary qualities.

I have read and reviewed one of his books, Inspector Imanishi Investigates.

James Kirkup in his obituary of Matsumoto in the Independent describes the character Inspector Imanishi:

Matsumoto's Inspector Imanishi is often compared to Simenon's Maigret. He is a typical Simenon anti-hero, but otherwise the comparison does not hold up. Though he is indeed in the great line of Martin Beck and Van der Valk, he most resembles PD James's Adam Dalgliesh.

My reading of the book could not deduce comparisons of those famed European investigators. I did note that the Inspector was incredibly dogged in his pursuit of evidence.

I further commented on the functioning of his police department:

In the police department he is respected and respects his superiors. It is so different from most contemporary mysteries where there is frequently a lack of respect, support and co-operation between investigators, supervisors and administrators.
Kirkup had some interesting information on the structure of the book:

Reading these works in English is rather hard-going, even though (or perhaps because) the drastically condensed Inspector Imanishi Investigates is re-edited, re-arranged and sharply condensed from the 766 pages of the original paperback to 300 large-print pages of American English. The fiction serial tradition in Japan is largely to blame, because it forces authors to overwrite. So plots are over-contrived, characters too many and too wooden; too many coincidences and rigid plot-structure leave no room for inspired shock endings or psychological subtlety, while the jog-trot dialogue is often just desultory Japanese-style conversation saying nothing and leading nowhere

I did enjoy the book and hope to find more of Matsumoto’s books.


  1. Bill - What an interesting author to choose for M. I must admit that I am woefully embarrassingly ignorant about Japanese crime fiction. But from the descriptions you've shared, Matsumoto had quite a lot of influence and talent. I should try some of his work.

  2. Broad range of authors. Thanks

  3. I was particularly interested in this post because my husband recently purchased this book and we both plan to read it. I have joined a challenge to read Japanese literature and my husband has several mysteries by Japanese authors for me to pick from. A very good overview of the author and his writing.

  4. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I felt I was in the Japan of the era of the book when I was reading Inspector Imanishi Investigates.

  5. TracyK: I look forward to your review of the book. I have read little of Japanese literature. I wonder if we will see more translations of Japanese mystery authors.

  6. Really interesting Bill - back when I was growing up in Italy this was one iof the few Japanese crime authors available in translation over there - I know I read at least one of them, 'Inspector Imanishi Investigates' [Suna no utsuwa], which I remember quite liking. It was filmed in 1975 (amongst many adaptations of his work looking at IMDb) as 'Castle of Sand' and remade for television last year, but I have seen neither of these.

  7. Sergio: Thanks for the comment. I would be interestd in either seeing the 1975 movie or the TV remake. The book did not move with the speed of the plot of a movie.

  8. Japanese History, horror, and Detective fiction are my main areas of study as a Master's student; in fact, I am currently looking largely at Matsumoto Seicho and one of his counter parts, Takagi Akimitsu. I find that that the Western market, until quite recently ( the last 90's really), has over looked the uniqueness of Japanese detective fiction and mystery. There is a marked connection that the Japanese authors, especially Matsumoto, create between crime and the social and historical consciousness. Structuring chaos into order was Matsumoto's way of dealing with the idea of defeat and identity, while drawing attention to the discrepancies and social problems stemming from trauma. We in the West, especially in North America, tend to look at detective fiction as nothing more than a good grisly scandal to distract us from our boring routine lives.

  9. Megan: Thanks for the thoughtful and wide ranging comment. It makes clear there are far more complex elements to Japanese crime fiction than is common in North America.