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
was the great Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate and Winter Kills. America
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
, he was a riveting mystery writer with serious literary qualities. Chandler
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.