June 2018

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Art Class Venus (in 6B pencil)

A Hard-Boiled Mystery

I asked my wife a difficult question last month.

“When did the Japanese first start eating eggs?”

“Is this a joke?” she said, not looking up from her phone.

“Just something I saw on Facebook.”

“I don’t know. Since we started eating chicken? This is a joke isn’t it? Like the chicken crossing the road?”

“Not like that. I just thought you might have been force-fed the information in junior high school history class. You know, Meiji Restoration 1868, Commodore Perry’s Black Ships 1853, The Coming of the Egg, 1841, something like that.”

“No, sorry. Must have slept through that lesson.”

“You mean your brains were fried?”

“Hmmm.”

“Or are you scrambling to find an answer?”

She actually fixed a weary gaze on me, before returning her attention to her phone.

“OK. I’ll text Mark. We’re going for a bike ride on Sunday morning, by the way, to Narita. I’ll send him a Line message.”

*
“Hey Mark, about the Sunday ride. I’ll meet you at the bridge at 7am, if that’s OK. BTW, do you know when the Japanese first started eating eggs?”

“OK. No idea. I’ll ask the boss. She knows that kind of thing. Or I could Google it?”

*
My wife put a frying pan on the stove. Between battery ignition clicks she said: “Did you find out when Japanese started eating eggs?”

“Oh yeah, About that. I’d better message Mark.”

*
“Mark, well, it turns out that nobody really knows when Japanese first started eating eggs, but they think it happened a long tamago.”
I got a message back from Mark almost immediately.

“Patrick, I’ll never forgive you for that.”

* * *
  1. A long tamago, I’m still laughing*. Anyway, this month’s main project has been making a sign to hang next to my English school’s front door. The previous one had an out-of-date website and email address and was far too mass-produced for our school’s mom-and-pop image. So I made this one with a piece of wood and two tubes of oil paint. Just need to erase the pencil guides and hang it…
  2. This month’s freebie: I re-published a guide to how to write a novel if you’ve got a budget of close to zero on my website here, and it wasn’t just any novel I used as an example, it was how I wrote Year of the Talking Dog. If you were one of the 109 people who downloaded it for free last month, thank you, you might get a kick out of reading the post. Oh, and a review of YOTTD would be most welcome on Goodreads or Amazon (nothing is truly free in this world, as I’m sure your mother has told you).
  3. I bought a first edition of the late, great Alan Booth’s Roads to Sata the last time I was in Kanda-Jimbocho, Tokyo’s secondhand book Mecca, and then Our Woman in Nagoya, aka Maria Godebska, found out there’s a new Booth book out. JT review here. Agent Maria also uncovered this history of the man and his writings, and a Facebook appreciation group here. You can buy the latest book here.
  4. Another great Japan-hand, who’s still with us, is Ian Buruma. Peter Tasker wrote this fascinating review last month of Buruma’s latest, A Tokyo Romance.
  5. This was the best book I read last month. This month.I’m going to tackle some or all of these books. I might have to make room for Cult X, a Japanese crime thriller recently translated into English, but at 512 pages I may just content myself with this Crime Fiction Lover reviewfor a while.
  6. Former blog interviewee Kaori Shoji wrote this review of the Olympus corporate corruption scandal. Sounds so juicy it should be a movie (it is, pay attention, Sherriff — Ed.)
  7. The Our Man in Abiko Twitter Feed of Note Award goes to Ako Kitamura who consistently posts useful Japanese language tips and amusing language asides such as this one And while I’m on language, Our Man in Cape Cod, aka Terry Gallagher, revealed this intelligence on the joys of using a robo-translator in Japan.
  8. Voice from the bunker: I did a 15-minute video on the secrets to being a successful writer (imagining that I was one for a moment). I’ve been thinking about such things because I’m about to edit a newsletter subscriber’s first novel. More news on that maybe next month.
  9. I read this great jazz-art-themed literary mystery by John Harvey and found he recommended 30 favourite crime fiction novels to read here.  
  10. Question of the month: I saw this great article in the New Yorker about prescribing fiction for particular problems in life and it made me wonder, WHAT NOVEL WOULD YOU PRESCRIBE FOR SOMEONE TO COPE WITH LIVING FAR FROM HOME?

    To answer, just hit reply on your email and I’ll piece the bits together and post them next month for all subscribers to see.

    Last month’s question was: What are you planning to read this summer?

    I only received one response, but what a response it was from Our Man in Copenhagen, aka Guy Yates:

    Steve Burrows – A Cast of Falcons
    I like birdwatching and have read the first two in this series quite some time ago. So looking forward to reacquainting myself.

    Lilja Sigudardottir – Snare
    Getting good reviews and spending a week in Iceland during the summer. So I put two and two together.

    Leif GW Persson – Linda, as in the Linda Murder
    For all the Scandinavian crime I read, I’ve yet to have read a Petrona Winner. Just finished his Dying Detective novel which I enjoyed tremendously. His style of writing is one I like in as much as he writes a little ahead of himself then fills in the detail. Much like le Carre in that sense.

    Andrea Camilleri – The Track of Sand
    Our Abikan host is catching up on me so need to keep ticking off the series. Also a quick read.

    Lotte and Soren Hammer – The Hanging
    Living in Denmark I need to read more crime fiction set here. A new author (pair) for me this time.

    William Scott Wilson – Walking the Kiso Road
    No idea how I missed this one. Just caught it on a Tweet recently so it needed to be read.

    Ian Buruma – A Tokyo Romance
    Part of a summer theme of reading Japan based non-fiction work.

    Kanae Minato – Penance
    Not sticking to the theme of reading Japan based non-fiction work.

    John le Carre – A Most Wanted Man
    Getting near to the end of reading all his work.

    Derek Raymond – Dead Man Upright
    Final one in the series of an enjoyable British Noir series. The series is quite brutal and not for the feint hearted. So perfect for the beach methinks.

    Donald Richie – The Inland Sea
    Part of a summer theme of reading Japan based non-fiction work.

    Patrick Sherriff – Year of the Talking Dog
    I have a signed by the author original first edition and I need to read more actual books. So just like unboxing those Thunderbirds toys, I’ll lose some secondary market value on reading this one. I’m hoping for great things from the author – a la Ms. Rowling.

    David Thomas – Ostland
    Let’s see how some of Bernie Gunther’s shared characters fared under this author. Already started to read this…

    Fred Vargas – Dog Will Have His Day
    An author I enjoy but tend to forget.

    Johan Theorin – The Asylum
    His O-land series were a joy to read and then I found he had a stand-a-lone for me to enjoy.

    Durian Sukegawa – Sweet Bean Paste
    Not sticking to the theme of reading Japan based non-fiction work.

    Gunnar Staalesen – Where Roses Never Die
    Another Petrona winner and a few more in the series to read if this one proves a hit for me. May even pay a visit to Bergen as a consequence…

    Malin Persson Giolito – Quicksand
    Daughter of Leif and this year’s Petrona winner. High hopes that the writing skills stay in the family.

    Georges Simenon – Pietr the Latvian
    If I too want to read 50 books this year I’m going to need a few of these shorter novels in the list. Simenon did write a few of these I understand!

    Sara Backer – American Fuji
    I think I read this previously and I rarely re-read novels. Though set in Japan, if it’s the book I did read I initially picked it up for entirely different reasons than the fact it was set in Japan.

     
Thanks for reading, have a good month. And if you have enjoyed reading any of my stuff, be a sport and leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads or your own blog, or drop me a line on Twitter or Facebook. You can find past issues of this newsletter at Letter from Abiko. If you appreciate this newsletter feel free to forward to a friend, post it on social media, or, perish the thought, buy one of my books. Abiko salutes your sacrifice.

Next month, I hope to be in a position to tell you how I managed to complete a script for Japanese elementary school kids to act out Macbeth in something approaching Shakespearean English…

All the best,

Patrick

* “Tamago” is Japanese for “egg”. It also sounds like “time ago”, and this is why it is funny. If you’d like any other jokes ruining for you with literal explanations or long, tedious set-ups, I do hope you think of me.

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