Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Miyuki Miyabe and Japanese Noir

So since I've been on an international crime writing fix lately, I couldn't read far without encountering the work of Miyake Miyube. I've read one of her earlier works but this weekend I picked up the 2005 translation of her 1995 novel (originally published in Japanese), Crossfire.

Despite the pop-fiction cover and title, the work is complex and gripping. I started reading it yesterday afternoon and haven't been able to put it down. It chronicles a young woman with the power to start fire and it's the story of her killing spree (she only kills criminals) as she is chased down by a female Japanese detective, one of the only women on the Japanese police force.

It's like Dexter meets Firestarter meets the dark seedy side of Tokyo life.

And that's one thing I appreciate about Miyube's writings: they show a side of Japan rarely seen in fiction or TV or even movies: the underbelly of small time criminals and others who fall through the cracks. I recently read another Japanese noir writer, Natsuo Kirino's Real World which I am much less enthusiastic about. Where Kirino focuses on a small band of nihilistic (and rather superficial) high-schoolers, Miyabe is much more interested in Japanese society as a whole, as well as in what it means to seek vengeance, what is a "justifiable" murder, and how being a woman in Japan is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Miyabe is a prolific writer and has written many novels and stories though only a handful have been translated into other languages. Born in 1960, she was trained as a mathemetician and taught for many years before devoting her life to writing. She's written in a number of genres including criticism, science fiction, and she's even written a children's book.

1 comment:

  1. Take a look at Kirino's Out (the only one of hers I've read). It deals with all those themes you attribute to Miyabe, and was one of the most surpising and exhilarating crime novels I'd read in a long while. Sounds like I should be checking out Miyabe.