By John Raab
Barry Lancet brings us his debut novel “Japantown”. Barry has spent many years in Japan, and his latest thriller combines Japan and the United States together in a thriller set in San Francisco. One incident in particular started him on his present course of writing, and led to JAPANTOWN and the Jim Brodie series (the next book is in the editing stages; the third is in the works). Early on during his return to Japan, Lancet was directed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to come down to the stationhouse for a “voluntary interview.” The MPD proceeded to interrogate him for three hours over what turned out to be a minor, noncriminal infraction. All authors should take notice that by just opening up their eyes during their everyday lives, they will find inspiration all around them. Barry also has some very exciting news already with his series. While I would love to announce the news in this newsletter, I would suggest visiting his website to find out what is going on. Let’s take a look inside JAPANTOWN.
When an entire family is senselessly gunned down in San Francisco’s Japantown, antique dealer and reluctant private eye Jim Brodie receives a call from a friend at the SFPD. As an American born and raised in Japan, Brodie has advised the local police in the past, but the near-perfect murders in Japantown are like nothing he’s ever encountered.
Using his extensive Asian contacts and fluency in Japanese, Brodie follows leads gathered from a shadow powerbroker, a renegade Japanese detective, and the elusive tycoon at the center of the murders. Step by step, his search takes him from a crime scene in California to terrorized citizens in Japan.
What Brodie unearths shocks him. Wishing to turn back but knowing the only way is forward, he focuses on the deadly secret that threatens not only his life–but also the lives of his entire circle of family and friends.
We were able to catch up with Barry and ask him some questions, check them out below.
Can you give us an inside look, that is not on the back cover, for your latest book JAPANTOWN?
The real Japan hides in the shadows. Within the framework of a page-turner, I wanted to give readers a glimpse of the Japan most people never see. The good, bad, and the threads of ancient wisdom that run through it. Of what hovers just out of sight.
Why is your main character Jim Brodie the perfect person to star in JAPANTOWN?
In short, because he understands both the high and the low cultures of Japan—an endlessly complex and fascinating place.
Brodie has the eye to appreciate the Japanese antiques in his shop in all their intricacies. He also has the street smarts and martial arts skills to survive the low. The ability to see the cultural subtleties came from his mother, the rough-and-tumble from his ex-cop father.
He’s the bull in the china shop, except he owns the shop!
They say the first book is the easiest to write because you spend years writing it. How was your experience?
Due to a chance meeting, my case was different. At a BookExpo some years ago, I had a fascinating conversation with an independent bookstore owner, who was also a huge fan of thrillers and mysteries.
He had this theory that a killer book in the genre needed four things: top-notch plot, character, dialogue, and locale. He maintained most published books in the genre met one or two of these in high form. The works that hit two of them were enjoyable. Those that had three were even more so, but only those that struck the right note with all four achieved excellence.
I took his words to heart and aimed for the moon. I spent years finding a voice I hoped had all four elements and the specific tone I was seeking. Easier? I’m not so sure. But I’ve had a good time along the way.
Which character in JAPANTOWN had a bigger role or voice than your originally thought they would?
Noda. He’s an ornery PI who assists Brodie, both as advisor and sounding board. He scowls, grunts, hoards his words, and sees through most things. He’s anything but what we all know as the traditionally polite Japanese. And he’s a favorite of the early readers of JAPANTOWN.
Do you have any superstitions when you write?
None whatsoever because I’ve been through so much. I wrote JAPANTOWN over a number of years, some of the initial drafts while standing up in a Japanese commuter train, crammed in like the proverbial sardine.
Since I had a family and a demanding job that claimed 60 to 70 hours a week, Monday through Saturday, my commute was the only “free time” I had besides my lunch breaks. It took me two months to figure out how to write on my feet, but I did. If you can make something like that work, superstitions fly out the window—and the train rolls on!
Barry Lancet moved from California to Tokyo in his twenties. He spent twenty-five years working for one of the country’s largest publishers, developing books on dozens of Japanese subjects from art to Zen.
His unique position gave him access to many inner circles in cultural, business, and traditional fields most outsiders are never granted. One day, he was unexpectedly hauled in by the police for a non-criminal infraction and interrogated for three hours, in a heated psychological encounter. The run-in fascinated him and sparked the idea for a thriller based on his growing number of unusual experiences in Japan.