The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows
Edogawa Rampo (pseudonym of Hirai Tarō, 1894-1965) is the acknowledged grand master of Japan’s golden age of crime and mystery fiction. Kurodahan Press takes great pleasure in presenting the first English language translations of these two short novels.
The Black Lizard (Kurotokage) first appeared as a magazine serial, published in twelve monthly instalments between January and December, 1934. It features Rampo's main detective character, Akechi Kogorō: a figure who combines elements of Poe’s Auguste Dupin with the gentleman adventurers of British golden age detective literature. The Black Lizard herself is a master criminal and femme fatale, whose charged relationship with detective Akechi and unconcealed sadism have inspired shuddering admiration in generations of readers. The story has been adapted for film and television several times, most notably in a 1968 feature film that included a cameo by Mishima Yukio, and a title song with lyrics by the celebrated novelist. Mishima was also involved in the stage adaptation the same year conceived and directed by Miwa Akihiro, in which Miwa himself played the part of the Black Lizard. It is largely thanks to this classic of 1960s Japanese theatre that the story remains associated with sexual transgression and blurred boundaries between male and female, hunter and hunted, detective and criminal.
Themes of deviance and sado-masochism are central to Beast in the Shadows (Inju), a tale from the height of Rampo’s grotesque period, which appeared in serial form between August and October, 1928. This tale of secret identities, violent sexuality, and dark crimes stands in stark contrast to the genteel detective stories then popular in English literature. It bears comparison with the American pulp fiction serial, the genre that led to the classic modern American crime novel, and with the more extravagant moments of film noir. Beast in the Shadows, however, recalls classic themes in Japanese popular fiction, with origins in the illustrated novels and mass market shockers of the Edo period (1600-1868). Rampo’s special contribution was to combine this strain in Japanese literature with styles and atmospheres imported from Europe: from Oscar Wilde and Maurice Maeterlinck, to Rampo’s own contemporaries in the American pulps and English novels.
- xx, 284 pages
- Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127 x 203 mm)
- ISBN 4-902075-21-0
- Kurodahan Press Book No. FG-J0017-L15
- List Price: US$15.00
- Cover and 21 interiors: Kawajiri Hiroaki
- [An] important element in both The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows is the role that fiction plays in the stories and specifically how crime inspires and influences fantasy and vice versa. This is particularly prominent in Beast in the Shadows where two primary characters are novelists, giving them a unique perspective on the investigation. But fiction is influential to The Black Lizard as well, Ranpo's very own short story "The Human Chair" being a pivotal reference. I already knew that I enjoy Ranpo's work, but I found The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows particularly fascinating because of the power granted to stories in the volume.
—Ash Brown, Experiments in Manga
I've read a lot of pulp, but none of it Japanese. In many ways the stories were like their American counterparts - full of twists and turns, action-packed and fast-paced. One striking difference is the eroticism in Rampo's books. Sado-masochism is central to the Beast in the Shadows and The Black Lizard has, at the least, hints of exhibitionism and voyeurism, dominance and submission. [...] With a great cover illustration, an informative introduction and two great pulp stories, Kurodahan Press have put together a stunning book.
—ROUGHJUSTICE, Crime Fiction Lover
- The scenes are horrific. Imagine Victorian-era Sherlock Holmes encountering such shocking scenes! Akechi and the Black Lizard clash again and again through this story, as the villainess plots to steal away a teenage girl for the ransom of a rare jewel. Several murders and disguises, including several encounters with seeming doppelgangers, mark the battle of wits and the various traps and escapes that occur within the racing narrative. The plot is pure pulp, and would not have been out of place in an issue of Dime Detective.
—Duane Spurlock, PulpRack
- The Black Lizard is an entertainment. Beast in the Shadows is a gem coruscating with Rampo’s virtuosity as storyteller. Both novellas, Lizard especially, read like serials, their periodical origin heightened by [Kawajiri Hiroaki’s] illustrations. You finish one chapter thirsty for the next. And satisfaction is only a turn of the page away.
—Burritt Sabin, The Japan Times
- …recommended reading for any English-speaking mystery fan.
—Tom Baker, Daily Yomiuri
Review by Brian Stableford
In Beast in the Shadows, as in The Black Lizard, no one stoops so low as to commit a crime for such a vulgar reason as personal enrichment or conventional hatred. The Japanese cultural context, however, demands a kind of artificiality very different from that of the English country houses where so many dead bodies used to turn up unexpectedly in the library or the conservatory in classic tales of amateur detectives.
read the complete review
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Introduction by Mark Schreiber
In March, 1984, a team of criminals abducted Ezaki Katsuhisa, president of confectioner Ezaki-Glico, from his home in the Osaka suburb of Nishinomiya. After Ezaki escaped his captors unharmed, the gang embarked on a string of audacious blackmail attempts against food manufacturers in the Kansai region. In a stream of sarcastic letters to local newspaper bureaus, the criminals taunted the police. Their typewritten notes were signed Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō (The Mystery Man of Twenty-one Faces) - an unmistakable allusion to Edogawa Rampo's fictitious criminal mastermind, Kaijin Nijū Mensō (The Mystery Man of Twenty Faces), nemesis of detective Akechi Kogorō, whose exploits first appeared in an eponymous 1936 magazine serial.
read the complete introduction
Also by Edogawa Rampo at Kurodahan Press:
Ian Hughes went to Japan in his early thirties with the intention of teaching English for six months before traveling further in Asia. Instead, he stayed for eleven years during which time he married, started a family, and moved into translating financial Japanese into English. In late 2003, he and his family moved back to Perth, Western Australia, where he does the same kind of work from home.
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