Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 22, 2016

 SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, Naomi Hirahara (reviewed by Phil Abbott)

Los Angeles is arguably the birthplace of the American detective novel. The multiple opportunities for corruption, political, economic and personal, make this city an ideal locale for examining the success/failure narrative at the heart of the American Dream.

More recently, new writers have offered  revisionist accounts, still with some marks of homage, that veer from the iconic chroniclers of LA by centering those who were largely invisible in the early narratives. Racial and ethnic minorities were generally given roles of house servants, gardeners, day laborers and cooks. Naomi Hirahara’s works are certainly among the very best of this new sub-genre.   
In her first novel, Summer of the Big Bachi (2008), Hirahara’s protagonist is not a PI but a gardener, one of those invisible people in the traditional LA novel. Mas Arai is a Japanese-American whose childhood included a brief return to the native Hiroshima of his family. Arai, like the traditional PI, is very much a flawed figure, an indifferent husband and father, with gambling issues. And like the PI, he makes a living on the margins, in this case with a dwindling set of clients many of whom have now hired larger Mexican landscape firms. He is justifiably obsessed with “bachi,.” a belief that some slight or larger moral wrong is inevitably swiftly paid back by punishment. 

Arai’s bachi is the arrival in LA of Joji Haneda, a childhood friend from Hiroshima. Both survived the atomic bomb attack in 1945. What follows is a carefully plotted thriller involving previous wrongs, disguised identities, and, yes, political and economic corruption. The Summer of the Bachi is a captivating and poignant novel that not only excels as a revisionist work but independently as a novel of considerable power. 

Joe Barone, SPECIMEN SONG, Peter Bowen
Elgin Bleecker, THE ODESSA FILE, Frederick Forsyth
Brian Busby, THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN, Mrs. May Agnes Fleming
Bill Crider, AT THE END OF A DULL DAY, Massimo Carlotto
Martin Edwards, TWICE AROUND THE BLOCK, Billie Houston
Ed Gorman, A HIDDEN PLACE, Robert Charles Wilson
Richard Horton, ALL THE STARS A STAGE, James Blish
Jerry House, STRANGERS IN TOWN, Ross Macdonald
George Kelly, ACT ONE, Moss Hart
Margot Kinberg, THE BEAST MUST DIE, Nicholas Blake
Rob Kitchin, PARADE, Suichi Yoshida
B.V. Lawson, DEATH AND THE SKY ABOVE, Paul Winterton
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, Lawrence Block
Todd Mason,  TRIQUARTERLY #49: SCIENCE FICTION edited by Jonathan Brent, David G. Hartwell, Elliott Anderson and Robert Onopa
J.F. Norris, AN AIR THAT KILLS, Margaret Millar
James Reasoner, OUTLAW IN THE SADDLE, Tom Roan
Richard Robinson, A LETTER OF MARY, Laurie King
Kerry Smith, ONLY TIME WILL TELL, Jeffrey Archer
Kevin Tipple, MURDER IS AN ART, Bill Crider
TracyK, BLOOD WILL TELL, George Bagby


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I'm pretty sure I read at least one short story about the gaardener/detective by Hirahara too.

Mathew Paust said...

Perhaps it's time someone wrote a mystery novel featuring The Literary Abbotts.

Mathew Paust said...

BTW, I will offline (involuntarily) until Monday at the earliest. The public library, my only access to the Internet, is closing for the duration of the winter storm descending upon us at this very moment. I am verklempt, of course, but this, too, shall pass. Stay safe, all.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Be careful, Mathew.

John said...

After a nightmare 90 minutes of trying to access my Google account (&*%$#%!) I finally got in. My post is now complete and published:

An Air That Kills by Margaret Millar

Stay safe to all in the winter storm's path. We've got only a brief flurry far.

Elgin Bleecker said...

Nice review. From Chandler to Ellroy, LA is a great setting, lush, great weather, beautiful movie people, and so much corruption under the surface. I will have to catch up with Hirahara’s work.

TracyK said...

Great review of SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI. I have all the books in the series, but have only read that first one. Looking forward to reading more.

Todd Mason said...

TRIQUARTERLY #49: SCIENCE FICTION edited by Jonathan Brentt, David G. Hartwell, Elliott Anderson and Robert Onopa (Northwestern University Press 1980)

finally. Thanks, Patti. Staying awake more difficult than it should be.

seana graham said...

I've had this in my sites for a long time now. Thanks for reminding to bump it up the list.

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks, as ever, Patti, for compiling this and including my post!