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  • Written by David Peace
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  • Tokyo Year Zero
  • Written by David Peace
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Written by David PeaceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Peace


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: September 11, 2007
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-307-26784-9
Published by : Vintage Knopf
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It's August 1946—one year after the Japanese surrender—and women are turning up dead all over Tokyo. Detective Minami of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police—irreverent, angry, despairing—goes on the hunt for a killer known as the Japanese Bluebeard—a decorated former Imperial soldier who raped and murdered at least ten women amidst the turmoil of post-war Tokyo. As he undertakes the case, Minami is haunted by his own memories of atrocities that he can no longer explain or forgive. Unblinking in its vision of a nation in a chaotic, hellish period in its history, Tokyo Year Zero is a darkly lyrical and stunningly original crime novel.


The fifteenth day of the eighth month of the twentieth year of ShowaTokyo, 90°, fineDetective Minami! Detective Minami! Detective Minami!’I open my eyes. From dreams that are not my own. I sit up in my chair at my desk. Dreams I do not want. My collar is wet and my whole suit damp. My hair itches. My skin itches–‘Detective Minami! Detective Minami!’Detective Nishi is taking down the blackout curtains, bright warm shafts of dawn and dust filling the office as the sun rises up beyond the tape-crossed windows–‘Detective Minami!’‘Did you just say something?’ I ask Nishi–Nishi shakes his head. Nishi says, ‘No.’I stare up at the ceiling. Nothing moves in the bright light. The fans have stopped. No electricity. The telephones silent. No lines. The toilets blocked. No water. Nothing– ‘Kumagaya was hit during the night,’ says Nishi. ‘There are reports of gunfire from the Palace…’‘I didn’t dream it, then?’I take out my handkerchief. It is old and it is dirty. I wipe my neck again. Then I wipe my face. Now I check my pockets–They are handing out potassium cyanide to the women, the children and the aged, saying this latest cabinet reshuffle foretells the end of the war, the end of Japan, the end of the world…Nishi holds up a small box and asks, ‘You looking for these?’I snatch the box of Muronal out of his hands. I check the contents. Enough. I stuff the box back into my jacket pocket–The sirens and the warnings all through the night; Tokyo hot and dark, hidden and cowed; night and day, rumours of new weapons, fears of new bombs; first Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, next is Tokyo…Bombs that mean the end of Japan, the end of the world…No sleep. Only dreams. No sleep. Only dreams…Night and day, this is why I take these pills…This is what I tell myself, night and day…‘They were on the floor,’ says Nishi–I nod. I ask, ‘You got a cigarette?’Nishi shakes his head. I curse him. There are five more days until the next special ration. Five more days…The office door swings open–Detective Fujita storms into the room. Detective Fujita has a Police Bulletin in his hand. Fujita says, ‘Sorry, more bad news…’He tosses the bulletin onto my desk. Nishi picks it up–Nishi is young. Nishi is keen. Too young…‘It’s from the Shinagawa police station,’ he says, and reads: ‘Body discovered in suspicious circumstances at the Women’s Dormitory Building of the Dai-Ichi Naval Clothing Department–’‘Just a moment,’ I tell him. ‘Surely anything to do with the Naval Clothing Department falls under the jurisdiction of the Kempeitai? This is a case for the military police, not civilian…’‘I know,’ says Fujita. ‘But Shinagawa are requesting Murder Squad detectives. Like I say, I’m really sorry I pulled it…’No one wants a case. Not today. Not now…I get up from my desk. I grab my hat–‘Come on,’ I tell Fujita and Nishi. ‘We’ll find someone else. We’ll dump the case. Just watch me…’I go out of our room and down the main hallway of the First Investigative Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department; down Police Arcade, room to room, office to office, door to door–Door to door. No one. Office to office. No one. Room to room. No one. Everyone evacuated or absent–No one wants a case. Not today…Just Fujita, Nishi and me now–I curse. I curse. I curse…I stand in the corridor. I ask Nishi, ‘Where’s Chief Kita?’‘All chiefs were summoned to a meeting at 7 a.m….’I take out my pocket watch. It’s already past eight–‘7 a.m.?’ I repeat. ‘Maybe today is the day then?’‘Didn’t you hear the nine o’clock news last night?’ he asks.‘There’s to be an Imperial broadcast at noon today…’I eat acorns. I eat leaves. I eat weeds…‘A broadcast about what?’ I ask–‘I don’t know, but the entire nation has been instructed to find a radio so that they can listen to it…’‘Today is the day then,’ I say. ‘People return to your homes! Kill your children! Kill your wives! Then kill yourself!’‘No, no, no,’ says Nishi–Too young. Too keen…‘If we’re going to go,’ interrupts Fujita, ‘let’s at least go via Shimbashi and get some cigarettes…’‘That’s a very good idea,’ I say. ‘No cars for us, anyway…’‘Let’s take the Yamate Line round to Shinagawa,’ he says. ‘Take our time, walk slowly and hope we’re too late…’‘If the Yamate Line is even running,’ I remind him–‘Like I say,’ says Fujita again. ‘Take our time.’Detective Fujita, Nishi and I walk down the stairs, through the doors, and leave Headquarters by the back way, on the side of the building that faces away from the grounds of the Imperial Palace–That looks out on the ruins of the Ministry of Justice.The shortest route to Shimbashi from Sakuradamon is through the Hibiya Park, through this park that is now no park–Black winter trees in the white summer heat…‘Even if we are routed in battle,’ Nishi is saying, ‘the mountains and the rivers remain. The people remain…’Plinths without statues, posts with no gates…‘The hero Kusunoki pledged to live and die seven times in order to save Japan,’ he states. ‘We can do no less…’No foliage. No bushes. No grass now…‘We must fight on,’ he urges. ‘Even if we have to chew the grass, eat the earth and live in the fields…’Just stark black winter trees…‘With our broken swords and our exhausted arrows,’ I say. ‘Our hearts burnt by fire, eaten by tears…’In the white summer heat…Nishi smiling, ‘Exactly…’The white heat…Nishi in one ear and now the harsh noise of martial music from a sound-truck in the other as we leave the park that is no park, down streets that are no streets, past buildings that are no buildings–‘Oh so bravely, off to Victory / Insofar as we have vowed and left our land behind…’Buildings of which nothing remains but their front walls; now only sky where their windows and their ceilings should be–‘Who can die without first having shown his true mettle / Each time I hear the bugles of our advancing army…’The dates on which these buildings ceased to be buildings witnessed in the height of the weeds that sprout here and there among the black mountains of shattered brick–‘I close my eyes and see wave upon wave of flags cheering us into battle…’The shattered brick, the lone chimneys and the metal safes that crashed down through the floors as these buildings went up in flames, night after night–‘The earth and its flora burn in flames / As we endlessly part the plains…’Night after night, from the eleventh month of last year, siren after siren, bomb after bomb–‘Helmets emblazoned with the Rising Sun / And, stroking the mane of our horses…’Bomb after bomb, fire after fire, building after building, neighbourhood after neighbourhood until there are no buildings, there are no neighbourhoods and there is no city, no Tokyo–‘Who knows what tomorrow will bring–life?’Only the survivors now–‘Or death in battle?’Hiding under the rubble, living among the ruins, three or four families to a shack of rusted iron and salvaged wood, or in the railway or the subway stations–The lucky ones…‘We must fight on,’ repeats Detective Nishi. ‘For if we do not fight on, the Emperor himself will be executed and the women of Japan will be subjected to methodical rape so that the next Japanese will not be Japanese…’I curse him…Beneath telegraph poles that stand as grave markers, down these streets that are no streets, we walk as Nishi rants on–‘In the mountains of Nagano, we shall make our final stand; on Maizuruyama, on Minakamiyama, on Zozan!’There are people on these streets that are no streets now, people that are no people; exhausted ghosts in early morning queues, bitter-enders waiting for lunches outside hodge-podge dining halls inold movie theatres, their posters replaced by slogans–‘We Are All Soldiers on the Home Front …’The sound-truck has gone and with it that song we have heard every day for the last seven years, ‘Roei no Uta’–Just the noise of Nishi’s voice now–‘Every man under sixty-five, every woman under forty-five will take up a bamboo spear and march off…‘To defend our beloved Japan…’I stop in the middle of this street that is no street and I grab Nishi by the collar of his civil defence uniform and I push him up against a scorched wall, a scorched wall on which is written–‘Let Us All Help One Another with Smiling Faces…’‘Go back to Headquarters, detective,’ I tell him–He blinks, open mouthed, and now he nods–I pull him back from the black wall–‘I want to make sure one of us, at least, is able to hear this Imperial broadcast,’ I tell him. ‘You can then report what was said, if Fujita and I are unable to hear it…’I let go of his collar–Nishi nods again.‘Dismissed,’ I shout now and Nishi stands to attention, salutes and then he bows–And he leaves.‘Thank you very much,’ laughs Detective Fujita.‘Nishi is very young,’ I tell him.‘Young and very keen…’‘Yes,’ I say. ‘But I don’t think he’d be too keen on our old friend Matsuda Giichi…’‘Very true,’ laughs Fujita again as we walk on, on down these streets that are no streets, past buildings that are no buildings–In this city that is no city–To Shimbashi, Tokyo.
David Peace|Author Q&A

About David Peace

David Peace - Tokyo Year Zero

Photo © Naoya Sayuki

David Peace is the author of The Red Riding Quartet, GB84, The Damned Utd, and Tokyo Year Zero. He was chosen as one of Granta’s 2003 Best Young British Novelists, and has received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the German Crime Fiction Award, and the French Grand Prix de Roman Noir for Best Foreign Novel. He lives in Yorkshire, England.

Author Q&A

A conversation with DAVID PEACE, author of TOKYO YEAR ZEROQ: You have written several books, and Tokyo Year Zero is the first to be published in the United States. For the benefit of American readers who are unfamiliar with your work, tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you lived in Japan and how did you come to move there? Is writing your main occupation?A: In short, I’ve lived in Tokyo since 1994. Initially I came here to teach English (as a foreign language).However, I’ve been able to write “full-time” since 2001.In a nutshell, here are the details:• David Peace was born in Ossett, West Yorkshire in 1967• From 1983 to 1988, he was in a punk band, unsuccessfully• He graduated from Manchester Polytechnic in 1991• From 1988 to 1992, he wrote one novel, two plays, three screenplays, and a lot of poetry, unsuccessfully• He lived in Istanbul from 1992 to 1994• He moved to Tokyo, where he initially taught English, in 1994• He married in 1996• His son was born in 1997• Nineteen Seventy-four was published in 1999 by Serpents Tail• Nineteen Seventy-sevenwas published in 2000• His daughter was born in 2000• Nineteen Eightywas published in 2001• He was awarded the French Prix de Roman Noir 2002 for the French edition of Nineteen Seventy- fourNineteen Eighty-threewas published in 2002• He was chosen as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2003• GB84 was published in 2004 by Faber and Faber and awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction• The Damned Utd was published in 2006• He was awarded the Deutscher Krimi Preis (the German Crime Novel Prize for 2006) and the Krimi Welt Besten Liste 2006 (The Critics Crime Author of the Year Award) for the German edition of Nineteen Seventy-fourTokyo Year Zero will be published in 2007, followed by Tokyo Occupied City in 2008, and Tokyo Regained in 2009• His books have also been translated into Italian, Japanese, and Russian• He continues to live in Tokyo, but rarely leaves the room in which he writes, reads and listens to music• Drinks, smokes and occasionally sleepsAnd that really is all there is to sayQ: Tokyo Year Zero is based on real events: It is about a series of horrific rapes and murders that took place in 1946 in Tokyo and the hunt for their perpetrator. How much of what takes place in the book actually happened? Is the central character, Detective Minami, based on a real detective who worked the case?A: The book follows the actual course of the investigation as it happened and the dates match the real dates. So the organization of the police and the structure of the investigation are accurate, as are scenes such as the interrogation of Kodaira, the killer. And so there would have been a detective of Minami’s position and rank in the investigation BUT my Minami is a fictional character.Q: Did you do very much, or any, research on these cases in order to write the book?A: Every one of the seven books I’ve written has been based on actual events and all of them required exhaustive and extensive research (which I enjoy). Tokyo Year Zero was by far the biggest challenge as, for the first time, I was writing about times and places I had not lived through and a country which was not my own. But I was very lucky to be greatly assisted in my research by my Japanese editor, Nagashima Shunichiro. So the research took about six solid months, then six solid months of writing (day and night).Q: The book takes place in Tokyo one year after WWII has ended. The title "Tokyo Year Zero" conveys a sense of things having been completely wiped out, of there being nothing left, but also a sense of beginning again, of the slate having been wiped clean. How did you come up with the title and what does it mean to you? Do you feel it’s partly hopeful?A: The title was actually inspired by Rossellini’s film “Germany Year Zero,” set among the ruins of Occupied Berlin. My next book, the second book in a trilogy, continues the homage—Tokyo Occupied City being inspired by Rossellini’s “Roma Open City.”To me, Year Zero means exactly that; no history, no future. And so, no—I don’t see it is partly hopeful (though I realize I am possibly the most pessimistic person you’ll ever have the misfortune to meet).Q: In this version of Tokyo in 1946, it feels as if a war is still going on. Air raid sirens are going off, buildings are burning, people are dying. It feels eerie, and grimy; there are lots of alleys and dark corners. Was this what the city was really like then? Did a wish to convey the harsh reality of a war-torn region play a part in your writing this book?A: Obviously, I can’t say for sure that this was what the city was like in 1946. However, as I said above, I did do extensive research and that did include talking to people who had lived in the city at that time. But this book is very much from the perspective of the Defeated and the Occupied, rather than the Victor and the Occupier. So when you talk to Japanese and Americans who were in Tokyo in 1946 there is obviously a tremendous contrast in how they saw the city at that time. But the city was largely ruined and I wanted to convey that impression as strongly as I could. Also the feeling that the war was not really over (and even now, one could argue it still isn’t), the feeling that history and the past never really go away. For example, the part of Tokyo in which I live—the East End—was bombed completely flat in one single night in March 1945, with well over 100,000 civilian deaths (as recounted within the book). And every time I set foot outside my door, I am conscious that I am walking on the dead, that on some (psychic?) level, in some way, that horrific, terrible night is still happening, over and over, beneath my feet, these stones. And I have to say that while writing the book, every time I took a break and switched on CNN I was witnessing another war, another defeat, another occupation.It really does never go away, never end.Q: The reader follows Detective Minami as he traces and re-traces ground in the city, trying to find new bits of evidence—and also trying to hold on to his sanity. Fragments of his thoughts and remembered conversations form a kind of parallel narration in the book, a relentless inner voice that gets louder and more frequent as time goes on. How did you decide to structure the book this way, and what are you trying to convey with your use of these long italicized passages?A: Well the city, the country, was literally broken and smashed into fragments at that time and so I wanted to convey that sense of fragmentation, destruction, on a personal level. Also, it is actually how I personally feel/think; we all have our memories, our dreams, our fears inside us and we (or at least I) have great difficulty controlling them. So, war or no war, reality (whatever that might be) is surely very, very fragmented and subjective—we are all fractured contradictions (and it’s no crime, no sin).Q: Of all the refrains, one of the most haunting is “No-one is who they say they are.” Minami feels this applies to everyone around him. As the story goes on, we realize that the statement may apply to him, as well. What purpose did you wish that statement to play, for Minami and for the reader?A: Literally, at that time, many people had hidden their identities and their pasts and taken new names, new ranks, new jobs etc in order to escape the purges and the prosecutions. And obviously the same was true in France, Italy and Germany. So many, many people really were not who they said they were, including Minami. However, and without getting too “deep” again, are any of us really who we say we are? I don’t think so; I think we are much more complicated and divided than we appear or try to appear to be.Q: In this fictional world, traditional values—the formality, precision, and politeness of Japanese culture—are being enacted in a place that has been completely torn up and changed by war. It’s a clash that is hard to overlook in this narrative. What, if anything, were you trying to say about those traditions and their clash with a modern war that paid them no heed? Was it hard to find the right way to say it?A: I was simply trying to reflect what I thought Japan was like at that time; the legacy of the past/tradition, the pain of defeat, the confusion of occupation and how these all collided both in individuals and in society. And yes, it was difficult; many non-Japanese have clichés and stereotypes about Japan and the Japanese—as do some Japanese people themselves—and such people will always tell you, “A Japanese person would never do this or say that etc”—as if they have met every one of the 120 million people who live here—and obviously such generalizations are utter nonsense BUT, that said, you have to be aware of them and make sure you don’t add to them!Q: Have any of your previous books been published in Japan, in Japanese? What has the reaction been? What do you think the reaction will be when Tokyo Year Zero is published there?A: My first four books—the Red Riding Quartet— were all published here and the first one, Nineteen Seventy-Four, was a “bestseller,” even. Year Zero will be published in October here by Bungei Shunju. As I say, Bungei have greatly assisted in the research of the book and they seem very, very enthusiastic. It’ll be in hardback with a big promotion. So let’s hope their enthusiasm and excitement is justified in the reaction from press and public.Q: You have in the works two more books that will be linked to Tokyo Year Zero. Tell us about them. What is each about, and will we see any of the same characters again?A:As with Year Zero, both books are based on actual crimes that happened during the Occupation: Tokyo Occupied City,which I’m writing now, is based on the well-known “Teigin Incident”; in January 1948, a man posing as a public health official entered a bank in Tokyo and administered an anti-dysentery medicine to the staff. Within minutes, ten of the staff were dead and the manwas gone. Hirasawa Sadamichi was arrested, convicted and sentenced to die for the crimes. However, his execution was never carried out due to worries about the surety of his conviction. He died in 1987 having spent 40 years on death row. To this day, many Japanese remain deeply divided on Hirasawa’s guilt or innocence. Tokyo Regained is based on the “Shimoyama Incident”; in July 1949, the body of the President of the Japanese National Railroad was found dead beside the tracks in North Tokyo. The case remains unsolved to this day. And yes, they will feature some of the same characters; Nishi from Tokyo Year Zero, for example, narrates the second book. But I would hope they can also be read as “stand-alone” novels. That is the ambition, the challenge, at least. And all three books are about DEFEAT and even though most of us in the US and the UK, of my age anyway, have been fortunate enough not to live through a war (in our own country) or an occupation, we have all experienced defeat—we are all, to varying degrees, defeated.



“Part historical stunner, part Kurosawa crime film, an original all the way. David Peace's depiction of a war-torn metropolis both crumbling and ascendant is peerless, and the story itself is beautifully wrought.” —James Ellroy“Brilliant, perplexing, claustrophobic. . . . Exhilarating.” —The New York Times Book Review“The big post-war Japan novel, a fierce marriage of mood and narrative drive. David Peace continues to polish and advance his particular brand of literary crime fiction.” —George Pelecanos“Once this hellish locomotive of a book hooks onto its tracks it becomes difficult to stop.” —San Francisco Chronicle

  • Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace
  • August 12, 2008
  • Fiction - Mystery & Detective
  • Vintage
  • $14.95
  • 9780307276506

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