What Can That Do To People?

Michael Pronko
Michael Pronko Author Interview

Tokyo Zangyo follows Detective Hiroshi into Tokyo’s intense corporate world to solve the mystery of the death of a top executive. What inspired you to take Hiroshi into Tokyo’s corporate world in this novel?

The news is filled with stories of suicides from overwork, depression from work-related stress, many forms of harassment, the job-quitting rate. The large companies in Japan have long wielded tremendous power all through society. It affects everything. My students, for example, devote most of their energy in the last year and a half of university to getting into a company. They skip classes for interviews, ask for extensions on assignments, and generally freak out, all in the pursuit of a good job. I’ve heard some startling and sad stories from my students about their experiences after they’ve started working. When classmates get together after they graduate and start working, they often invite me to come along. It’s great to see them mature and grow into their lives. But also, after a few drinks, the truth about their workplaces comes out. More often than not, the truth is pretty grim. The Japanese dream is to get a job in one of the big companies, and there’s a powerful and impressive side to Tokyo’s corporate world, of course, but the downside is more of the focus in this novel.

What were some ideas that were important for you to personify in your characters?

One of the ideas is about the importance of work, its centrality to our lives. Many Japanese build lives around working and working only, so that they get cut off from other facets of life. It’s a kind of religion in some ways, or at least a set of sincerely held beliefs. The characters in the novel are pressured by those ideas and controlled by them. Japanese workplaces are very authoritarian in some ways, but quite democratic in others. As in all societies, some things work phenomenally well, but others are not very healthy. So, the novel explores those kinds of ideas through the characters and looks at the intensity of workplace pressure. What can that do to people?

How did the idea for the character’s motives come to fruition for you?

I think that almost all people want to be treated with respect at work and also to succeed. So, those are basic motives. They want to fit in and contribute, which is a strong motive in Japanese culture, but they also want to be themselves, to live freely. So, those conflicting motives can become very, very complicated. The characters in Tokyo Zangyo want a lot of things, but the system wants a lot of things from them in return. So, those conflicting motives are not easy to negotiate, and can drive people to extremes—suicide, murder, mental illness, and very strange ways of coping. The inner dynamic of the novel is having to figure out how to handle the pressure of work.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The story revolves around an international marriage in Tokyo. In Japan, after a divorce, custody of the children is usually awarded to the wife, and the husband can be denied all rights of visitation. Child abduction has become an issue as well, with one parent abducting the children and then fighting it out in the courts for years. And when there’s not enough money, or too much money, things can get a lot worse. It will be out in the summer of 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

In Tokyo, your job can kill

After a top-tier manager in Japan’s premier media company ends up dead in front of company headquarters, Detective Hiroshi enters the high-pressure, hard-driving world of Tokyo’s large corporations. Hiroshi quickly finds out the manager fell from the roof at the exact same spot as an employee suicide three years before.

With little more to go on, Hiroshi can’t tell if the manager’s death was a guilt-ridden suicide, a careless accident, or a grisly personnel decision. The only certainty is that Japanese workplaces rely on “zangyo,” unpaid overtime that drives employees to quit—or to kill.

Teaming up with his mentor Takamatasu, Hiroshi scours the off-record spending, lavish entertaining and unspoken agreements that keep Japan, Inc. running with brutal efficiency. Working overtime himself, Hiroshi probes the dark heart of Japanese business, a place he’s tried to avoid all his life.

Tokyo Zangyo is the fourth in the Detective Hiroshi series.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on September 11, 2021, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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