The Last Train revolves around Michiko Suzuki and the team of detectives that are investigating the train murders. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling novel?
For quite a few years I was writing about jazz every week, so I was always going to Roppongi and Shinjuku and Shibuya, nightlife parts of the city. I’d see the hostesses who work in all the clubs there, and they would often be in the jazz clubs. They were almost always strikingly attractive, but underneath that seemed some sadness. Whatever one thinks of their work, the women seemed smart. What impressed me most, though, was the great personal dignity with which they carried themselves. So, I started wondering what kind of life those women lived, and what if they turned the tables. What if one of those people-savvy women took things into her own hands to do things men usually do? And what was this odd dynamic between men and women that seemed so unfair to women, but then again, was something else, too. Many Japanese women might not even say Japanese society is unfair exactly, perhaps because Tokyo is home to a vibrant urban culture where women are incredibly free to do what they want and live how they like. But, what would that freedom turn into if taken to an extreme? Michiko is that extreme. The men struggle to catch up.
Michiko is the daughter of a factory owner whose mother died when she was young. Her character continues to get deeper as the story progresses. What did you use as a starting point for the character and what was your guidance as you built the character?
I think the way Michiko grew as a character was based on my observation of women, and men, in Tokyo, but all kinds of women, not just hostesses. There’s a lot of people TO observe in Tokyo, for one thing, but I like to talk and interact with people as much as I can. Michiko is a “typical” character in that her experience parallels the shift in Japan from a manufacturing society, which is where Michiko grew up, to an information and service society, which is how she makes money. I wondered how that shift affected women? Is it easier for women to adapt to economic changes than men, or harder? Michiko is working class in origin, growing up above a factory, but she turns herself into something else altogether through her own efforts. She’s tough and resilient, which is how I see most Japanese women, and yet still very feminine in traditional ways. She has no hesitation to compete in a man’s world, and to do it on her own terms. Like many characters, once she was created, everything followed from that.
The novel takes place in Tokyo. Why did you choose a train station in Japan as the setting to your novel?
Trains are one of the things I love most about Tokyo, but they are also these huge masses of steel shooting through a very densely populated city. Just as America is built around the car, Tokyo is built around trains. Suicides on the train lines, sadly, happen all too often.
I came upon the clean-up after a suicide one time years ago, and the image stayed with me.
Like every other commuter, I have been stuck waiting on a train or a platform when a suicide shuts down the entire train system. It’s so shocking because usually everything runs on time. So, I guess, if you transplant the American car chase to Tokyo, it becomes a train chase, or a chase on a train. I also like that as a setting because trains and train stations are great levelers. Everyone takes the train, together, equally. I also love trains and train stations because I can completely indulge in people-watching. It’s startling how many people you see in a day. Still, it’s never so lonely as in a crowd, and there’s always a crowd in Tokyo.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next novel is called Japan Hand and Detective Hiroshi is again in the lead, together with Sakaguchi. They investigate the death of a long-time Japan specialist who helped negotiate the complicated relations between Japan and America, including the US military bases in Japan. That novel should be out by December of this year or early 2018. The next one after that is called Thai Girl in Tokyo and will be out in spring of 2018. I’ve finished writing those both, so they’re now being edited and polished.
Pages: 348 | ASIN: B071DPXP7M
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Globes Disease is a fast paced thriller that follows seven individuals as they suffer from the affliction of lycanthrope and are being hunted by a vampire because of it. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this suspenseful novel?
The original idea began as a short story about a black man named Terry who is infected by a lycanthrope. As he walks down the street he wanders if people are looking at him because of his infection or because he is black.
As I added more characters, more stories grew, and eventually a lot of the back stories became short stories, that became novellas and before I knew it, a novel!
The characters, I felt, were well developed and really stood out as unique in the end. What was your favorite character to write for and why?
Its difficult to say. I like them all. I have seven kids and four grandchildren, and a good number of nieces and nephews, I truly have no favorites. I love them each based on who they are.
Lets just say, everyone that survived my book are my favorite characters (laughing). Though some of the ones that died had to die to move the story forward.
I will say that Terry and Quake stand out to me for the males and Jodi and Goldy stand out for the females.
I love your review of my book, it’s so dead on. I could never say in words what I was thinking when folks asked me what my novel was about. You hit the nail on the head.
You mentioned names, believe it or not, Quake is based on someone I know, named Dozer, and Quake comes from a name I know of someone named Earthquake. I combined the two. As far as Ano, I went to school with an Austrian fellow who was a big guy and natural athlete name Onno, that’s where that name came from.
Jodi is based on some Japanese and Chinese friends of mine who have traditional parents. I just turned them in to one girl. Goldy is based on the women I grew up listening to; beautiful, smart, professionals, and the challenges they faced in their lives.
This book seamlessly blends many different genres. Was this planned before writing or did it happen organically?
Organically, I actually like to tell stories about people and put them in precarious situations and see how they react. The genres you mentioned in your review are genres I know and love. So I naturally lean towards telling stories in those genres.
I can honestly say that I would love to be the hybrid of King, Tarantino, Lee, Palahniuk, Shyamalan, Chaykin and Gaiman. I love how Gaiman has written comics, novels, movies, etc. That seems very natural and fluid to me. Writing what strikes you. Writing when you are inspired and writing in the genre and medium you want has got to be the best of feelings.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have completed the prequel to Globes Disease. I am waiting on the editing to be finished. I am currently working on the sequel as well…
In the mean time I am working on a comic, some short stories, a guest blog and a few other things…
These unfortunate residents of the small quiet town of La Mort Douce must band together as their peace is threatened by a mysterious Vampire, Hunters who treat them like wild game and a Government Agency with promises of a cure.
With many more threats looming, this eclectic group must come together to achieve a common goal.
They must fight for their humanity or die alone, like animals.
A thrilling action-packed novel about Lycanthropy through the eyes of 7 brave souls who suffer from the disease.
Do you have it?
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Michael Pronko is a scholar and an on Japanese culture. He is also an excellent story teller that captivates readers and takes them on an adventure through his words. The Last Train is set in Tokyo, and even if you have never been to Tokyo, don’t worry, Pronko draws you into the life there. His attention to detail is not limited to the scenery, but the customs and mannerisms that make up the Japanese’s culture. There is extensive time devoted explaining the life and world revolving around the hostess clubs, not sex clubs, rather clubs where men go to find a woman to entertain them for a period of time, while drinking and getting their ego stroked. It is within this society of hostess clubs that murder mystery is flushed out. A killer, targeting foreign investors is using the trains as her weapon of choice.
The story revolves around Michiko Suzuki and the team of detectives that are investigating the train murders. Michiko is the daughter of a factory owner whose mother died when she was young. She was raised by her father and his workers. She learned early that business is not always neat and clean, and that sometimes getting their hands dirty and making backdoor deals is the norm there. As Pronko tells Suzuki’s story he alternates between current events and her memories of the past, telling how she got to where she is, and how she has picked her victims. The main detectives investigating are Hiroshi and Takamatsu. Hiroshi is an accountant that due to spending part of his life in America is fluent in English so he works white collar crimes for the police. Takamatsu is a homicide detective that pulls together his own dream team to work on this case. Their case takes a high profile turn and soon they’re dodging politics as well the cultural need to keep everything neat and tidy. Michiko tries to keep her activities low key but when several of her victims survive her plot, things get messy for her and the police.
One of the most fascinating things about this novel is not the mystery aspect. The murder is not a secret from the beginning. What is a mystery is why she is killing people, figuring out what drove her to this life. Hiroshi is a complex character as well, and his dynamic interactions throughout the investigations add to the plot as well as provide an unique look at the culture. Even though he is from Tokyo, spending time in America gave him a different perspective on the way things are done; whereas Takamatsu comes off as the typical Japanese man. They make an interesting and effective partnership. Having the diverse views interacting with witnesses and other characters makes for a dynamic story line, it is diverse and provides multiple views from different cultural perspectives. Much of the story takes place in Roppongi, here you see all the varieties of hostess clubs, the basic lounge style, mud wrestling, nude women, and the high-end invite only David’s Lounge. Each club gives readers a different taste of the culture.
Overall The Last Train by Michael Pronko is a well written and enticing look into the culture of Tokyo. The story behind Michiko Suzuki is compelling and engaging, you can’t help flipping the pages to see what she is going to do next and find out why her victims were chosen. Hiroshi connects well with everyone he interacts with so there is an emotional response from the reader. Pronko uses emotion, mystery and attention to detail to keep the reader engaged and wanting more. I look forward to seeing more from Pronko and hope he has more stories to tell with Hiroshi.
Pages: 348 | ASIN: B071DPXP7M
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The Genocide Gene is the third book in the thrilling Onryo Saga and continues the adventures of the teenage superheroes in their fight to save humanity. I felt this story was very well written. What is your experience as a writer?
In addition to term papers in grad school, I wrote fanfiction about my favorite shows growing up. It was great practice to hone my craft and experiment with my original concepts. As fun as that was, nothing beats creating original characters and guiding them on a hero’s journey.
One thing that stands out to me in The Genocide Gene is the creativity embedded in this world. What was your inspiration for creating such and imaginative world?
As I was researching Africa, I had to come up with ways to integrate what I had learned into a creative storyline. I read about the business of portable gas stoves, so I had a battle in a factory. I read about the African boda-boda drivers, so I envisioned a chase scene on their mopeds. Every time I read something interesting, I wondered how I can utilize it in an exciting way.
I also created my own African country so that I could integrate the culture, history and issues of other countries into it, such as civil wars and age-old divisions brought about by European colonization. That way, I could write about the political problems of places such as Uganda, the Congo, South Africa and others all at once.
The Genocide Gene has an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
Bringing people together in harmony has always been my main goal, whether it be American liberals and conservatives or feuding African tribes. I wanted to present a war-torn nation keep impoverished and dysfunctional due to prejudice and hatred, but it was important to show people of other backgrounds getting along in spite of what their groups teach them. While the political extremists seek to tear their nation apart through fear, those who serve the cause of unity and understanding are the only ones who can bring peace to their people. While my conclusion can’t happen in real life, I can only keep the faith that the people of these lands find ways to bring about prosperity.
When will the fourth book in the Onryo saga be available and where will it take readers?
The Tree of Zaqqum will take readers to Israel/Palestine, and others Middle Eastern locations too. My heroes will have to stop a mysterious mastermind and his followers from destroying cities with stolen WMDs and quantum technology. Their friendship is further tested as Chikara gains a new ally that may become something more.
I’m still in the research phase at that moment, but the story is coming together piece by piece. I’m guess it may take two years to complete.
“It has been only a few months since Chikara Kaminari was given strange powers and a mission from her precognitive mother. Joined by her friends Renka and Gen, she traveled the world and stopped a band of super-powered extremists from imposing their will upon humanity. Now, a new menace has surfaced to threaten the lives of millions.
In the segregated African nation of Ghadhia, two fanatical brothers are scheming to ignite a new civil war and commit genocide against the tribes they have been raised to hate. The heroic trio must unite with new friends and old enemies to stop them, facing African terrorists, Afrikaner supremacists and enraged mobs along the way. But as Chikara and her friends journey further into the heart of darkness, their deepest fears and hidden feelings threaten to tear their friendship apart.”
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The Genocide Gene is the third book in the thrilling Onryo Saga and continues the adventures of the teenage superheroes in their fight to save humanity. Chikara, Renka and Gen are the superhero trio with mystical powers that they inherited from a ring with a mysterious black rock. The trio is on a crime fighting spree when Chikara receives a message from her late mother that takes the superheroes on an adventure to Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, a team of brothers are planning to eradicate tribes in a deadly attack and soon enough the teenagers are caught up in a whirlwind of African supremacists, terrorists and evil politicians. Friendships and alliances will be put to the test as they battle their way through a storm of evil extremists. Will their friendships survive this heroic escapade or will it finally be the end of the Japanese crime fighters?
The Genocide Gene, written by Rocco Ryg, is the third edition of the Onryo Saga and as always he delivers an exceptional story line packed with action and charm. The story begins back in 1985, with a cover-up involving a mysterious black stone which gives people ungodly powers. This powerful stone forges the path to a catastrophe that will echo its effects in years to come.
It then flashes forward to the year 2012 where everyone’s favourite Japanese super heroes have banded together with their mystical powers to clean up the streets of drug crimes, child trafficking and murdering of innocent souls.
Like a voice beyond the grave, Chikara is contacted with a message left by her late mother where she requests that Chikara, Renka and Gen venture to the deep throes of Africa. Friendships will be tested and lines crossed as you delve deeper into the twisted underground world of Sierra Leone, forcing the reader to confront terrorists, gangsters and teenagers with magical abilities. You will reminisce with old friends and be left with a bitter taste as they dance with old enemies and form unlikely alliances in a bid to do what they do best- saving lives.
Prepare to be on the edge of your seat as you follow extremists on the hunt for those who can heal, and feel the terror as enemies are enveloped with an evil presence. My favourite part of Rocco Ryg’s novels is that he is able to intricately weave multiple story lines together in such a way that the reader will be engrossed from start to finish. I love seeing how the characters grow and how they challenge themselves in situations using their individual powers. The Genocide Gene also explores a rich diversity of cultural differences and gives you a taste of gangster life across different nations.
Staying true to the themes of action crossed with a dash of politics and mystical powers, The Genocide Gene will be sure to satisfy your need for a superhero tale. I would recommend this for all who are in need of an adventure. Will they be successful in Chikaras mission from the grave or have the superheroes finally met their match?
Pages: 268 | ASIN: B01M0KF137
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This God, I, is a novel based around a group of teenagers turned Japanese superheroes as they band together in a battle against evil. Where did the inspiration for the thrilling action come from and how did it develop as you were writing?
I’ve always been a fan of comic books, anime and the action genre, so I’ve had ideas brewing in my head on how to construct a story full of car chases, paranormal battles and science fiction. For the scenes with domestic terrorists, I read about the history of nationalist extremism in the United States, such as Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, and tried to emulate what I learned. For super-powered fights, I had to come up with creative ways the heroes and villains could use their surroundings.
Japanese anime styled characters cross political extremists which sets the tone for this action packed adventure. What were some ideals you hoped would drive the narrative of the story?
Every character needs a believable motivation, and a political agenda can provide just that. Our cultural backgrounds and political views are a reflection of who we are as people, and I sought to create characters that would embody their various ideals and principles. While the extreme villains use their powers to force their ideas onto the world, the heroes have to be open-minded, consider all sides and work together to come to a reasonable conclusion. It was important for the heroes to put their values above the need to win at all costs, lest they end up just as bad as the people they’re fighting.
The superheroes come from a range of backgrounds and have a varied mix of super powers. How did you balance the characters powers to keep them interesting yet believable?
Every superpower has been thought of before, so it was important that my characters would utilize them in different ways, such as turning a roller coaster into a giant robot or controlling a crowd’s emotions to ignite a protest. It was also essential for every ability to serve a purpose, either to move the plot forward, reveal more information and create an action-packed spectacle.
This God, I is book 2 in the series. Where will book 3 take the characters?
In “The Genocide Gene,” Chikara and her friends travel to Africa to stop two demented brothers from starting a civil war and committing genocide. Along the way, they have to save hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls and take on merciless rebel groups.
“Japanese superhero Chikara Kaminari has accepted her destiny: to save mankind from powerful political extremists. Joined by her friends, the empathic Renka and the shadow-controlling Gen, Chikara journeys to America to rescue her friend Michiko from the Ayn Rand- obsessed billionaire, Chillingworth.
As they search for their adversaries, Chikara and her friends encounter a murderous cell of homegrown terrorists called RAMPAGE (Revolutionary American Militant Patriots Against Government Enslavement). This militia of neo-nazis, white supremacists and anti-government extremists will stop at nothing to bring down the public sector, and only the three heroes can stop them before their war on the state claims innocent lives.
The future hangs in the balance as Chillingworth lures the world’s most powerful leaders to the United Nations. Using Michiko’s mind-controlling voice, he seeks to lead the Earth into a new era of selfishness and Anarchy. The heroes have to stop him, but the conservative Chikara and the socialist Gen have different definitions of the term “save the world.” While one wants to stop the plot, the other wants to control the politicians his own way. The three must put aside their disagreements and work together before America’s most extreme ideologues tear the world apart.”
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Set against the backdrop of one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history, A Tangled Web by ML Sparrow tells a tale of teenage angst and romance. A girl abandoned by her parents and twin brothers wrapped up in their emotions weave this tale of romance, betrayal and heartache. Hayashi Taiyo has lived with her grandmother since the death of her mother. She has grown up with twins Kita Ryuu and Kairi in the quiet little town they live in. Things start off soft and slow as we learn about their everyday lives. As with most teenagers, growing emotions and endless confusion seek to disrupt the delicate balance between the three. Two brothers who are as opposite as fire and ice and the girl caught between them. However a tsunami is coming and it will upend their lives in ways they couldn’t imagine.
This novella is just the right length. The relationships between the three who are caught up in the love triangle are delicately portrayed. There is just enough backstory to understand the past of the characters and their mindsets without feeling as though something is missing. The risk a lot of novella’s run is that there is not enough explanation. Sparrow crafts the tale in such a way that the small page count doesn’t detract from the story itself.
By using the romaji forms of several Japanese words in the story the reader can feel much more like they are experiencing every day life in Japan. There is a handy glossary at the back of the book but the sentences they are used in and the way Sparrow writes makes it easy to understand what the words are meant to mean. This saves the reader from having to flip to the end of the novella while reading.
The tsunami in Japan in March of 2011 was devastating. A force of nature that could not be stopped devoured lives and homes without regard. Sparrow indicates at the beginning of the novella which books they read to better understand what happened. By listing them out it allows the reader to continue investigating the event on their own time. This novella is a work of fiction and whether or not Taiyo and her twin friends Ryuu and Kairi actually exist is unknown. What is true is that there are people who lived through the tsunami just like our three protagonists did.
A Tangled Web because is a story about three young people who are trying to navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s a delicate journey and the severity of the tsunami serves to illuminate the fact that life will go on. The tsunami is like the tumultuous relationship between the three. It attempts to tear them apart, to drown them, and it will change them forever. It’s a lovely read for those who are interested in a coming of age story with a touch of reality.
Pages: 89 | ASIN: B01MRU67AN
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This God, I, written by Rocco Ryg, is a novel based around a group of teenagers turned Japanese superheroes as they band together in a battle against evil. The group of ordinary teenagers have their lives upturned when they gain superpowers from a ring adorned with a black rock from Sierra Leone that was passed down to Chikara from her mother. Together, three of the teenagers, Chikara, Gen and Ren band together and travel to America to help rescue their friend Michiko from the evil Damian Chillingworth. However, they soon discover there’s another evil at work, RAMPAGE; a vicious group of white supremacists and anti-government terrorists. The teenagers must learn to work together in harmony if they are to stop the world from being destroyed.
Rocco Ryg has an extraordinary talent of being able to engross the audience deeply with his powerful and exciting story line- right from the first page. This God, I, begins in 1993 where you meet Mika Kaminari, a successful woman who can foresee future events and then soon flashes forward to the year 2012. It’s in 2012 where you meet Mika’s daughter, Chikara and her friends, Gen and Ren. A ring, superpowers and a crazed up white supremacist group of militia combine together for a story of epic proportions.
Japanese anime styled characters cross political extremists set the tone for this action packed adventure. There is a super power for everybody- from an empath who can manipulate the emotions around her to others who can sift through memories to extract the deadliest ones that they need. Personally, my favourite power was being able to heal someone- imagine what we could do with this in the real world!
The superheroes come from a range of backgrounds, such as the Chillingworth family who exude power through their billionaire, lavish lifestyle. The son Damian, sometimes violent psychopath, sometimes brilliant crusader is a complicated character that the reader will quickly form a love/hate relationship with. His rich boy demeanour and sleazy lack of compassion seem to be a cover to an inner child who wishes to be seen as a superhero.
This book has political undertones and I found some of the themes to mirror some of the political issues we are facing today. The story clearly outlines the different political parties which will help explain any terms you may not be familiar with. However, the main theme of the story revolves around the mystical powers given by the ring and the ability to use them for harm or good. This can provide a breath of fresh air when the political plot begins to thicken.
Epic battles crossed with an intense torturous drive to gather intel means the reader will be unable to tear themselves away from the book until the very last page. The reader will question the values of the character as each one faces the ultimate battle of deciding to cross a line between good and evil. It questions the integrity of the human race and raises the question- what would you do if you were given a super power? I would recommend this for anybody who enjoys action crossed with a touch of politics and mystical powers.
Pages: 361 | ASIN: B008HL4XM0
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“Japanese teenager Chikara Kaminari, while heartbroken by the death of her mother, inherits a strange black ring. Her mother’s will tells her to share it with her best friend, Renka, and a socialist student named Gen, so that they can save the world from political fanatics. Guided only by cryptic clues yet honor bound to obey her mother, Chikara does as she’s told. As the three develop extraordinary abilities, including emotional manipulation and control over darkness, they set out to uncover the origin of the ring and its connection to their mind-controlling school bully, Michiko.
Their destiny becomes clearer as Michiko’s power grows beyond her control, setting a classmate on a murderous rampage. As predicted, dangerous extremists appear, seeking to use the ring’s power to force their political views onto all of humanity. Chikara and her friends must put aside their partisanship and become the heroes they were destined to be.”
The Onryō by Rocco Ryg is a science fiction fantasy set in Japan. It is reminiscent of a traditional manga where teenagers are the main characters and take on heroic roles with outlandish situations. Some of the outlandish situations include the supernatural elements that writers often feature in Japanese manga and their other works. The book follows the main character, Chikara, through mostly a third person point of view. You get to see the thoughts of Chikara along with other people who she comes in contact, which is vital. Additionally, the main character makes exponential growth from beginning to end.
The first line of the book immediately draws you in. The writing of the book comes off as a very well done first draft that could use a bit of reviewing. Some of the emotions are not explored much, there were minimal grammatical mistakes, and there was one instance in which what was explained did not match what was said beforehand. The writing style increasingly gets better as you continue reading it. As such, it could have done with a bit more reviewing before publishing, but it does not keep one from enjoying the book.
You can tell from reading it that the person is a fan of Japanese cultures, as it reads like someone who knows about the culture and admires it rather than from an individual who was born in Japan. But again, it does not keep you from enjoying the book. The author was clearly influenced by their love of manga, as it was mentioned throughout. Additionally, there were many manga elements within the book, such as focusing on teenage girls, supernatural powers, and teenage romance
The plot of the book was interesting, but a little slow moving. However, it picked back up toward the end. The written action parts are genuinely some of my favorite scenes of the book. The supernatural elements are fascinating and the way it was incorporated not only made sense, but it is an exciting read. Although, the book did have stereotypical women in some places, it still led to some intriguing plot developments and character clashes.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys manga, Japanese culture, and action. It contains much fast-paced action, which is exciting. I can only expect the sequel to be better than the first as the writing and character development of the story improves as it goes on, making any future works by the author promising. The ending of the book, while slow to build, was fantastic. I loved the ending and the change in the main character. It made me want to read the sequel.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B0058KSKHW
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