Hideo Yokoyama is regarded as one of Japan’s most popular crime writers, with several of his publications reaching best-seller status. His 15th novel, Six Four, is the first to be translated into English after being well received in Japan, and arrives in America on the 7th of February.
Yokoyama, now aged 60, describes his interest in the psychological aspects of crime thrillers, with the lives behind the crime driving the plot. Six Four presents this theme through the life of the police department spokesman struggling to solve an on-going kidnapping case whilst his own daughter is also missing.
Yokoyama can add a layer of personal experience to this element of the novel after spending 12 years as a reporter on the “police beat” in Japan, which adds an element of realism to his descriptions of police bureaucracy and the rocky relationship between law enforcement and the media.
He describes the importance of providing a complex starting point, such as a police department, to ground the plot of his novels:
“In order to describe the main character’s feelings or passions, you need a big organization that is like a big ocean that I let the character swim in.”
At age 34, with his wife and young children by his side, Yokoyama left the steady reporting job behind to pursue his desire to write. Working odd jobs on the side throughout the next seven years, he produced his first award winning novel Kage no Kisetsu (Season of Shadows) which was published in 1998.
The success of his debut novel facilitated the beginning of a new career, and he’d soon found he’d produced four new books over the next five years, as well as beginning to draft Six Four. Yokoyama describes the way in which his life became completely consumed by his work, writing on just “three hours sleep” a night. This brutal schedule soon came to an end however, with Yokoyama experiencing a heart attack in 2003.
Since then, the bestselling author (below) has knocked back the hours in order to appreciate his life as one of Japan’s favorite authors. But he still managed to come back to the manuscript for Six Four, which has been likened to the exceptionally popular novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
The enigmatic title Six Four subtly presents the year in which the novel’s kidnapping took place, in a way that many Western readers may overlook. In Japan, the years of each emperor’s reign is taken separately from the traditional calendar, so the 64th year denotes the end of the reign of Emperor Hirohito, the father of Japan’s current emperor
It’s publishers are hoping to print 11,000 initial copies of what has been described by reviewers as a “slow burn” crime drama for the US release, where it’s hoped the new audience will be gripped by this unique insight into “internal police politics.”
So, if you’re looking for an exciting new crime thriller, pick up a copy of Six Four on February 7th!
YouTube Channel: AP Archive
Featured image via Waterstones
h/t New York Times