Michael Pronko has lived in Tokyo for twenty years but was born in Kansas City, a very different world. After graduating from Brown University in philosophy, he hit the road, traveling around the world for two years working odd jobs. He went back to school for a Master’s in Education, and then took a teaching position in Beijing. For two years, he taught English, traveled China and wrote.
After more traveling and two more degrees, another M.A. in Comparative Literature in Madison, Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in English at the University of Kent at Canterbury, he finally settled in Tokyo as a professor of American Literature at Meiji Gakuin University. His seminars focus on contemporary novels and film adaptations, and he teaches other classes in American indie film and American music and art.
Pronko has published three award-winning collections of essays: Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo (Raked Gravel Press 2015), Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens (Raked Gravel Press 2014), and Beauty and Chaos: Essays on Tokyo (Raked Gravel Press 2014). He has published books in Japanese and two textbooks in both English and Japanese.
Over the years in Tokyo, he has written regular columns for many publications: The Japan Times, Newsweek Japan, Jazznin, ST Shukan, Jazz Colo[u]rs, and Artscape Japan. He runs his own website Jazz in Japan (www.jazzinjapan.com). He also continues to publish academic articles and helps run a conference on teaching literature.
For more information about Michael Pronko and his work, visit his website at www.michaelpronko.com.
Listen to the interview:
Topics of conversation:
- Writing Mystery
- Life in Tokyo
- Cultural differences between Japan and America
- Being a Professor of American Literature in Tokyo
- Jazz and his Jazz website: www.jazzinjapan.com
The Last Train
A gripping Tokyo-based mystery by multi-award-winning author Michael Pronko
Detective Hiroshi Shimizu investigates white-collar crime in Tokyo. He’s lost his girlfriend and still dreams of his time studying in America, but with a stable job, his own office and a half-empty apartment, he settled in.
When an American businessman turns up dead, his mentorTakamatsu calls him out to the site of a grisly murder. A glimpse from a security camera video suggests the killer was a woman, but in Japan, that seems unlikely. Hiroshi quickly learns how close homicide and suicide can appear in a city full of high-speed trains just a step–or a push–away.
Takamatsu drags Hiroshi out to the hostess clubs and skyscraper offices of Tokyo in search of the killer. She’s trying to escape Japan for a new life by playing a high-stakes game of insider information. To find her, Hiroshi goes deeper and deeper into Tokyo’s intricate, ominous market for buying and selling the most expensive land in the world.
When Takamatsu inexplicably disappears, Hiroshi teams up with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi. They scour Tokyo’s sacred temples, corporate offices, and industrial wastelands to find out where Takamatsu went, and why one woman would be driven to murder when she seems to have it all.
After years in America and lost in neat, clean spreadsheets,Hiroshi confronts the stark realities of the biggest city in the world, where inside information can travel in a flash from the top investment firms to the bottom of the working world, where street-level punks and teenage hostesses sell their souls for a small cut of highly lucrative land deals.
Hiroshi’s determined to cut through Japan’s ambiguities–and dangers–to find the murdering ex-hostess before she extracts her final revenge–which just might be him.