Keikichi Ōsaka (1912 – 1945)

Keikichi Ōsaka, whose real name was Fukutarō Suzuki, was born on 20 March 1912 in Shinshiro, Aichi Prefecture. On the recommendation of his mentor, Saburō Kōga, he published his first short story in October 1932, “The Hangman of the Department Store” (Depāto no kōkeiri). Pioneer of the genre honkaku misuterī (orthodox mystery), a Japanese variant of the detective novel in which logic plays an important role, he published around thirty short stories between 1932 and 1945, including “The Mourning Locomotive” (Tomurai kikansha) o “The Three Madmen” (San kyōjin). His short stories in most cases have three characteristics: a crime that seems materially impossible, even supernatural; an unusual or mysterious setting; an amateur detective who solves the riddle. Mobilised during World War II, he was sent to the Philippines where he died of illness In Luzon on 2 July 2 1945. Following his untimely death at age 33, he fell into oblivion. It was only with the revival of the honkaku genre in the 1980-1990s that his work was gradually rediscovered. Finally three collections were published between 2001 and 2010 in Japan. In 2017, twelve of his texts were also translated into English in The Ginza Ghost (Locked Room International, 2017) translated by Ho-Ling Wong. (Source: French Wikipedia)

Oosaka Keikichi was a talented master of the short puzzle mystery story, active in the thirties and forties of the previous century, but the second World War stopped his career abruptly: first state censorship didn’t allow him to write the kind of detective stories he did earlier, and eventually, the poor man died on the battlefield. He became a forgotten author after the war, but was eventually rediscovered. In the past, publisher Tokyo Sogensha released two volumes that focused on Oosaka’s output as a puzzle plot mystery writer: most of the stories in Locked Room International’s English-language release The Ginza Ghost can also be found in these volumes. But in August 2020, this same publisher released a third collection of Oosaka’s stories, but with a completely different angle. Shi no Kaisousen (“The Yacht of Death” 2020) collects more than a dozen stories originally published between 1934-1942, as well as some short essays/articles by Oosaka. The stories in this volume show a completely different side to Oosaka, focusing on his comedic (mostly non-imposssible) mystery stories, as well as stories with a stronger thriller or horror atmosphere. (Source: The Case Files of Ho-Ling)

The short story “The Cold Night’s Clearing” by Keikichi Ōsaka, in The Ginza Ghost (Locked Room International, 2017), is also included in Foreign Bodies (The British Library, 2017) by Martin Edwards (editor). Highly recommended.

The-Ginza-Ghost-200x300Book Description: The Japanese form of Golden Age detective fiction was re-launched in the early 1980s as shin honkaku by Soji Shimada and Yukito Ayatsuji, but the original honkaku dates from the 1930s and one of its pioneers was Keikichi Osaka. The Ginza Ghost is a collection of twelve of his best stories, almost all impossible crimes. Although the solutions are strictly fair-play, there is an unreal, almost hallucinatory quality to them.  Osaka, who died tragically young, was an early pioneer and master of the genre, whose work is only now starting to be re-discovered.  Readers of LRI’s The Decagon House Murders and The Moai Island Puzzle will not be disappointed.(Source: Locked Room International)

I look forward to reading The Ginza Ghost soon. Stay tuned.

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