Japan & Espionage: Shig Sato wasn’t the first to fall into a trap

KGB. GRU. CIA. The Cold War. It’s the stuff of thrilling writing. But do you know the story behind the story?

In Traitors & Lies, Tokyo’s reluctant P.I., Shig Sato, finds himself entangled in high-stakes international espionage in early 1990s Tokyo. It doesn’t take long for Shig to realize he’s been lied to, and might just be a pawn in the biggest power grab in the Cold War.


(AP photos)

But they say truth is stranger than fiction. It’s certainly the case with one of my favorite authors, Ian Fleming, and the story behind You Only Live Twice. This article that ran in The Japan Times, one of my old newspaper haunts, explains why. Read the fascinating story here.

To find out what it takes for Shig Sato to come to his senses about Katsuo Takahashi, and his new life as a private investigator, pick up a copy of Traitor’s & Lies.



Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Kurt Wallander and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s Son, The Thief’s Mistake, or Traitors & Lies – and to read how it all began. To find out more about the World of Shig Sato, sign up for a periodic newsletter. All you have to do is click here.



Today’s the day! The new Shig is out

After writing a Japan ex-pat novel a friend of mine told me the most interesting part of the story was a minor character,  a private investigator. I kept some of the other characters in the story. That’s how the Shig Sato mysteries were born.

Over the last four years I’ve had a blast writing the series. Book 3, Traitors & Lies, is available on Amazon today, December 16.

And two more books are set to come out in 2017! Nobody should be having this much fun.


I invite you to enjoy Traitors & Lies – and discover the World of Shig Sato.

It’s fun for me. I hope they’re fun for you.

Merry Christmas!

Discover the World of Shig Sato. Tokyo Summer, a Shig Sato novella, is yours when you sign up for my mailing list. No strings attached. Just click

Are the Kobayashi twins in trouble again?

ss3new5smIf you’ve ever read a Shig Sato Mystery, you know the hapless Kobayashi twins can’t buy a break.

Will their luck change in Traitors & Lies? This is how it begins for them:

Sweat and grime was all Ishi and Joji Kobayashi had to show for their long hot weekend in an Osaki Police Station cell. Fatigue reduced their consciousness to a dim awareness, so that Monday morning in August, after an insurance fraud and murder case veered in another direction, the powers that were decided to get the twins out of the building. Startled awake by the “on your feet, on your feet” a bored police officer rattled keys and stomped his boots just to frighten to two rat-like creatures as they wiped sleep from their beady eyes.

“What?” Joji whined.

“You’re leaving,” the officer said, unable to muster any concern.

“What?” Ishi’s suspicion was of a practical nature. Being caught breaking and entering in a copier repair shop where a body lay dead, he was sure prison was in his future, not freedom.

“Get up and get out of here,” the officer said. “Go see the sergeant on your way out.”

The twins found their way to the Sergeant Hiro, plump and with a wise owl countenance. Hiro looked down at the boys over the top of his half-moon glasses. He knew the boys were held that weekend because they had broken into a copier repair shop where a dead man was discovered. The twins had no idea of what had happened and had pleaded their innocence until the interrogations stopped. But that had been on Saturday. This was Monday. Hiro saw the suspicion in their twitching eyes.

“Seems like you boys got lucky. Forensics decided you two had nothing to do with killing that copier repair shop guy,” Hiro said. “And you’re little breaking and entering escapade is being ignored …”

“Really?” Joji twitched, unable to believe his freedom was only a few feet past the station’s front door.

“… thanks to Inspector Sato. And the chief. So do the smart thing. Get out of Gotanda as fast as possible. And stay out of Gotanda.”

“But…” Joji began, but Ishi only said, “What day is it today?”

Hiro cast a worried glance at the boys. “Monday, August 19.”

Joji began to count on his fingers how many days they had been locked up. He lost count after two.

“Okay,” Ishi hissed as he grabbed his brother by the arm and followed a waiting officer out a back door of the station. A minute later, the twins were walking down Yamate-dori, free to go where they pleased.

“Something’s not right,” Joji said.

“They let us go,” Ishi replied.

“You think Katsuhara had anything to do with this?” Joji doubted getting out of jail for no good reason. What he doubted more was the benevolence of Fat Katsuhara, a top captain and right-hand man to yakuza kingpin Ses Fujimori. Katsuhara occasionally had the twins do small jobs. Usually it got the boys in jail.

“I hope not,” Ishi said. “I think we’re in trouble, maybe not with the cops, but with the fat man.”

“Yeah. I don’t want to go anywhere near the fat man.”

“What about going back to the garage?” Joji’s question worried Ishi. He knew that when a cop like Sergeant Hiro said stay out of Gotanda, he meant it. His brain ached from the thoughts invading his brain: No place to go. No money. No food. All of their belongings at their cousin’s machine shop and no way to get there except by foot. Hot, tired, hungry and thirsty, the twins faced a long walk to a place where they were sure they would not be welcome.

Despite the sergeant’s warning, the twins agreed only place they could think of to go was their cousin’s machine shop on the other side of Gotanda station. It was the last home they had, two cots off to the side of a greasy work area. Sure of Katsuhara’s fury if he caught sight of them or knew where they were hiding, the twins walked, talked, tried to think of how to stay out of trouble, but came up with nothing other than getting their bag of a few clothes and the bar of soap and they towel they shared.

Ishi said, “Lets go.” Joji fell into step by his side.

A dozen yards behind the twins, slow and steady, a white Toyota panel van followed the twins as they walked east side toward the Yamanote elevated commuter rail line. At a red light it sped to the corner, a door opened, a man jumped out, grabbed the twins, shoved them into the van, and as the van sped off as the door slid shut and the lock clicked.

When the twins overcame their bewilderment, they saw the faces of Katsuhara thugs, young men snarling under punch perms and willing to knife their prey without blinking. The twins had been assigned one thug each. The driver was equally fierce. But it was the man in the passenger seat that got the twins’ attention.

“You two have been busy.”

Ishi and Joji glanced up saw demonic black mane of Dragon Matsumura, nephew of a Fujimori captain and their nemesis from the days when Dragon recruited potential Fujimori foot soldiers from the bosozoku motorcycle gangs. Matsumura made sport of the likes of the Kobayashis. The twins both had the same thought at the same moment: “We’re dead.”

Matsumura had seen to it that no police were following the twins. He also was sure they only thing any onlooker would do after seeing to boys hustled into a van is stop, stare, and go on about their business. He was told the cops would let the twins go after realizing they were small fry not worth housing and feeding for another day, but then, the cops were liable to do anything. When a Fujimori contact at the station said the twins were being set free, Dragon got the word: Pick them up.

Joji, too nervous to speak, glanced at Ishi, who managed to say, “Where are we–”

“Shut up.”

Matsumura kept his eyes on the road.

The twins then recognized the driver. Shiro Nakano, a motorcycle gang delinquent who acted tough and wanted to prove it. The Kobayashi twins knew him from Kenbo’s motorcycle shop in Shinjuku, a teen gang hangout where the twins were treated like vermin.  

Joji and Ishi glanced at the back of Matsumura’s head, then at the rear-view mirror. Nakano’s fierce scowl unnerved them.

They clutched each other’s arms.

“You little shits. You can’t stay out of trouble for a day without fucking up big time,” Matsumura’s disdain spewing from his angry lips.

“We didn’t -”

“Shut up.”

Unable to see out a window, Ishi and Joji glanced at the floor, each other, Matsumura, and Nakano, their breathing quickening, their nerves fraying.

“You two are costing me a morning when I could be doing something else. Certainly not driving you around,” Matsumura snarled. “But I’m here to give you a message. Stay away from anything Fujimori. You have nothing to do with the Fujimori clan, the Fujimori name, nothing, nothing to do with Fujimori. Nothing. You do not say the name, you do not talk about anything you know, you think you might know. You don’t talk to anyone about anything you’ve said or done. Got it?”


“I hear of anything, you’re dead. Fat Katsuhara hears anything, you’re twice as dead. No associates, no riding clubs, no one. You’re through. Got it?”


“Now get out.”

Joji’s minder opened the side panel door and the soon Joji and Ishi found themselves pushed to the ground in front of their cousin’s machine shop.

What little native intelligence the twins’ possessed had by now lead them to realize the men was not going to beat them.

“But…” Joji began.

“Don’t forget,” Matsumura said, his finger running across his throat. It was the last thing the twins saw before the van pulled away.

Picking themselves up and brushing themselves off, Ishi and Joji Kobayashi notice huge bay door into the machine shop is closed. Furtively looking about, they quickly walk along the side of the building to the back of the garage. They know the book door alarm latch had been broken and unrepaired the last time there were at the shop. Each wished it remained so.

As the peeked around the corner they saw the door shut. But the alarm still appeared broken.

“What are we going to do?” Joji asked.

“We have to try something, ” Ishi replied as he slowly crept to the door and turned the knob.

It opened.

With no alarm sounding.

The twins scampered into the shop as fast as they could, shut the door behind them and for the first time that morning, began to believe they were out of trouble.

Traitors & Lies
A Shig Sato Mystery
Look for it December 16
at Amazon
and other vendors Jan. 1

Discover the World of Shig Sato. Tokyo Summer, a Shig Sato novella, is yours when you sign up for my mailing list. No strings attached. Just click


Inside, outside, in between

ss3new5smHave you ever noticed how sometimes events outside your world cause you to turn inward?      To reflect?  Maybe even give you the time to summon the courage to take action?

I have been living inside myself for several weeks now, finishing Shig Sato book 3, Traitors & Lies. I have to be honest: the events of the last few weeks did not encourage me to go outside myself. Truth is, I think writers and everyone who create must live inside themselves in order to exist in the world.

Traitors & Lies continues the story of former Tokyo police Inspector Shig Sato, now a private investigator and a reluctant one at that. It is August 1991. Turmoil in Moscow brings the Soviet leadership to the brink of a coup d’etat. And it is seven weeks after the death of Shig’s beloved wife, Miki. Our story begins the day after Miki’s shijūkunichi, her 49th day memorial. Shig finds out a mutilated body has been discovered in Tokyo Bay. This gives his crime-solving instincts a spark: who is this person, and why are they in the bay? Upon returning to Tokyo to resume his P.I. work, he is asked to find a missing person: a U.S. Navy officer who has not reported for duty at the American embassy.

Shig knows he must set aside his mourning. But outside events overtake him as he regains a sense of himselfs while pursuing the answers to two questions: where is the missing American? And who is the body in the bay?

Traitors & Lies. Be ready for it this December.

Discover the world of Shig Sato. Get the Shig Sato Book 1  The Gangster’s Son  at no cost – just click here. And for more on what’s happening in the World of Shig Sato, click here for my newsletter.



A Traitor and a Lie


Moscow, 1991. A tumultuous summer pushes the Kremlin to the brink of chaos. The Soviet spy network begins to unravel. Rivals choose sides.  Ambitious men make their move. Especially in Washington, D.C.

“I hate this country.” It was said in a manner so off-handed, with a sigh so deep, Konstantin Morozov nearly made a quick feint to the left, hoping quickness and surprise would at least rid him of the cold steel round barrel of a 9mm pressing against his sweaty head.

He hoped to stand and face his executioner. If he was going to die at the hands of The Wolf, he wanted to do it like a man, face to face. Konstantin Morozov was not a foolish man, but dire circumstance produced foolish thoughts. But what was more foolish, sitting at his own kitchen table in his own apartment in Washington, D.C., with a gun to his head, or believing the message traffic he had seen indicating that his government would send someone to analyze recently ‘obtained’ American intelligence data concerning the American Navy’s Pacific Fleet’s reactions regarding the turmoil in Moscow – data he had gathered himself, thanks to his cooperative American network of associates, especially a certain American Navy communications officer in Tokyo.

Morozov had been glad he was in Washington, concerned only with making sure his cabal of American informants kept providing their information, paying them as usual, and most importantly, reminding them of the dire consequences they faced if they decided to renege on their “arrangement.” Morozov may be a slight man, but his mild manners hid a feral instinct for survival.

Everything had been going so well for so long Morozov knew something was bound to go wrong eventually. He enjoyed his anonymous life in this place called Gaithersburg, Maryland, just outside America’s capital city, and he especially enjoyed his job at the National Institute of Health. He was biologist first and foremost, and his cover fit his intellectual mind so well he often thought of himself as the perfect American. That he had managed to survive his background checks was not surprising, once he understood the nature of the American government bureaucracy.

Why he expected everything to keep on as normal with a revolution at the fore in Moscow made him curse his stupidity, mental flaccidity, his own ease into an American lifestyle that he should have guarded against. Now he was paying for such sloth. He should have known the GRU would never be ambitious enough to want to review what he had done in America. Only a man like The Wolf, a brigand and a renegade, would have been able to penetrate the idiotic Soviet intelligence community to the point where he could slip into Washington, D.C.

“Do you have it all?” The Wolf asked, casually but firmly, watching Morozov complete the handwritten note he had been dictating.

“Yes, just as you said.”

The Wolf peered over the man’s shoulder, reading the note for himself. He had memorized the code the man was using. From his vantage point, standing over Morozov’s shoulder, peering down, firmly pressing the silencer of the 9mm to Morozov’s head, The Wolf carefully read the note through one last time, then said, “All right. Seal it and address the envelope as you normally would.”

Calming himself, waiting for his hands to steady, Morozov took a deep breath and asked, “No different than any other time?”


Morozov wrote the return address first, in the American custom, in the upper left-hand corner. Then in the center of the envelope he wrote

CWO Daryl Bennett, USN

Communications Department

Commander, Seventh Fleet

USS Blue Ridge LCC-19

FPO Seattle 96628

“That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Morozov replied.

“What is this Seattle?”

Morozov felt the gun press harder.

“It’s the Americans. They send their mail to Seattle before sending it to Japan,” Morozov calmly explained despite the sweat rising from forehead. “I swear. FPO means Fleet Post Office. The letter will get to Tokyo. I swear.”

Morozov had been proud of his brainstorm, using this sailor’s regular navy address to send his coded messages. The Wolf reluctantly admired it, too. It was brilliant in its simplicity. Right under the American navy’s nose, every time. Not that there were many messages. This Bennett person knew what Morozov wanted and sent the material to him the same way, in duplicate, in case one parcel got lost. Regular mail, from Maryland USA to a ship in the American fleet on the other side of the world, and back the same way.

“You always were a brilliant fuck,” The Wolf said, picking up the letter and tucking it into his shirt pocket.

“You’re going to need a stamp,” Morozov said.

“You’re going to need more than a stamp,” The Wolf replied, walking around Morozov, allowing him to take a good look at his former commanding officer. Morozov wasn’t looking at Bogdan, but the barrel of the silencer at the end of the 9mm. Before Morozov exhaled his final breath the bullet from the gun smashed the bone above his right eye and traveled through his brain, exited the other side, and lodged itself into a sofa ten feet away. Vorkov stood motionless as he watched Morozov go limp.

The Wolf enjoyed executing a worthless bureaucrat in the worthless espionage apparatus of a worthless politburo cracking apart. The Wolf was glad to be on the outside, watching the traitorous bureaucracy crumble, the nation fall apart, especially after all he did for Mother Russian, long years fighting her wars, only to be cashiered after losing men in in the mountains of Afghanistan, good men the Kremlin did not seem to care about after so many years in those foreign mountains.

No, The Wolf was glad to be on the outside, with his own regime. He could watch fools like Gorbachev and Yeltsin and know he had real power, real influence. But he needed the intelligence the traitorous American naval officer had been providing the Kremlin all these years. It had been somewhat difficult to find the traitor’s handler. But he had.

The Wolf retrieved the slug that had passed through the bookish little man’s head and lodged into the decadent plush leather furniture, picked up the spent shell casing, and quietly left the small apartment, stopping only to tug his wallet from his jacket pocket to make sure he did indeed have the stamp for the letter to the traitor Bennett.

Traitors & Lies – A Shig Sato Mystery – look for it in early 2016.  To keep up with the latest T& L news and get a sneak peek at an advanced copy, sign up for my newsletter.