CROOKED INTERVIEW with Joseph Mark Brewer
BY ANITA KOVACEVIC ON 21/04/2017
This is an author who will draw you into his exotic world of the Shig Sato mysteries with ease and elegance. It gives me great joy to have Joseph Mark Brewer over as my guest today, chatting about his short story Nothing But The Truth in Crooked Tales, as well as his other books.
From an early age, Joseph Mark Brewer loved travel and learning about the world. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a journalist and spent the next four years on sea duty, serving on ships that would allow him to visit more than 40 cities around the world. His three years based in Japan and subsequent time working as a journalist in Tokyo forms the foundation of an interest in that country that continues today.
What is your Crooked tale about and what inspired it?
My Crooked Tales story is a sort of morality tale: neglected kids, broken homes, and witnesses keeping to themselves, for whatever reason.
What do you like writing and/or reading best?
I like reading best. Reading is the well from which my writing emerges.
What else do you do in life apart from writing
I work in the news business, and I am a historian by nature/inclination. I spend as much time reading history and biography as I do literature, or mysteries, or even writing my own stories.
What are you currently working on?
These days I am writing the next three books in the Shig Sato series, and shaping the outline of another trilogy quite different from Shig.
What interests do you have besides writing and history?
I developed an interest in the world and travel at an early age, and was fortunate enough to indulge in that before finishing my university education. I don’t travel as much as I’d like these days, but hope to resume that interest someday soon.
Why did you set your Shig Sato mysteries in Japan?
I had no notion or interest in Japan until I was stationed there while serving in the U.S. Navy. But I grew to like the country’s art, literature, and music. And living in a culture so different from my own, I found similarities all humans share. I think this gave me the confidence to write, and to write about people no matter their background or situation. All human emotion is the same.
How did you come to write a mystery series?
Again, I surprised myself, in that when I took stock of what I like to read, and what type of story I wanted to write to convey some of my feelings about Japan and its culture, I found that a mystery series suited my purpose. I’ve always been a Sherlock Holmes fan, love Agatha Christy, and am drawn to noir and thriller books and films. I found it intriguing to create that world to say what I wanted.
You worked as a journalist in the Navy. Did that influence your writing?
I think it helped me decide that I could be earning a living in the news business and learn how to write. I have worked for newspapers for almost 30 years. It’s a great way to learn how to write and edit.
How is writing a mystery novel the same or different from writing for news media?
It’s similar in that facts matter, and that a certain logical sequence has to be followed. Answering who, what, when, where, why is a good starting point. The main difference is in length. The challenge in writing a 60,000-word mystery is sustaining the narrative and holding the reader’s interest. Very few news stories, or longer pieces in magazines, are book- length. Learning how to do that was quite an adjustment.
Do you find a silver lining in a bad review? If so, please give an example.
I had one reviewer complain about the mistakes and errors and such, and I went back and had to sheepishly admit to myself that I had missed a lot of small things in the final edit. Let that be a lesson: Even an editor needs an editor.
What percentage of the research you do for a novel actually lands upon the printed page?
Not much, but the Shig Sato series will eventually be 12 volumes. A lot of what I’m researching now, facts and answers to questions I have, and reviewing things I’d forgotten, will eventually make it into the series.
Do you have an author you admire? If so, why?
— Patrick O’Brian, the author of the “Master and Commander” Aubrey/Maturin series. What he created — the British Royal Navy during the time of the Napoleonic Wars — and the characters, settings, adventures, plot twists, naval engagement, world travel, history, natural science; it’s simply a masterpiece. I found myself rereading the series five times, and realized about the third time through that what I was doing was learning how to write a series from him. I regard that series as the how-to for anyone who wants to write a series, regardless of genre.
For your own .pdf copy of Nothing But The Truty, just click here.
Joe’s new project is Tokyo Summer, a Shig Sato Novella. It’s a prequel to The Gangster’s Son, the first in his #ShigSato mystery series.
It was classified as an overdose. Or was it?
Setsuko Usami, the wife of a top Bank of Japan economist, is found dead in her bathroom. The police report points to an accidental drug overdose. Government officials want to keep the death under wraps to avoid scandal. But when the toxicology report arrives, it points to murder.
Despite his independent streak and reputation for turning down promotions, the bureaucrats in government and at the Tokyo Police headquarters know there’s only one man for the job: Inspector Shig Sato. He re-opens the case and follows the clues. What he discovers is more shocking than any official can imagine.
Will Sato bend to the will of his superiors and keep the case quiet, or will Sato go the distance to catch a killer?
Because someone just might get away with murder.
Tokyo Summer is available at Amazon. All you have to do is click here.
For your copy of Crooked Tales, click here.
You can find Joe’s other books here.