© Shotgun Honey
Jim Mountfield, the pseudonym under which I write fiction of a (usually) dark hue, has just had a short story published in the webzine Shotgun Honey, which is dedicated to the ‘crime, hardboiled and noir genres’.
The story is called Karaoke and is inspired by the seven years I spent living in Japan – seven years during which, astonishingly, I spent a lot of my free time hanging out in bars. The majority of those bars were frequented by suited salarymen, staffed by immaculate hostesses and equipped with karaoke machines. Although I was always too shy to sing at the start of an evening, I’d have somehow overcome my shyness by the end of it – a dozen Kirin beers might have had something to do with it – and I’d be up there warbling into the microphone with the best, or worst, of them. This was in the 1990s and the English-language selection on the machines was pretty middle-of-the-road and non-raucous – Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Pat Boone and the early Beatles – which meant I was usually crooning stuff like Fly Me to the Moon or Love Letters in the Sand. Eek.
As Shotgun Honey is about crime, however, the story features yakuza gangsters as well as karaoke-singing. Incidentally, the three main characters are named after three people I knew in Japan. Mr Ashikawa and Mr Hiraizumi were both teachers at the high school where I worked for the first two years – Mr Ashikawa was a calligraphy teacher and he’d answer the staffroom phone with a memorably singsong cry of “Ashikawa desu!” Maybe that’s why I made his fictional namesake a talented singer.
The character Umeki, meanwhile, is named after a lovable rogue I had in my classes while I taught at a university in Sapporo, which was my job for the subsequent five years. Let’s be tactful and just say he wasn’t the hardest working of my students. A week before I left Japan, the real-life Umeki invited me out for a few drinks and we ended up in one of his haunts, a bar whose interior resembled Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s penthouse in Diamonds are Forever (1971). I think he was keen to create the impression that he lived the lifestyle of an international playboy, but I can’t help suspecting that today he’s become a grumpy and greying Kacho-San (‘Section Chief’).
From unsplash.com / © Alex Rainer