Joseph Mark Brewer spends his days with fiction and non-fiction competing for his attention. On the one hand, he creates worlds set in places where he has lived.
Leaving music school, 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.
After his naval service he returned to the U.S. and completed a degree in journalism at the University of Kansas. He is the author of the Shig Sato mystery series and the upcoming Tom Becker, Bounty Hunter series, and the editor of two books of non-fiction biography. Contact him here.
Tell us about your book, The Gangster’s Son. What is it about? How did you get the idea for it?
The Shig Sato character originally was in another story I had written. A friend liked the Sato character and at the time I was looking for a way to write about Japan. Not as a travelogue, or a history lesson, or as journalism. Just stories that take place in Japan that show the humanity of the people, their successes and failures, and how their society is different and yet the same.
NAW- Tell us about the character of Sato. How did you develop the character?
I decided to write about Inspector Sato not as a cop in a police department, and be stuck writing police procedurals. So the first book is about Sato’s last case and foreshadows his life after the department. He becomes a reluctant P.I. I enjoy watching Japanese movies and dramas, especially cop and crime and yakuza movies, and it all seemed to fit together with what I knew and what I wanted to write: mysteries with soul and compassion.
NAW- The Gangster’s son is a very exciting read because of accurate descriptions of crime investigation and the unusual relationship between Sato and Tanaka. How did you get the crime part correct in such depth?
Working as a newspaper reporter and news editor helped. Reading crime novels and watching ‘real life’ case files presented on television also helped. And I love to read. Tanaka is one of my favorite characters because he’s such the opposite to Sato in terms of career and ambition.
NAW- Tell us about the research you did for The Gangster’s Son. How did you go about it?
I broke down Gangster’s Son into several stories: the crime at the jazz club, the American GIs, the yakuza, and Sato’s wife’s illness. I was in the U.S. Navy in Japan and knew about the navy investigation service before the NCIS TV show became so popular. I knew American servicemen who dated Japanese women and of course they have their ups and downs like everyone else. Writing about the yakuza took some research so as to make sense of their customs and traditions. Most of what I know about Japanese culture and tradition comes from living there for five years. My son was born there, so that’s in important and unforgettable experience. I kept many notebooks and journals because I knew that someday I wanted to write about life there. So it’s a combination of sources, research, and my own memory that led to getting the information to build the story.
NAW- What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job or do you pursue writing full time?
My day job is working at a newspaper at night. I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years and love the work. Plus, working at night gives me time during the day to read, research and write. It keeps me busy. And – yes, I am looking forward to the day when I can stay home and write full-time.
NAW- Please name your favourite authors. Are there any you’d like to name as inspiration?
Some of my favorite authors include John Irving and Anne Tyler; the usual well-known writers like Poe and Twain and Fitzgerald and Hemingway; mystery and crime writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agathat Christie, the Americans J.M. Caine, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett; and too many short story writers to name. Raymond Carver is a favorite. I feel lucky to have read several Japanese author such as: Mishima, Tanizaki, Soseki, and Murakami. Reading these authors and working as a journalist in Japan has provided value beyond measure
NAW- Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
I completed book 2 in the Shig Sato series, The Thief’s Mistake, which is available now, and I am in the midst of writing book 3, Traitors & Lies. There is no end of trouble for Shig Sato! Also, I am publishing a small collection of Christmas-themed short stories in ebook form available Nov. 13. Also, I am rewriting a paranormal romance which I hope to publish in 2016, and of course, more Shig Sato mysteries and prequels – novellas that tell a little about the characters than the mysteries can provide. They will be made available to my email newsletter subscribers before publication.