Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shiro Hamao's "The Devil's Disciple"

"eroguro-nansensu" or as they say in English "erotic grotesque nonesense" was a school of writing in 1920's Japan. Decadent, druggy, kinky, and...fun. The most famous writer in that movement without a leader was Edogawa Rampo (yes it is a play on the name Edgar Allen Poe) and Shiro Hamao. Hamao was a lawyer by trade from a very well connected family. He threw that life away to become a crime writer, and an early supporter of gay rights in Japan. Died young, yet a dandy, Hamao had it all. And we can be thankful for Hesperus publishing these two short novels "The Devil's Disciple" and "Did He Kill Him?" 
Both stories are pretty pulpy, but it drips with Asakusa 1920's life, and both have a gay sensual quality. Imagine Cocteau writing a gay noir detective story - and that is pretty much what is here. So yeah, not a masterpiece, but nevertheless a fascinating writer in a fascinating country in a very exciting series of moments. 
Both stories deal with seduction that leads to a crime - and no regrets! One can only hope shortly that there will be more Shiro Hamao stories in English.
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