Edogawa Rampo’s Tales of Mystery & Imagination

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In a recent New York Times interview, Annie Proulx mentioned enjoying the work of Edogawa Rampo (a pen name indexing Edgar Alan Poe adopted by prolific writer Taro Hira, 1894-1965, whose novel Black Lizard was adapted to the stage by Mishima Yukio, then twice to the screen with Mishima posing in one version.).

I tracked down a Tuttle anthology titled Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination, first published in 1956. Most are not detective stories. “The Caterpillar” horrified me. It has a very maimed veteran, like the one in the last part of Johnny Got His Gun (unmentioned in the biopic “Trumbo”). “The Twins” and “The Psychological Test” (free association) are first-person narrations of the tripping up of men who thought they had committed the perfect crime. “The Cliff” is the most Hitchcockian, “The Hell of Mirrors” the most dependent on “special effects” (elaborate machinery rather than narrative, though I’d say it has characterization). I thought “Two Crippled Men” psychologically astute (though a bit dragged-on). I thought that the lead-off, seemingly most popular story “The Human Chair” was too cutesy. Oddly, I swallowed the probably no more plausible protagonist if “The Red Chamber.” I saw the explanation/denouement”The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture” very predictable, very “Twilight Zone.”

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©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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