(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Seich Matsumoto is a premier author of Japanese mystery and detective fiction. Credited with popularizing the genre among readers in his country, Matsumoto became his nation’s best-selling and highest earning author in the 1960’s. His most acclaimed detective novels, including Ten to sen (1958; Points and Lines, 1970) and Suna no utsuwa (1961; Inspector Imanishi Investigates, 1989), have been translated into a number of languages, including English, and remain in print. Although Matsumoto is known for police procedurals that involve intriguing criminal investigations, he also wrote novels and short fiction that feature historically based mysteries.

Matsumoto’s works depart from traditional styles of Japanese mystery and detective fiction. Dispensing with formulaic plot devices such as puzzles, Matsumoto incorporated elements of social significance and postwar nihilism that expanded the scope and further darkened the atmosphere of the genre. In particular, his exposé of corruption among police officials as well as criminals was a new addition to the field. The subject of investigation was not just the crime but also the society in which the crime was committed. In a Matsumoto detective story, Japanese society is often fingered as an accomplice.

A prolific author, the self-educated Matsumoto did not see his first book in print until he was in his forties. He wrote until his death in 1992, producing in four decades more than 450 works. Although Matsumoto also produced popular historical novels and respected works of nonfiction, it is his mystery and detective fiction that solidified his reputation as a writer at home and abroad.

Seich Matsumoto Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Apostolou, John. “A Yen for Murder: A Look at Japan’s Ichiban Mystery Writer, Seich Matsumoto.” Armchair Detective: A Quarterly Journal Devoted to the Appreciation of Mystery, Detective, and Suspense Fiction 20, no. 3 (Summer, 1987): 322-325. Matsumoto’s creation of memorable characters is linked to the author’s own interests.

Hong, Lawrence. “Mystery as Poetry, Suicide as Literary Device: The Works of Seich Matsumoto.” Popular Culture Review 12, no. 2 (August, 2001): 1-14. Critiques Matsumoto’s unique style, positing that the author’s works of popular fiction are actually quite literary.

Kohl, Stephen. “Seich Matsumoto.” In Japanese Fiction Writers Since World War II, Vol. 182 of Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Van C. Gessel. Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 1997. Places the author in the context of twentieth century Japanese literature and society. Provides brief analyses of major works in various genres, including mystery, historical fiction, historical nonfiction, and archaeology.

Manji, Gonda. “Crime Fiction with a Social Consciousness.” Japan Quarterly 40, no. 2 (April/June, 1993): 157-164. A Japanese literary critic and associate professor who studies detective writers presents a picture of Matsumoto’s influence on mystery writing in Japan. Provides history and analysis of works.

Wheeler, Wolcott. “Seich Matsumoto’s Points and Lines: The Shortest Distance is the Truth.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 18, no. 2 (Fall-Winter, 1997): 59-70. Critiques Matsumoto’s novel in terms of its structure and its social commentary.