Born Kiyoharu Matsumoto in Kokura (now Kokura Kita Ward, Kitakysh City), Fukuoka Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu in Japan in 1909, he later adopted the pen name of Seich Matsumoto. A product of humble origins, he was his parents’ only child. Following his graduation from elementary school, Matsumoto found employment at a utility company. As an adult he designed layouts for the Asahi Shinbun newspaper in Kyushu. His work in the advertising department was interrupted by service in World War II. A medical corpsman, Matsumoto spent much of the war in Korea. He resumed work at Asahi Shinbun after the war, transferring to the publication’s Tokyo office in 1950.
Though Matsumoto attended neither secondary school nor university, he was well read. As a rebellious teenager, he read banned revolutionary texts as part of a political protest. This act so enraged Matsumoto’s father that he destroyed his son’s collection of literature. Undeterred, the young Matsumoto sought award-winning works of fiction and studied them intently. His official foray into literature occurred in 1950 when Shukan Asahi magazine hosted a fiction contest. He submitted his short story “Saig satsu” (Saig’s currency) and placed third in the competition. With three generations dependent on him (he supported his parents as well as his wife and children), Matsumoto welcomed the prize money. His modest success and the encouragement of fellow writers fueled his efforts. Within six years he had retired from his post at the newspaper to pursue a full-time career as a writer.
Renowned for his work ethic, Matsumoto wrote short fiction while simultaneously producing multiple novels—at one point as many as five concurrently—in the form of magazine serials. Many of Matsumoto’s crime stories debuted in periodicals, among them the acclaimed “Harikomi” (1955; “The Stakeout,” 1985), in which a woman reunites with her fugitive lover while police close in on her home. As is true of much of Matsumoto’s fiction, this psychological portrait reveals more about the characters than the crime.
For his literary accomplishments, Matsumoto received the Mystery Writers of Japan Prize, the Naoki Prize, and the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature, all awards bestowed on writers of popular fiction. In 1952 he was awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for “Aru ’Kokura nikki’ den” (the legend of the Kokura diary). Considered Matsumoto’s best story, it features a disabled but diligent protagonist who seeks entries that...
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