Nom de Plume
Author: Arimasa Ōsawa
Specifications: ISBN  978-4062208000
253 pages
13.4 x 19.0 cm / 5.3 x 7.6 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kodansha Ltd.
Tokyo, 2017
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This is a collection of eight short stories written as first-person narratives. There are no police detectives or sleuths, no elaborate tricks. Each story is written as if author Arimasa Ōsawa has momentarily laid down his pen to chat about strange experiences in his life—in the process exposing the murky line between fact and fiction.

The narrator for all of the stories is the same, an award-winning writer who drops out of university to work his way to fame for his police mystery novels while still in his mid-twenties—an initial description, by the way, that perfectly fits Ōsawa’s own 30-year-plus career.

The title story, Nom de Plume, opens with a party at which the author finds himself seated next to Kusamochi, an editor he has known for some time. Kusamochi asks him if he is acquainted with a writer using the nom de plume Jun Kashiwagi who has won a literary award and been named a candidate for still another award for a novel published the same year as the first. Kusamochi confides that Kashiwagi is actually a beautiful woman in her forties, the widow of a famous man, and, above all, an avid fan of the author. Hearing that Kashiwagi once worked in the nightlife district and had based her novel on her experiences there, the author starts to wonder: Could she possibly be the wife of Seiichi Ebina, an old schoolmate? Ebina had been a prolific reader and the author thinks of him as a mentor, the person who got him launched on his career as a mystery writer. Just about the time the author produced his first bestseller, Ebina was being touted as the developer of top-selling game software, and the two had long since fallen out of touch. The last time they met was about a decade ago when Ebina contacted the author to tell him he had terminal cancer and was in a hospice facility. When the author pays him a visit, Ebina hands him a manuscript and asks him to read it. The next day, Ebina dies. Seemingly inspired by the author’s success, Ebina had been writing his own stories and submitting them repeatedly to be considered for literary prizes. And his writings were hard-boiled detective stories—the same genre as that of the author. Suppose, the author muses, these stories were actually co-authored by Ebina and Kashiwagi? He decides to keep Ebina’s manuscript to himself and to avoid a face-to-face meeting with Kashiwagi.

Other tales in the collection—Yūrei (Ghost), in which the author learns from a reader about a secret crime syndicate, and Kakunin (Confirmation), in which the author seeks to confirm that the killer in the story really exists—give the reader a rare glimpse into the creative process by which a mystery writer decides whether or not to weave actual facts into the fabric of a fictional story. Ōsawa still writes out his stories in longhand and this particular collection of his work reveals fascinating vignettes of his lifestyle and musings.