Sunday, 20 August 2017

James Buckler on The Genesis for Last Stop Tokyo

LAST STOP TOKYO is my debut novel. It is the story of Alex Malloy, a young Londoner who runs away from a life changing accident to begin a new life in Tokyo. He promises himself he will avoid trouble in his new surroundings but it soon catches up with him. Within a few months he finds himself walking through Narita Airport with a holdall he is fearful of being stopped with. When a sniffer dog begins to approach, Alex sincerely regrets all the rash decisions that led him to that place.

They say you should write what you know and this part of the story happened to me. I had been offered a job teaching English in Tokyo. I was living in the USA and had spent the last few years working as a salesman, a carpenter and a phone marketer, whilst trying to find something worthwhile to do with my life. Now the work had dried up and I had accepted the offer to go to Tokyo and taken a flight out, via Vancouver. When I touched down at Narita, luckily, my baggage contained nothing more than clothes and a few books. On arrival, during my first few minutes in the country, I was whisked off by over-eager customs officials along a series of starkly lit corridors to an inspection room where a group of silent officers meticulously searched through my belongings. I was perfectly relaxed, knowing there was nothing for them to find, but, as I watched them, I thought how unbearable the tension would be for someone who was guilty. The knowledge that a long spell inside one of Tokyo’s notorious prisons awaited them would be excruciating. The first murmurs of a story began to awake in my mind.

A few months later, I was teaching at the school I worked at in Shinjuku, deep in the heart
of the city. I had a regular private lesson with a retired financier who spoke perfect English that needed no improvement but desperately wanted to have someone to talk to apart from his wife. One of his favourite ways to find a topic for discussion was to bring in the local English language newspaper that was printed for Tokyo’s expat community. He would flick through the pages and find a suitable article and we would spend two hours debating the finer points of the story. One day, he found an article about a visiting English businessman who had been arrested on suspicion of a minor theft. He had been held in custody for ten days without charge or access to legal advice while he protested his innocence to the police. I was surprised and told my student how this would be an abuse of power in the UK. He shrugged and told me it was perfectly normal in Japan, that the authorities had the right to hold anyone in custody for up to twenty-one days while they investigated a suspected crime. He told me that this system, daiyo kangoku or substitute prison, almost always resulted in the suspect’s confession, as it had done in this case. I suggested that perhaps the suspect had confessed because of the long period of custody; that to achieve a quick release, any normal person would be tempted to plead guilty and pay a fine just to go free. I asked him to consider not just how unjust that situation would be for a Japanese citizen, but how daunting that would be to a foreigner, a gaijin, either visiting or living in Tokyo.

As I spoke, the flash of inspiration I experienced was like something from a comic book. I could see a thread running from the story of the wrongly incarcerated, Western businessman to my experience of being searched at airport customs in Narita. I knew straight away I had the foundation of my story. I went home that night and began writing the opening page. The result is LAST STOP TOKYO.

Last Stop Tokyo by James Buckler (Transworld Publisher Limited)

The funny thing with suffering is just when you think you've suffered enough, you realize it's only the beginning. Alex thought running away would make everything better. Six thousand miles from the mistakes he's made and the people he's hurt, Tokyo seems like the perfect escape. A new life, a new Alex. The bright lights and dark corners of this alien and fascinating city intoxicate him, and he finds himself transfixed by this country, which feels like a puzzle that no one can quite explain. And when Alex meets the enigmatic and alluring Naoko, the peace he sought slips ever further from his grasp. After all, trust is just betrayal waiting to happen and Alex is about to find out that there's no such thing as rock bottom. There's always the chance it'll get worse . . .

Buy it from SHOTS A Store

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