Michael Pronko | Discover Books & Novels on CraveBooks

#Followers: 181

Michael Pronko
verify tag verified big Verified Gold (Annual) Account

Member Since: 06/2023


For the past two decades, I have been living and teaching in Tokyo. I started writing the Detective Hiroshi series after writing about Tokyo for many years. I wrote about Japanese culture, art, jazz, society, architecture and politics for Newsweek Japan, The Japan Times, Artscape Japan, as well as other publications. My writing about Tokyo got me invited onto NHK (Japan’s PBS) and Nippon Television to talk and make video versions of my essays. I run my own website about the jazz scene in Japan, Jazz in Japan (www.jazzinjapan.com). Day-job-wise, I teach American Literature and Culture (novels, film, art and music) at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. Seeing my students react to America helps me focus on reacting to Japan. After discussing American music, art and literature in class, I’m usually in the right frame of mind to wander Tokyo contemplating its immensity and delight.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your hobbies and interests.

I live in Tokyo, Japan, and teach American literature, film, and culture here. I love listening to music, swimming, reading, and going for long walks. That’s hardly changed in my life over the years, but I feel all those are starting to connect more and more. I mean, all the books connect to each other, all the music connects, and the motion of swimming and walking has its own aesthetic to it. I love watching films and TV dramas of all kinds.

When and why did you start writing books?

I wrote a lot for magazines and newspapers for many years, but I was always working on books, too. My first real book was a collection of my articles from Newsweek Japan. That was in 2006, and I republished it in English in 2014. But a novel is different. I started the Detective Hiroshi novels a long, long time ago, but the first one came out in 2017. I’ve finished one a year since then. As for why, I just had to. It was too much inside me, so I wanted to shape the stories into a solid form. There’s a lot to be said yet, even though it’s all been said before.

What made you decide to tackle writing as a career?

It tackled me. I always loved writing, just the motion of words on a page was enough. And then the movement to my heart and mind and soul was mesmerizing to me. I always wanted to be a writer, but that’s different from wanting to write, and different again from “tackling” writing. It’s just a pleasure to know that people read what I write. It’s amazing to communicate that way.

Which one of your books or characters is your favourite?

Maybe my favorite character is Michiko in The Last Train. She impressed and moved me. She was my first “bad guy,” though she’s a woman, and I felt close to her, though she’s quite different from me. I have favorites in different ways with other characters, favorite comic character, favorite evil-minded character, and other categories like that, too. I like them all or I wouldn’t put them out there.

Which one of your books was the hardest to write and stretched you the most as a writer?

I think each one challenges me in a different way. They’re all hard, and they all stretch me. I’m always very glad to get them done, so I guess that means they’re hard to write. The last one has always been the hardest one in hindsight, but you kind of forget how hard it was once you start on the next one.

Who is your favourite author and book?

That’s hard to answer because I love so many. I love Charles Dickens, Cormac McCarthy, Hunter S. Thompson, Elmore Leonard. Those are just favorites, pure and simple. I'm amazed by so many writers, I couldn't begin to list them all. But maybe my favorite book has always been Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis. That book knocked me out when I was young, and each time I’ve re-read it, I’m more impressed.

What book are you reading right now?

Cormac McCarthy’s last book (since he passed on this year, sadly). And then, I’m reading about two dozen books on a batch of different topics—philosophy, history, Zen, jazz, and some books for the classes I teach. I have a batch of audiobooks I’m ‘reading,’ or listening to when I commute.

Where do you get your inspiration for your books?

I read the newspaper and get ideas from there, but also, I like to look around. It was tough during the pandemic because I wasn’t going out as much. Now that the situation’s better in Tokyo, I can really see people and all the dramas inside them. In Tokyo, you see a lot of people in one day, so at least a couple of them are stories to write.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare what? I enjoy taking care of my garden. Unusually in Tokyo, I have a little space out back. I love going for long walks in the city, listening to music, going out for live jazz, talking with friends, and playing the guitar and piano. I’m not sure if those are “spare,” as they seem very full and fulfilling to me!

Do you have any new books in the works?

Yes, my next book, the sixth in the Detective Hiroshi Series, will be out in October of this year, 2023. It’s called Shitamachi Scam.