Book review:『渇きの街』by Kenzo Kitakata

渇きの町 (かわきのまち)
Title: 渇きの町 (かわきのまち)
First published: 1984
Page Count: 312
Takashi is working for a club and enjoys a rather good position given that he has been doing this job for six years. However, his temperament and inclination to violence soon leave him jobless. The path he then chooses gives him access to more money, but also leads him further and further into violence.

First of all, I should say that I don’t like the hardboiled genre, but because I love detective fiction in general, I would still enjoy a hardboiled novel that features a private detective or some kind of case to solve.

In 渇きの街 however, we have the hardboiled part but not the detective part, as our protagonist belongs more to the organised crime than he fights it. As a result, there is not a single thing that I liked in this book, and I would never have read it if it weren’t for my project to read all the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award.

This book has very good reviews by fans of the genre, so if you like hardboiled fiction, you should give this book a try without reading my review. After all, it did win the prize.

Most of all, I disliked the protagonist. Protagonists of hardboiled fiction are usually not the ones that I like the most, but Takashi was just a character I hated from beginning to finish, which makes it very difficult to read the book. What I found the most puzzling is that I don’t think that the author wanted the reader to hate Takashi, he is just a kind of anti-hero that the reader should like as such. But for me, it was impossible to do so, and as a result, I found the end very strange and even a bit enraging.

I also did not like the structure of the book that feels very repetitive at first. It looks like there are some typical scenes (Takashi beats someone, Takashi with woman 1, Takashi with woman 2, etc.) that just repeat themselves. There is no real plot, it is more the daily life of a criminal. Sure, the book describes how Takashi dives more and more into violence, but the character of Takashi himself is not interesting enough (at least not to me) to make me care about what he becomes.

The book is mostly based on dialogues that are very fast-paced, which is, I believe, a characteristic of the genre. This made it pleasant to read to some extend, especially because the dialogues feel very realistic. But apart from the dialogues, the style is super dry. We have a succession of very short sentences that describe what the character does. I personally dislike this style, but I can see that some people may like it. I guess it feels like watching a movie. You never hear the character’s thoughts, you don’t know what he thinks, you can only judge him from what he does and says.

To me, this book was a complete miss, it describes the word of crime and violence, but there is no investigation, no mystery, no deductions to make it more appealing. The fact that I disliked both the protagonist and the writing style did not leave much to enjoy.