Synopses & Reviews
Tanaka is a middle-aged yakuza. Once regarded as the heir to his gang's boss, he has fallen out of favor. Now he heads a small sub-branch and is probably stuck there for life. Though he has not given up all hope of becoming the big boss one day, he realizes he has to swim against the current.
Kitakata's characterization of Tanaka is a triumph of nuance. Ashes carefully lays bare a mob man not obsessed with expensive suits, jewelry, or prize women. Opinionated, irritable, shrewd, and lonely, Tanaka is a convincing portrait of middle age made possible only by Kitakata's honed style and marvelous eye for detail.
Originally published in 1990, Ashes is Kenzo Kitakata's first work to appear in English. A simple fact underscores the author's success: none of his more than one hundred novels has gone out of print. Filmmakers have cinematized many of his dense and incisive works, including Ashes.
"Male brutality suffuses Kenzo Kitakata's portrait of a middle-aged gangster....Like Tony Soprano...attracts our interest and sometimes our sympathy." The Globe and Mail
"[A] dark, hard-boiled mob story....Unfortunately, this novel is caught between being a convincing, character-driven tale and a low-octane mob story that never seems to come out with guns blazing." Library Journal
What The Sopranos does for the American mafia, Ashes does for the yakuza.
A deciding event in a yakuza mobster's career leaves this gangster reflecting upon his life and the events leading up to this moment.
What "The Sopranos" does for the American mafia, "Ashes" does for the Japanese yakuza. Tanaka is a gang boss who has fallen out of favor and realizes he must swim against the current to regain his power.
The vice and virtues of middle age are espied with an eagle eye in this hardboiled story about a mid-career gangster. Unfolding thorugh chiseled sketches and run through with tantalizing motifs, Kitakata's masterpiece follows the fortunes of a yakuza mobster as his moment of truth approaches. Cool, real, and cleansing, Ashes is a literary tonic.
About the Author
Japan's most popular and revered hard-boiled novelist, and a past president of the Japan Mystery Writers Association, Kitakata's stature is also evident from the dozen literary prize committees on which he sits. Kitakata lives in Kawasaki, Japan, near Yokohama.