I began the novel while residing in a Tokyo “gaijin house” much like the one described in ABCOB. This followed on the heels of four years teaching in suburban Chiba, where action also takes place. Starting off under the provisional title “The Bomb” and then “The Disappearance of Darren Loewe” and then “Testcut,” the book morphed into recognizable shape as “Arisugawa Park” when I moved back to the States.
The international thriller angle took shape through the experience of earning an MA at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and completing an internship in Washington DC with the International Trade Commission. I learned enough about how superstructure systems work to write realistically about them. I left that milieu just in the nick of time, preventing a stilted and quant-heavy style of writing from infecting my fiction. Still, I had years of unlearning to do.
I have also worked to make each scene relevant within a complex, linearly unfolding, narrative that contains several puzzle elements. I rarely find a thriller or whodunnit these days that does not disappoint in the confusing, tacked-on explanations of what occurred at the end.
Because the thrust of ABCOB is not explicitly whodunnit, the pieces may fit together in a way that the reader is not expecting and thus have a more powerful cumulative effect at denouement.
The narrative is set in 2007, which reflects the era in which the bulk of the first half was initially written. One thing that has surprised me in going back and revising the manuscript, about six years after it was last passed on by publishers, and 15 years after its inception, is how relevant many of the themes are to recent geopolitical developments.
That said, the novel, as written, could not exist in any year but 2020. Stylistically, the passively structured, Japanese-influenced elements of the original manuscript have been combined with a contemporary, active, punctuated prose. (Thanks social media!) This may lend the work a multi-layered originality that I am proud to call my own.
One other aspect of ABCOB is important to me. Throughout the narrative, I am seeking to avoid the often gratuitous elements of violence and predation that we find in many contemporary narratives––even those that nominally stand against such actions. I am more interested in subtle, naturally unfolding, interplays between characters and events. That said, this book is no cozy––there are gritty elements at play and I beg the forbearance of the sensitive reader in certain sections.