This week my new novel surfaced on Amazon USA, and will be out shortly via Amazon UK and Amazon Japan.

After the big earthquake and tsunami in the Tōhoku region north of Tokyo last year, I felt like I very much wanted to give something back to Japan, my home for the past 11 years – a place that’s equal parts inspiring and puzzling, a fascinating collusion of kitsch and cool, with a history ten times longer than that of my home town, Melbourne.

One Hundred Years of Vicissitude was originally an idea I toyed with in 2007, and then shelved while I finished off Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

Some of the original notes did make it through to the final version, but at least 98 percent was written between September 2011, and April 2012 – and the tone is completely different.

The novel was swayed as much by family (my late grandfather Les, my wife Yoko and my six-year-old daughter Cocoa figured significantly in its composition) as it is by my two ‘home’ towns of Tokyo and Melbourne.

Aside the essential story of identical twin geisha, war, death and saké, other things weighed in on the mix and I’ve decided to outline some of these here – as they deserve all the kudos they can get – so, if you’re curious at all, read on at the website of esteemed noir/crime/mystery reviewer/journalist Elizabeth A. White.

Otherwise, let’s cut to the chase here – cover art and packaging is extremely important to me. It not only dictates which books I manhandle in a shop, but which CDs.

I know this may come across as shallow on my part, but visual aesthetics are vital since I’ve been working as a musician and running a record label (IF?) over the past 17 years – and the packaging (and how it related to the music within that) was something we pottered over and fine-tuned over this period.

We felt that people who spent money on our music deserved to have something that looked as good as it sounded, images that were playful and pushed the boundaries as much as the sounds did.

Don’t get me wrong – the product itself still needs to be top quality, and there’s nothing worse than a bad book, CD or vinyl LP with an alluring cover. But fun, thought-provoking window-dressing never goes astray.

When I wrote my latest novel I had a specific cover concept in mind, and in fact this started brewing early on.

Back in 2007, as I did the preliminary work on this story, I chanced across a photo of two geisha, taken by another expat living in Japan – Julian Hebbrecht – and straight away contacted him, licensed the image and got permissions from all involved.

That was just the beginning. Any interested parties can find out more about the development of the cover art in this case over at Mihai’s cool site Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews.

Now to go celebrate with a half-decent bottle of saké.

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