Verdict: An atmospheric, but rambling novel about crime, sex and drugs in the notorious Roppongi section of Tokyo.
After spending some time in Israel, Australian Zack Morrissey returns to Tokyo, specifically its debauched Roppongi district. He picks up where he left off with his friends, gets a job as the dance manager at a strip club, and resumes his lucrative meth and E-dealing business, this time with a new, Israeli supplier. In addition to an abundance of available drugs, Zack has some equally available women, including Anna, a married English flight attendant, and Sofia, a club hostess who is the mistress of an elderly Yakuza crime lord.
During a time out between jobs, Zack falls in love with a Canadian beauty named Carla. But all is not rosy, as the police suspect him of the murder of his best friend, Hans, whose severed head is recovered from Tokyo Bay. And an ambitious Nigerian named Max proposes that he consolidate and coordinate the Yakuza’s various drug activities, but must first prove himself by getting rid of Zack. How Zack manages to negotiate his way between cops and criminals and stay alive forms the core of this gritty novel.
If the road traveled by Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty had extended all the way to Tokyo, Jack Kerouac might have included Roppongi in his itinerary. As it is, this novel, which owes much to the spirit of Kerouac and Burroughs, is short on plot and long on atmosphere. There are pungent descriptions of Zack’s drug-fueled sex life, but these begin to pall after a while, and the reader yearns for a little character development. The novel, however, redeems itself whenever the author has Zack fire off such trenchant comments as this reality check given to a female friend about living in Japan: “You’re in a patriarchal, misogynistic, xenophobic, practically caste-driven country with an organized crime system that would put most Fortune 500 companies to shame.” At moments like this, Roppongi scores.
Reviewed by Ken Salikof for IndieReader