Why Ghosts Appear - novel by Todd Shimoda, art LJC Shimoda
Why Ghosts Appear - novel by Todd Shimoda, art LJC Shimoda
A Tokyo private detective searches for the missing son of a fortuneteller, as a failed case from the past also haunts him.
A Tokyo private detective searches for the missing son of a fortuneteller, as a failed case from the past also haunts him. Read more
Hello from Chin Music Press! Lucia Silva, NPR commentator, declares us “a triumphant kick in the pants for anyone who doubts the future of paper-and-ink books.” We take time to produce high-quality, high-design books that, like a slow food meal, can be savored. In the eBook era, we still believe in the physical book, relish its feel and magical low-tech ability to provide a sensuous experience.
Of course, producing these kinds of books requires a lot of resources, which can be difficult to find for a small press. And for the Shimodas’ third book with us, we want to create and produce a design above and beyond our usual high standards. We are well on our way, as the book has been written and edited, and the art is finished. It is in the final stages of proofing and design and should go to the printers by the end of July, 2015. With your help we can make this unique, page-turning, art-filled novel happen.
First there is the story. Award-winning author, Todd Shimoda, has completed a literary noir mystery which, like his other novels, will stay with you long after you’ve read it. Why Ghosts Appear begins with the detective’s visit to a fortuneteller whose son failed to show up for the annual ancestors’ respect holiday. The son is an entomology illustrator who travels extensively but has always returned for the holiday. The clues to the fate of the missing son lead the detective through labyrinths of fortunetelling, corruption, and dark vices fueled by the bubble economy of the 80s.
The vaporous case reminds the detective of a previous case from twenty years ago. A young woman hired him to find her husband who vanished on his way to a train station. The case ended badly with a death and a suicide, and without a clear resolution. But worse, the detective became entangled in the lives of those he investigated, nearly always a fatal mistake for PIs.
As both cases intertwine, the detective struggles with his personal demons of loneliness and alcoholism. The cases turn violent when he discovers an underlying criminal conspiracy involving the son, and the illegal activities of the wife from the previous case. He finds only wispy traces of the son’s existence, so much so that he believes he is searching for a ghost. And as the detective works to solve both cases it comes with a cost: he finds his own life more ghost-like than one of substance.
Having seen no one go up to the fortuneteller’s house, I waited until the sidewalks were empty of pedestrians, then got out of my car and walked up the hill. I assumed the role of a friendly relative coming to pay a visit, leaving my briefcase in the car to reduce my salesman-like appearance. At the front door, I knocked with the quick confidence of someone who has been invited. I expected no one to answer and was rewarded in my belief. That’s all we really have: beliefs. We don’t have facts or truths; they are subjective, often wrong. We can only believe. Sometimes we are rewarded, sometimes we are not.
I rapped again. This time with the slower, dull knocks of uncertainty. Immediately, I checked around the vicinity for neighbors. Seeing no one, I slipped my lock-jimmy into the door frame, flicked it, and sprung the latch. If I were challenged, my operation would be justifiable as I was hired by the homeowner and was now concerned for her safety.
The darkness was complete, enrapturing in a way. So rarely are we in complete darkness. Then, utter silence enveloped me when I closed the door. It was a complete lack of perception, as if I’d finally plunged into the black hole that I’d felt the first visit to the fortuneteller. The house was musty as all dwelling spaces become when closed up for more than a day, but there were no unusual smells from rotting food, or worse, a decomposing body. Feeling the walls, I found a switch plate and flicked on a light. When my eyes adjusted, I saw the house was different, yet the same, from the first time I sat with Mizuno Rie.
I went into the kitchen first. It was tidy, all things in their place, as if the fortuneteller cleaned before leaving. Living alone, she may have rarely cooked, but she wasn’t a bachelor like me who was used to eating most meals away from home. I opened a cabinet and here was proof: it was full of spices and cans of vegetables and bottles of oils and seasonings. Just off the kitchen was a storage room: pots waiting to be filled with soil and plants, a stack of old newspapers, boxes of plastic bottles waiting to be used or recycled.
I checked the two bedrooms, one was obviously hers, the other vacant, perhaps her son’s before he left. Both were tidy, nothing to indicate a problem. I went in the room where Mizuno Rie performed her fortunetelling. It too was in apparent order, furnished with only a round table, two comfortable-looking chairs, two lamps with simple, wood-and-paper shades. Her sign leaned against one wall.
Back in the sitting room, I looked again through the books and picked out the one titled Why Ghosts Appear. I skimmed through the first few pages. Yurei, I read, are ghosts who haunt a particular person for reasons usually related to revenge or obsession. Obake haunt a particular place and are usually the mischievous types that move things around, open and close doors or windows. Yurei, on the other hand, are on an altogether more serious mission: They have a strong emotional attachment that will drive them to chase a person to the ends of the earth. Then I came to this line: “Not everyone can become a ghost. It has to be someone who has extra psychological strength.”
Other than the picture of the son and the book I was given, I discovered no other evidence. Admittedly it was a casual inspection, a cursory glance at the veneer of life the mother had arranged after her son left home and her husband died. But then most of our lives are that way. My life is so insignificant it could be nothing more than air, or a tiny release of volatile gas, pungent for a moment then gone, dispersed in the atmosphere, its molecules diluted. My life had no impact on anyone, and sitting in the fortuneteller’s house in the dark this exaggeration couldn’t have seemed more true. I believed it and that’s all that mattered.
Conversely, not much in the world had an impact on me. I went through life absorbing little, reacting to the daily routine without much thought considering the continuous flow of sights, sounds, and smells. The event that impacted my life most, I would say if pressed, was the old case of the missing husband. Could I explain why? No, I couldn’t, the reason was embedded too deeply in my subconscious. And I didn’t want to go poking around because it would be like the fortuneteller’s house: a veneer of order hiding something that I would dread finding.
Clearly I lacked the psychological strength to become a ghost.
Art and Design
And then there is the art. LJC Shimoda adds more than fifty art pieces which add a unique visual layer to the story rather than offering a direct interpretation. She incorporates insects and other specimens, and their essence that appears as a ghost. Juxtaposed with these ghostly images is a collision of creativity that gives both a retrospective and evocative nod to the two cases in the story.
The printed book will be a hardcover with sewn binding, with approximately 385 pages and full-color art. Other luxurious touches that will make this book an objet d’art and a collector’s must-have include a foil-stamped cover, embellished end papers, and high quality interior paper.
We need to raise $10,000 to cover the costs of designing and printing this special edition. Most of the funds will cover the printing, which is at a higher rate because of the four-color printing process and the other luxurious touches. The other funds will be used to compensate our book designer to spend extra hours on the design. We will also print limited-edition copies of the original art as rewards for project backers.
We estimate that the books will be shipped in October 2015. The exact timing depends on production, printing, and distribution schedules. Backers of the project will be kept up-to-date with regular progress reports. Thank you for considering backing Why Ghosts Appear.
Who we are
Chin Music Press was founded by Bruce Rutledge and Yuko Enomoto in 2002 while living in Tokyo. “Chin Music” is a play on Mark Twain’s phrase describing a preacher’s sweet way of talking, and a baseball term for a high pitch that backs a batter away from the plate. With that in mind, our books would not only be risky, they would be beautiful.
Todd Shimoda has published five novels described as “philosophical and psychological mysteries with page-turning plots.” He received the 2010 Elliot Cades Award for Literature from the Hawai’i Literary Arts Council, the highest award in the state for literary achievement. His books have been translated into six languages.
LJC Shimoda is an accomplished artist, illustrator, and book designer, as well as the former curator at the Kaua’i Museum Contemporary Art Gallery. Her illustrations and artwork have appeared in many venues and publications, and she is the author of the book Glyphix for Visual Journaling: Drawing Out the Words Within.
Risks and challenges
The risks are low for completing this project: The book has been written and edited, and the art is finished. It is in the final stages of proofing and design and should go to the printers by the end of July, 2015. We have been creating beautiful books for over twelve years, and it requires extra effort, from the writing and editing to finding the right designers and printers. Of course, delays in the publishing process can slip into any part of the process. We have been able to minimize those delays and maintain a solid reputation with our distributors, book sellers, and our fans.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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