Filling the Flask
By Susan Spann, Author of The Flask of the Drunken Master
One of the things I love most about writing mystery novels set in medieval (samurai-era) Japan is the ability use dramatically different “backdrops” for every novel, while maintaining the same detectives and central cast of recurring characters.
Japan has always been a land of dramatic contrasts—geographically, culturally, and socially. Even today, a ten-minute walk in a Japanese city can take you on a thousand-year journey from ancient temples:
…to modern neon lights.
This diversity existed (though in a somewhat different form) during the 16th century, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of writing the Shinobi Mystery novels. Each new story takes my detectives, Hiro and Father Mateo, (and the readers, and me) into a new and curious part of medieval Japanese culture.
In Claws of the Cat, it was the entertainment district, home to the teahouse culture and the entertainers who came to be known as geisha:
In Blade of the Samurai, the victim died within the shogun’s palace, and the investigation focused on the samurai warriors’ martial culture:
Perhaps my favorite novel so far is the newest one, Flask of the Drunken Master, because it lets me take Hiro and Father Mateo—and, hopefully, you—on a journey into the heart of Kyoto’s sake brewers and moneylenders’ guilds.
The idea for Flask came from my desire to spend more time with Suke the monk, a balding, nearly-toothless Buddhist cleric who often sleeps in the alley outside Ginjiro’s brewery. I’ve loved Suke since Claws of the Cat, and he fills a ‘standard’ role in Japanese fiction—the part of the holy fool, who speaks with equal parts silliness and wisdom.
Once the idea sprang to life, I needed to find a way to make a story revolve around a secondary character who spent most of his time either drunk or living in a world that had only a tenuous connection with the reality the rest of my cast calls home. I knew Suke would spring to the defense of the brewer whose shop he frequents—and that his creative view of reality would pose a challenge for those around him. That proved especially true for Hiro, my ninja detective, who ends up having to channel Suke’s awkward but well-intentioned efforts to prevent the monk from derailing the investigation altogether.
Fortunately, Hiro likes a challenge as much as I do.
I think it’s important for people to challenge themselves on a regular basis. If we do only the things we recognize or know we do well, we’ll never know how far our skills can improve, or how far our dreams and abilities might take us. That theme appears in my novels, too—especially in Flask, where Hiro begins to accept that his personal path from assassin to bodyguard is also requiring him to become a detective. Fortunately, he enjoys that role as much as I enjoy writing novels, and I have many more exotic locations (and crimes) for Hiro to visit in books to come.
Dreams are important, and lovely, but they can take us only so far. We have to push ourselves to fill up our “flasks.” I’ll continue to challenge myself to improve with every story, and to continue exploring exotic locations that offer unique and different opportunities to journey around medieval Japan. I hope you’ll join me on that journey—and also that you challenge yourself to pursue whatever fantastic places your own aspirations and dreams may take you.
The flask of your next adventure is yours to fill.
And if you’d like more information on Susan and her books besides what’s provided below, please check out this interview I had with her a few weeks ago———–>READ INTERVIEW
Flask of the Drunken Master, Information~
Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Series: Shinobi Mysteries (Volume 3)
Genre: Historical Mystery
August 1565: When a rival artisan turns up dead outside Ginjiro’s brewery, and all the evidence implicates the brewer, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo must find the killer before the magistrate executes Ginjiro and seizes the brewery, leaving his wife and daughter destitute. A missing merchant, a vicious debt collector, and a female moneylender join Ginjiro and the victim’s spendthrift son on the suspect list. But with Kyoto on alert in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, a rival shinobi on the prowl, and samurai threatening Hiro and Father Mateo at every turn, Ginjiro’s life is not the only one in danger.
Will Hiro and Father Mateo unravel the clues in time to save Ginjiro’s life, or will the shadows gathering over Kyoto consume the detectives as well as the brewer?
Flask of the Drunken Master is the latest entry in Susan Spann’s thrilling 16th century Japanese mystery series, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo.
Shinobi Mystery Series Titles
Book One: Claws of the Cat (Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month)
Book Two: Blade of the Samurai
Book Three: Flask of the Drunken Master
Flask of the Drunken Master Available at~
About the Author, Susan Spann~
Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).
A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.
Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.
Hashtags: #FlaskoftheDrunkenMasterBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #ShinobiSeries