by Kurt Brindley
In Rainy Season we meet Richard ‘Rich’ Carmichael, an American, taking a hiatus in Tokyo and spending his days and most of the nights, thinking, smoking, drinking and writing. He alternates these activities between his apartment balcony and ‘The Low Point’, a small, subterranean jazz club whose entrance is opposite Rich’s block. However, his solitary routine is disrupted by the beautiful Miko, an alluring club singer who brings Rich more questions than answers…
I read Rainy Season in one day. Not because it’s a fairly short novel (175 pages) but because I simply could not put it down. It is not a poorly-written imitation of a Noir Romance, it is a Noir Romance. The opening was absolutely spot-on for the genre; sublime, stylised, descriptive and cynical. All the scenes played through your mind in shades of grey and black with the permanent tattoo of the rain which, in so many ways, is another character.
Rich is enigmatic and damaged. We are given small snippets of backstory but Mr Brindley is economical with the facts which builds reader curiosity and perfectly complements the narrative. We are occasionally gifted more insight into his mental suffering by the anguished fragments of writing from his notebook. He drinks and smokes to excess and wears an eye patch. All three traits could have made him a fairly stock noir character but he is written in a fresh and appealing way. Miko’s history is deliberately blank, a few cryptic remarks, but nothing concrete and again, it works. The two other main characters; Kaito and Takako, are the foil to Miko and Rich’s elusive qualities – providing subtle answers through their sweet-natured relationship and open observations. They were a very clever inclusion.
The plot is fairly simple and for a novel of this length, it works neatly. The ending was suitably ambiguous yet poignant. As befits the genre, there is a lot of clipped, stark descriptive writing and Brindley has mastered this functionality and form. However, this is not style over substance; the writing has a dark, poetic quality which hints at foreboding and implies so much. The short chapter structure worked well as it seemed to mirror the narrative and also, kept you turning the page. Editing was faultless.
An enchanting, expertly written little novel that will linger in my mind for some while – a bit like the cigarette smoke that metaphorically permeates the book itself. Highly recommended.