Critical Acclaim and Legacy
Since its publication in 1989, Death of the Living Dead has been renowned as an innovative, paradigm-changing detective story in a world where even the most final of fates, death itself, isn’t what it used to be. The novel has had a significant impact on subsequent Japanese mystery writing, introducing the subgenre of “special settings mysteries” and upending assumptions of what a ‘mystery story’ can be. After selling over 100,000 copies and remaining an enduring and beloved classic of Japanese fiction for decades, the novel won first place in the prestigious Mystery Review Magazine ranking of the best novels of the past 30 years (from 1988 to 2018), and was awarded the title “King of Kings” as the finest of all Japanese mysteries. Translated versions of the novel have been published in China, Taiwan, and South Korea, and the story has taken Asia by storm. Now, after decades of interest in the English-speaking world, numerous requests on social media and mystery fan sites including Golden Age Detection, and a 2021 article in The Guardian newspaper, the long-awaited English-language version of Death of the Living Dead is finally ready to delight and intrigue readers across the world!
In the midst of the 1980s, an unexplained phenomenon has arisen to terrify the United States. The dead have started coming back to life. As the world grapples with a revival of the Middle Ages ideology of “Memento Mori” (“Remember Death”), a series of bizarre murders occurs in a rural town in New England. In this strange town, a family of funeral directors holds sway over everything, and a struggle for succession of who will control the family business plunges the eccentric cast of characters into a gripping and darkly-comic mystery, particularly when they learn that death may not be the end they thought it was. As the family members are themselves tasked with solving the crimes committed in their midst, the investigation is thrown into chaos as the deceased victims are resurrected and escape. With the family turned upside down, its youngest member, a punk-rock teenager named Grin, must take the lead and solve the case. Classic dilemmas of mystery, from hidden motives to locked rooms, are given a ghoulish twist when the dead refuse to stay deceased for long. And with clues hidden everywhere throughout this immersive, offbeat world, clever foreshadowing and careful deduction lead to startling and satisfying payoffs. What begins as a puzzling mystery soon transforms into much more, with action, suspense, and brain-tickling philosophizing on questions of life and death. And yet, this unconventional mystery has its own unique logic, and with the aid of his companions, Grin is able to deduce the answers to his most unusual situation. This acclaimed treasure of Japanese detective fiction, available in English for the very first time, offers readers of all tastes a thrilling and suspenseful mystery unlike any other.
AMMO Inc. is proud to present Masaya Yamaguchi’s classic mystery novel Death of the Living Dead in English for the first time. Set in America in the 1980s, the story portrays an unsettled world where even the darkness of death is rendered with comic absurdity. The appeal of a young outsider trying to find truth amid distrust, religious fervor, and a mysterious pandemic is perhaps more relevant than ever. America is afforded a unique look at itself that is both the revelatory view of an outsider, and an intimate glimpse into aspects of national culture that few will openly discuss. In throwing back the funeral veil on the taboos of death, Mr. Yamaguchi has crafted a thrilling mystery that has stood the test of time and achieved literary immortality.
About the Author: MASAYA YAMAGUCHI
Masaya Yamaguchi is one of Japan’s most acclaimed mystery writers, with a varied career that has encompassed novels, short stories, and literary analysis, as well as writing for television, video games, and animation.
While his style is experimental and consciously deviates from the existing mystery framework, Yamaguchi’s works are written as true Golden Age detective stories based on the principles of “whodunit,” “howdunit,” and “whydunit.” His novels are characterized by the usage of specialized knowledge of various unusual fields and professions, which then establish unique situations wherein the plots can unfold. These complex settings are then paired with his simple, accessible style of writing. Yamaguchi has written in a wide variety of genres, in addition to his mainstay of Golden Age detective stories. These include anti-mystery suspense thrillers, crime stories, hard-boiled, adventure stories, horror, science fiction, juvenile, black humor, parodies, riddle stories, rakugo (a kind of traditional Japanese storytelling), and many more. He is also a collector of mystery-related content and artifacts, including old books, movies, board and video games, stamps, records, and figures, and has written books on these subjects. Yamaguchi’s works are often used as supplementary materials for university lectures. Death of the Living Dead was adopted by Ritsumeikan University’s Department of Philosophy, and the Mother Goose-themed Kidd Pistols Series was adopted by the Department of English at the University of Tokyo.
I am often asked, "Why did you write your first full-length novel in a foreign country?" My answer is simple. The reason is that Japanese detective fiction is an imported culture. Edogawa Ranpo, the father of Japanese detective fiction, got his pen name from Edger Allan Poe. Like Ranpo, I was fascinated by mysteries when I read foreign works. That's why I adopted the methodology of foreign ideas and foreign settings in order to make sure that they were comparable to foreign works when I started writing my own novels. I also hoped that someday people overseas, the home of detective fiction, would read my work and give it a proper evaluation. This dream of mine as a writer has finally come true after thirty years of hardships and tribulations. Now I want to go back to my original intentions when I was a rookie writer and continue writing for overseas readers.
Based in Tokyo, Japan, AMMO Inc. is an entertainment production company which develops, finances and produces feature films and media content across all platforms for the global marketplace.
AMMO, Inc. primarily focuses on developing strategic partnerships between Hollywood and Japanese companies, with the purpose of acquiring, developing, and producing commercially-driven projects based upon Japanese intellectual properties, including anime and manga. Most recently, the company has completed production on two American feature films, the heartrending dramatic mystery Root Letter, and the blood-curdling horror mystery Room 203, in cooperation with US-based partner firm Ammo Entertainment. Both films are currently awaiting release, with Room 203 acquired for theatrical and video-on-demand release in the United States by Vertical Entertainment.
AMMO, Inc. is led by CEO Moeko Suzuki Tamano, who has established herself as an acquisition and rights clearance specialist. As a producer, development executive, and expert in intellectual property rights, she has overseen the development and production of numerous high-profile international collaborations over the past decade. With the expansion into publishing with Death of the Living Dead, AMMO, Inc. aims to further assist in sharing the very finest in Japanese storytelling with audiences throughout the world.