"BILLY CHAKA" SERIES; NOVELS
Tokyo Suckerpunch, Perennial (New York, NY), 2000.
Hokkaido Popsicle, Perennial (New York, NY), 2002.
Dreaming Pachinko, Perennial (New York, NY), 2003.
Kinki Lullaby, Dark Alley (New York, NY), 2004.
Isaac Adamson is a Colorado-born writer who resides in Chicago. Adamson admits in a Gate39.com interview that he is a fan of Hong Kong movies, loves Japanese culture, and grew up in a household where Zen was of significant interest. Naturally, Adamson set his first book, Tokyo Suckerpunch, in Tokyo. In order to more accurately write a book set in Japan, Adamson studied the Japanese language, researched both the traditional and popular culture of Japan online, reading books, and watching movies on the topic, and ultimately spent twelve days observing life in Japan and gathering specifics for various scenes in the book.
Tokyo Suckerpunch is the first book in the "Billy Chaka" series. Chaka is a columnist for the Cleveland-based Youth in Asia magazine. While covering a handicapped youth martial arts competition in Japan, Chaka is distracted by two mysteries. He helps a geisha escape from some thugs, but then loses her when she jumps out the window. Then he finds out that his close friend, filmmaker Sato Migusho, died when his house burned down. To make the situation more bizarre, Chaka learns that Migusho was about to film an unauthorized movie about Chaka's life.
Amy H. Taylor, writing in the Boulder Weekly, liked how Tokyo Suckerpunch began, commenting that "Adamson is skilled at setting the scene and developing twisted, cartoonish characters." In the second half of the book, however, Taylor thought that "the plot starts to unravel into a confusing mess." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "Adamson hooks the reader with fast action, clever dialogue and all-over atmosphere," and believed that if the book is marketed correctly, "could not only take off but develop a cult following."
Hokkaido Popsicle continues the adventures of Billy Chaka. Having been sent to the northern island of Hokkaido to cool off after striking a Tokyo film director, Chaka witnesses a porter's death at his hotel. Just before dying, the porter hands Chaka a card with a phone number and strange symbol on it. When Chaka returns to Tokyo to cover the story of a rock legend's sudden death, he sees the same symbol tattooed on the rocker's arm. Suspicious, Chaka investigates and soon finds himself dealing with the Japanese mob and a secret order known as the Phoenix Society, which experiments with cryonic suspension.
David Pitt, reviewing the sequel in Booklist, called the novel "fresh and exciting," and "an entertaining blend of mystery and mischief." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews found it "somewhat too cute for comfort, but, still, a good tale with a nice slant on geography and the pop scene." Writing in Publishers Weekly, a critic called the novel "a whirlwind of implausible but entertaining subplots," adding that "Billy Chaka's adventures are as vibrantly hypnotic as the best Japanese anime."
Dreaming Pachinko opens with Chaka interviewing a one-hit-wonder rock musician in a pachinko parlor. There he witnesses a girl's near-death experience after suffering from a seizure. After she disappears, her father enlists Chaka to help find her. He finds her dead, however, and investigates who may be responsible after ruling out suicide. Writing in Booklist, Pitt noted that the "offbeat adventure with wacky characters, odd-ball dialogue, plenty of laughs, and style to spare" is moving into mainstream success. Ilya Garger, writing in Time International, called the novel "a clever detective story that uses its exotic setting to high effect." A contributor to Publishers Weekly called the third installment of the "Billy Chaka" series "an exuberant mix of urban noir and anime style action, salted with cheeky humor."
Kinki Lullaby brings Chaka to Osaka, Japan, to receive an award for an article he wrote on a Bunraku puppet theater prodigy. When he gets there, the prodigy's father asks Chaka to find out the reason why his son has recently been kicked out of the group. While considering the request, Chaka meets an American at the hotel where he is staying. The following morning, the man is dead. Chaka looks into both mysteries and finds more and more links between the two.
Pitt, writing in Booklist, commented that "the series still feels fresh and exciting, and the author's jokes still hit their mark." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews praised the "skillful work," but felt that "the series formula starts to look a little worn and predictable." Writing on the New Mystery Reader Web site, Donna Padilla concluded: "This is an unusual but enjoyable read. Wisecracking Billy Chaka is an absolute delight."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2002, David Pitt, review of Hokkaido Popsicle, p. 1308; May 1, 2003, David Pitt, review of Dreaming Pachinko, p. 1531; September 1, 2004, David Pitt, review of Kinki Lullaby, p. 67.
Boulder Weekly, January 4, 2001, Amy H. Taylor, review of Tokyo Suckerpunch.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of Hokkaido Popsicle, p. 202; April 15, 2003, review of Dreaming Pachinko, p. 548; September 1, 2004, review of Kinki Lullaby, p. 819.
Library Journal, November 1, 2000, Heath Madom, review of Tokyo Suckerpunch, p. 132; June 1, 2004, Ann Kim, review of Kinki Lullaby, p. 109.
Publishers Weekly, October 9, 2000, review of Tokyo Suckerpunch, p. 72; March 25, 2002, review of Hokkaido Popsicle, p. 42; May 19, 2003, review of Dreaming Pachinko, p. 51; September 27, 2004, review of Kinki Lullaby, p. 41.
School Library Journal, October, 2002, Emily Lloyd, review of Hokkaido Popsicle, p. 196; February, 2005, Matthew L. Moffett, review of Kinki Lullaby, p. 156.
Tastes Like Chicken, October, 2003, D.J. Kirkbride, author interview.
Time International, June 17, 2002, Kate Drake, review of Hokkaido Popsicle, p. 60; June 9, 2003, Ilya Garger, review of Dreaming Pachinko, p. 52.
Gate39.com,http://www.gate39.com/ (January 20, 2001), Shane Stiles, author interview.
Isaac Adamson Home Page,http://www.billychaka.com (September 11, 2004).
NewCityChicago.com,http://www.newcitychicago.com/ (March 16, 2007), Tom Lynch, author interview.
New Mystery Reader,http://www.newmysteryreader.com/ (March 16, 2007), Donna Padilla, review of Kinki Lullaby.