There was a time when a record label — like Motown, Stax, or Atlantic — represented a certain taste and aesthetic that you couldn’t confuse with anyone else. Records were one major way this sort of thing surfaced, but books, too: an imprint like New Directions or City Lights Books carried with it a far better idea of what they published than more generically corporate monikers like Random House or Basic Books.
The only publisher I’ve come across lately that has some of that same guiding, idiosyncratic taste is Vertical: everything they’ve put their name to has been at the very least interesting, and often downright amazing. They pick titles that hit big at home in Japan, that open doors here in the States by dint of being readable, eye-opening and absorbing, and that are a step beyond the usual genteel “literary” offerings. Vertical’s previous forays into hard-boiled crime fiction from Japan have included works by Kenzo Kitakata (his Winter Sleep made me lose about three hours in a day without blinking), but now they have a new name to add to that roster: Arimasa Osawa and his Shinjuku Shark series. Read more