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Quick Draw

by Elliott Samuels

Staff Writer

There’s a certain amount of irony in choosing a desolate corner of Death Valley, California, to conduct a high-risk drug deal, but the female protagonist in Shu Ejima’s award-winning debut work doesn’t appear to have had much choice in the matter.

Quick Draw, by Shu Ejima
Translated by Christopher D. Scott.
Vertical, Fiction.

Yuko Kawabuchi, nicknamed “Butch” by her friends, desperately wants a chance to start a new life and agrees to transport $75,000 worth of cocaine to a mafioso in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, a police detective investigates the massacre of an entire family in Los Angeles, making some surprise discoveries along the way before very quickly getting in over his head with a criminal kingpin named Big Gordan. And as if those plotlines weren’t screaming imminent danger, a mysterious boy turns up carrying nothing but a guitar case.

Offering an example of modern storytelling at its finest, “Quick Draw” takes a classic tale of revenge and places it enticingly in a spaghetti Western setting in the Mojave Desert.

There’s certainly plenty of action on offer and Butch never quite feels completely safe from the thugs that have been dispatched to intercept her. Fortunately for her, however, someone was always watching over her: “Just as (Butch) sensed that the gun aimed at her was about to go off, it dropped limply to the ground. Along with the hand that was holding it.”

“Quick Draw” deservedly won the 2012 Golden Elephant Award, an honor bestowed on Japanese novelists in the hope that their work will attract worldwide prominence, and I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if this fast-paced thriller doesn’t win over a few more fans.