The recent success of Barry Lancet, first time author and resident of Japan for over 25 years, reads like a bar-stool fantasy for any wanna-be writer, and Lancet's definitely enjoying the dream-like reality. With the TV rights optioned by Hollywood, positive reviews surging in across the globe, six countries joining the bids for translations, his mystery-thriller "Japantown" provides ample reason to celebrate. Yet Lancet modestly raises a glass to his main character, Jim Brodie.

"The idea for 'Japantown' started with Brodie," Lancet says. "I had this character in my head, and I wanted him to explain the cultural side of Japan, but because it's a novel and because you must have conflict, you can't only focus on the highs. You need the lows for balance."

A Californian native, Lancet deftly applies his years of living and working in Tokyo to forge a character close to home on both continents. San Francisco art dealer Jim Brodie inherits his father's Tokyo-based, private investigation firm. A modern hard-boiled detective with a zen streak and the soft appeal of a widowed, single dad, Brodie brings the cultural side of Japan together with its shadowy underbelly. It is this fusion that Lancet believes most appeals: "Japan in general is popular because it has so many cultural elements that are still accessible. You can talk about gardens, you can talk about zen; the list is endless. But a lot of Asian countries have let their cultural elements fall by the wayside, or in the case of China, have systematically eradicated them. In Japan they are still here, and that's the appeal. But a thriller must have some dastardly element, the black-hatters, and Japan has that as well, like any country."