- The plot
- The setting
- The characters
- The author
- Where to buy
Kenneth Sharpe is a British expatriate consultant living in Tokyo. A mysterious stranger, who claims to be hunted by the American security services, presses a box into his hand shortly before being discovered dead under the wheels of a train at Tokyo's busy Shinjuku station.
Sharpe and his Indian friends discover there's more in the Hello Kitty box than he was originally told, and before long, Sharpe's life (not to mention his flat) are turned upside-down.
His whirlwind adventure spans East Asia, and involves the security forces of at least four countries, including North Korea, mobsters, and beautiful (if dangerous) women.
This edition includes part of the first draft of the novel, which described a fictional earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster, which had not occurred when the book was first published, but acquired a sinister new significance following March 11, 2011.
Kenneth Sharpe's Tokyo is not the Japan of geisha and cherry blossoms that you will find in travel books. Neither is it the exotic mystic home of martial arts and strange Oriental religious practices.
It is a gritty hard-working city, with an underbelly to it that intrigues and frightens at the same time. Yakuza mobsters and rogue intelligence agents mix with bankers and ordinary businessmen, riding the overcrowded trains as they go about their various businesses.
The Inknbeans edition (published 2013) contains a foreword by Robert Whiting, Tokyo resident, and best-selling author of Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Life and Hard Times of an American Gangster in Japan, the true story of postwar gangs in Tokyo, the backdrop to some of the events in At the Sharpe End.
Kenneth Sharpe is a British freelance consultant living in Chiba, outside Tokyo.
His girlfriend, Mieko Nishimura, has been divorced, and now lives with him in their small Japanese-style apartment.
Their friends, Vishal and Meema, hail from South India, and work as IT specialists in an international bank in Tokyo.
Masaaki Katsuyama developed new technology at Stanford University, which is now being sought by the intelligence services of several nations, as well as:
Mr. Kim and his daughter Tomiko (Katsuyama's wife), leaders of a North Korean gangster group.
And looking out for their own interests from the British Embassy are Major Tim Barclay and his assistant Jon Campbell.
All aided and abetted by a cast of police, and other extraordinary characters, including ex-CIA agent Al Kowalski.
This is the talk that I gave at the place and date above. It was well attended, and there were some interesting questions afterwards. The video below shows my talk and the first question. Many thanks to Jerry Suppan for producing it.
Hugh Ashton arrived in Japan from the UK in 1988, and has stayed there ever since. He has worked as a freelance writer (technical writer and journalist) since 1995, introducing Japanese technology and customs to readers outside Japan.
His experiences in the IT departments of major international banks have formed the basis for At the Sharpe End. As he explains, "Kenneth Sharpe is not me, but I could not have created him without having had the experiences that I have had."
In addition to At the Sharpe End, Ashton has also published two alternative history novels, Beneath Gray Skies and Red Wheels Turning. He is also a best-selling writer of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which regularly top the Amazon charts in their categories. These are published by Inknbeans Press as the Deed Box and Dispatch-Box series.
The paperback version may be purchased through Amazon, using the link below. Signed copies are also available from the author on request. Send an email message to the author, to receive a reply with the cost including shipping.
Payment via PayPal.
Amazon UK (currently unavailable in Amazon Japan - hopefully soon)
At the time of writing (end April, 2013), the Kindle version is a version of the first edition (without the Whiting foreword or the appendix), and Amazon is the only vendor for the paperback edition. Watch this space for updates.
At the Sharpe End ©2010, 2013, Hugh Ashton & Inknbeans Press