MASUTO: THE HOLLYWOOD MURDERS
Living in Beverly Hills during the 1970s, I had the opportunity to study a rather unique habitat group. For the first year in California, I was wholly occupied with the beginning of my Immigrants series, California being the destination of generations of immigrants. Having struggled through 600 manuscript pages, I turned to something more relaxing.
At that time, I had completed twenty years in the practice of Zen meditation; and it occurred to me that a Zen Buddhist detective on the Beverly Hills police force would be an interesting and relaxing innovation, whereupon Masao Masuto came into being. He would be a Nisei-that is, a Japanese born in America. He would also be a Zen Buddhist, approaching the problem of murder in a Zen manner. And he would be the chief of the homicide squad in Beverly Hills: a small but remarkable city, dedicated to wealth in all of its complexities. And following the manner of Graham Greene, I would call the Masuto books "entertainments," to distinguish them from the more serious books that I had spent my life composing.
And because they would be so different from anything else I had written, I would take the pen name "E.V. Cunningham," which I had used some years before, during J. Edgar Hoover's blacklist against liberal writers.
The first Cunningham novel regarding Masuto, Samantha, was an immediate success, and through the years that followed, I wrote half a dozen more, continuing the adventures of my Zen Buddhist detective in Beverly Hills. In France and Italy, where the Masuto books became bestsellers, they were published under my own name, edition after edition through the years, and new editions are still being published today.
Now they are being brought back into print by ibooks, published for the first time in America under my name. As for their popularity during those long-past years, I can only say that at one bookstore book signing, I autographed over five hundred copies-which broke all records for a book signing.
So here they are again: my most remarkable Masao Masuto and Beverly Hills, that very unique city where, if murder is infrequent, it is perhaps more puzzling and more unusual than elsewhere. And I must add that I am pleased to see them under my own name.