Street Journal, may
2th 1996 - By Matt Moffett
Truth Is Stranger
Than Pulp Fiction:
1 Writer, 1,039 Books
In Brazil, a Speedy Novelist
Finds Formula for Success;
Dynamite Helps the Plot
SAN JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil
-- Ryoki Inoue, the world's most prolific
novelist, has a problem you wouldn't expect:
Almost nobody knows who he
is. You won't see him hobnobbing with the literati,
or signing movie
deals. A rare autograph seeker mistook Mr.
Inoue for another Brazilian
record-holder, the fellow who bounced a soccer
ball off his head for 19
Yet Mr. Inoue can claim a truly astonishing
oeuvre. Some authors aspire to produce a trilogy
of books, the more ambitious a whole shelf.
Mr. Inoue measures his output in entire walls of novels. "Here they are
-- or at least some of them," he says, pointing to two walls of his
study that are covered with shelves full of his works. Production on
such a grand scale doesn't leave Mr. Inoue much time for literary
appreciation. "Truthfully, I haven't even read all the books I've
For the pulp-fiction king, that's a perfectly understandable
oversight. Mr. Inoue, known to millions of Brazilian readers by such
pseudonyms as Tex Taylor, K. Luger and Billy Smart, has turned out 1,039
books since abandoning a medical career to start writing a decade ago.
Most of his works -- which are usually between 100 and 200 pages -- are
easy-to-read Westerns with titles such as "Oh, Those Texans" and "Priest
Mr. Inoue, who writes exclusively in Portuguese, won't make anybody's
short list of Nobel candidates, but he lays claim to the title of
fastest literary gun in the West: He has churned out complete chapters
during trips to the bathroom; a whole book while having his truck worked
on in a garage; a novel and its sequel in an afternoon on the beach --
where he also wrote the entire 14-page newspaper for the coastal village
in which he was then residing. (He moved a couple of years ago to San
Jose, a quiet town near Sao Paulo, partly to be unburdened of daily
When the Guinness Book of World Records recently affirmed Mr. Inoue's
No. 1 ranking in titles published, the award certificate was already 15
books out-of-date by the time it arrived from England.
In the peculiar literary milieu inhabited by Mr. Inoue, tennis elbow
is more of a threat than writers' block. Burnout is a problem only
insofar as it affects his computer keyboard, which must be replaced
every five months. An exclusive contract with a publisher is
impractical, since Mr. Inoue writes books faster than 10 Brazilian pulp
presses combined are able to publish them. "Brazil hasn't yet developed
the capacity to absorb me," says the pipe-smoking 49-year-old author,
whose father was Japanese and mother was Portuguese.
Some Brazilian critics aren't impressed with Mr. Inoue's style. He has
branched out into slightly higher-grade schlock, primarily detective and
adventure tales, he has also attracted admirers. "Some of his books
wouldn't be put to shame next to certain foreign books that occupy the
bestseller lists," writes Okky de Souza, of Brazil's largest magazine,
What's the secret of his prodigious output? Mr. Inoue gets asked the
question so often that he did what you might expect: He set aside an
afternoon and wrote a guide for aspiring hack writers.
The plot has to be dictated by the taste of the readers and by
necessity of the market," he writes, eschewing all pretense to producing
art. Mr. Inoue generally shies away from political novels: "The reality
of the scandals always far surpasses fiction." He also shuns crusading
works about the oppressed. "Nobody likes to identify with misery."
Pulp tenderfoots are advised to begin by setting down their first
inspiration, be it a dialogue, a description or an action scene. The
writer can worry later whether the passage fits in Chapter 1 or Chapter
10. "The important thing is to abandon inertia -- even if it means
walking sideways like a crab," Mr. Inoue writes.
The author also recommends alternating between several projects at
the same time. Say that Jay Windy, a nom de plume Mr. Inoue reserves for
his most flamboyant Western dramas, is stuck for inspiration. Mr. Inoue
might then try tapping the imagination of Charles Hardwood, the
pseudonym he uses for his laconic World War II fictions.
Before he had adopted any of his 39 literary alter egos, Mr. Inoue
worked for a decade as a surgeon in a public hospital. Even in the
operating room, though, he was a frustrated cowboy, known for wearing
boots and Western jeans under his white operating gown.
In 1986, Mr. Inoue took a shot at writing about the American West --
even though he himself had never traveled further west than Newark, N. J.
In 10 days, he tapped out the 128 pages of "MacLee's Colts," the
an aging pistolero. Two weeks after he sent the manuscript to a
publisher, an envelope came back with a check for the equivalent of $30
and a terse note: "Write some more." He did. To support a wife
and two children -- comfortably, but not
lavishly -- on the meager pulp paychecks, Mr. Inoue developed a system
allowing him to write up to three books a day. The formula covers
everything from the maximum number of characters (20), to the minimum
number of killings (five), to the obligatory number of romantic scenes
(two, and tame ones at that). Woe to the unfortunate characters who
happen to be on the page when Mr. Inoue runs into a snag with the plot. "
Dynamite," he says, "resolves a lot of narrative complications."
By 1991, Mr. Inoue entered the literary record books, passing a
Spanish romance novelist who had written 700 books.
As he has moved beyond Western settings, Mr. Inoue has tried adopting
what is, by his lights, a more painstaking literary approach. "I like
doing one book in three days, rather than three books in one day," he
says. A milestone in this new phase was "And Now, President?" a
a U.S. president whose conniving counselors slip him a slow-acting
poison that mimics the effects of AIDS. Besides selling an impressive
35,000 copies, the 1992 work was also the first book Mr. Inoue ever
wrote under his own name.
The author also spends time coaching his 22-year-old son, who already
has written a score of pulp novels. "He's beginning young enough to be
really productive," Mr. Inoue says.
The old man himself isn't washed up yet, though. One night at around
10, with several bills stacked next to his computer as motivation, Mr.
Inoue starts to type.
The yarn begins in an airport, where Mr. Inoue's fictional hero,
adventure novelist Roy Hamilton, is accosted by a gorgeous, mysterious
female passenger. Against his better judgment, Roy is lured away by this
femme fatale. Soon he is peering down the business end of her .45, the
start of the adventure that will embroil him in a high-speed chase with
corrupt cops and a firefight with drug traffickers. By the end of the
story, Roy has acquired a wife, a fortune in stolen drug money and a new
Mr. Inoue finishes writing the 195-page book at 5:30 a.m., having
consumed most of a packet of pipe tobacco and half a pot of coffee.
Stumbling, bleary-eyed, outside to get some breakfast, he is stopped by
a newsboy hawking the morning paper. The world-champion wordsmith
demurs. "Who has time to read anymore?" he asks.
02 de maio de 1996