"Black Wind" is one of only two novels that are part of the "Secret History of the World" but that are not part of either the Adversary Cycle or the Repairman Jack Series (the other is "Sibs"). Even though I have been an avid fan of all 21 novels comprising the two series just referred to, plus several other novels and anthologies and written by FP Wilson, somehow I never read Black Wind until this week, immediately after reading the last RJ entry, "The Dark at the End". I was immediately sucked into this rich tapestry of life in the early part of the 20th century in the US and Japan. While the novel does contain the FPW trademarks of horror/fantasy (the titular Black Wind), even discounting these, it is wonderfully complex with several unexpected plot twists and not one but two bona fide love stories. The main characters are richly drawn and the interpersonal relations between Japanese brothers, Matsuo and Hiroki, the beautiful Meiko, and Matsuo's American friend Frankie are deeply intertwined.
This is historical fiction at its best. The setting flips back and forth between Japan and California from the 1920s through the end of WWII. FPW really did his homework on this one and it shows clearly. There is some really good authentic Japanese thrown in and used in a way so as to define it in context (a lá Shogun), and great examples, in deeds and discussion, of traditional Japanese cultural values of honor, obligation (several different kinds) and debt. The conspiracy theory concerning what we knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and when, has been treated in fact and fiction before, but this is as good a fictional treatment as I have read anywhere, and is used to great advantage by FPW. There are a number of historical figures depicted much as I know them to be from my reading of history, but the main characters are FPW's creations. The tie-in with the "Secret History of the World" is, as most FPW fans could have predicted, through an ancient katana sword that is bequeathed to Matsuo, the main character, early in the novel. The sword is an important player in the novel, but here is simply an excellent katana, albeit of somewhat ancient and unusual construction. For RJ fans, the 2008 novel, "By the Sword" is, in many respects, virtually a sequel to Black Wind, as well as an integral part of the beginning of the end-game of the Secret History of the World.
This might be the best example of pure mainstream fiction writing by FPW, especially if you are not particularly into SF and/or fantasy. Make no mistake, there are some pretty horrific scenes in this one too, it's just that they are the icing rather than the cake itself, in contrast to much of the Adversary Cycle and Repairman Jack in which the fantasy and horror aspects tend to take center stage. I can't say enough good things about Black Wind. It has quickly jumped right to the A-list of my all-time FPW favorites. The novel is completely stand-alone - one doesn't have to have read anything else by FPW for full appreciation, but for fans of RJ and the Adversary Cycle, it does fill in a few blanks, and as I mentioned, fans of Black Wind will probably want to read the sequel, By the Sword.
Very Highly Recommended.