December 6 [NOOK Book]

Overview

From Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park and Havana Bay, comes another audacious novel of exotic locales, intimate intrigues and the mysteries of the human heart: December 6.
Set in the crazed, nationalistic Tokyo of late 1941, December 6 explores the coming world war through the other end of history's prism -- a prism held here by an unforgettable rogue and lover, Harry Niles.
In many ways, Niles should be as American as apple pie: ...
See more details below
December 6

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price

Overview

From Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park and Havana Bay, comes another audacious novel of exotic locales, intimate intrigues and the mysteries of the human heart: December 6.
Set in the crazed, nationalistic Tokyo of late 1941, December 6 explores the coming world war through the other end of history's prism -- a prism held here by an unforgettable rogue and lover, Harry Niles.
In many ways, Niles should be as American as apple pie: raised by missionary parents, taught to respect his elders and be an honorable and upright Christian citizen dreaming of the good life on the sun-blessed shores of California. But Niles is also Japanese: reared in the aesthetics of Shinto and educated in the dance halls and backroom poker gatherings of Tokyo's shady underworld to steal, trick and run for his life. As a gaijin, a foreigner -- especially one with a gift for the artful scam -- he draws suspicion and disfavor from Japanese police. This potent mixture of stiff tradition and intrigue -- not to mention his brazen love affair with a Japanese mistress who would rather kill Harry than lose him -- fills Harry's final days in Tokyo with suspense and fear. Who is he really working for? Is he a spy? For America? For the emperor?
Now, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, Harry himself must decide where his true allegiances lie.
Suspenseful, exciting and replete with the detailed research Martin Cruz Smith brings to all his novels, December 6 is a triumph of imagination, history and storytelling melded into a magnificent whole.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
No one is better than Martin Cruz Smith (Rose, Red Square, Gorky Park) at evoking the sights, sounds, and peculiar textures of lives lived in extraordinary times and places. With December 6, Smith moves from the contemporary Cuban setting of his previous novel, Havana Bay, to Tokyo City in 1945, giving us a suspenseful, minutely detailed account of the days preceding -- and immediately following -- the attack on Pearl Harbor.

His vehicle for this hypnotic ride is gambler, con man, and suspected collaborator Harry Niles, who grew up on the streets of Tokyo and is, in many respects, more Japanese than American. Harry runs a popular expatriate bar called The Happy Paris and juggles romantic relationships with the wife of the British ambassador and a tempestuous former geisha named Michiko. Like many of his fellow Americans, he's convinced that war is imminent and is determined to catch the last flight out of Japan before hostilities commence. His plans for escape face many obstacles, including the obsessive scrutiny of two zealous agents from Tokyo's "Thought Police" and a crazed modern samurai with a long-standing grudge against Harry that can only be satisfied by bloodshed. All of this is complicated by Harry's penchant for high-stakes gambling and by his own peculiar ethical code -- a code that leads him into a dangerous shell game with Japanese Naval Intelligence and causes him to risk his life protecting friends, lovers, and even strangers.

Like all really good fiction, December 6 works on a number of levels: as a thriller; as a multilayered portrait of a complex, contradictory figure; as a meditation on Japanese culture, character, and beliefs; and as a cogent historical analysis of Japan's decision to initiate a war it could not possibly win. The result is a striking, absolutely authentic novel that illuminates one of the critical moments of the 20th century and confirms Smith's position among the most stylish and intelligent American storytellers. Bill Sheehan

The New Yorker
Smith's new thriller is set in Tokyo in the last days of 1941, just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor; its central character, the American Harry Niles, grew up in Japan, where his missionary parents were preaching the Word. Harry isn't very holy, however: he owns a night club called the Happy Paris, dabbles in assorted short cons, and spends much of his time with various mistresses, including the possibly murderous Michiko, the jukebox girl at the Happy Paris. As the rumors of war heat up, Harry finds that he is the victim of his own equivocal identity: Americans worry that he has become too Japanese, and the Japanese suspect him of being a spy. Smith's plot is more than slightly reminiscent of "Casablanca," and the spectre of the Second World War seems, at this distance, almost quaint, but the characters are so well drawn and the local color so colorful that these quibbles hardly interfere with the novel's pleasures.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In early December, 1941, Harry Niles runs his nightclub, Happy Paris, in Tokyo's Asakuza district, keeps a mistress, and makes plans to escape from Japan with the British ambassador's wife. His departure is complicated by the Japanese, who consider him a spy and arrest him several times; the British and Americans, who deny him any help; and a Japanese soldier who wants him dead. He manages to elude most of his problems, narrowly escaping only to discover that he is trapped in Japan on December 7. Smith vividly conjures up the beauty of the country and the ugliness in people. Along with clear descriptions of locations, he creates realistic pictures of a distinct time and place. While the protagonist is the most fully developed, the secondary characters, as well as those who play far lesser roles, quickly take on distinct personalities and attributes. The book has flashbacks of Niles growing up in Japan as a mistreated and neglected son of American missionaries. As the plot progresses, his background helps to explain his attitude toward Japan, the imminent war, his relationships with two lovers, and his love of gambling against the odds. Since the story takes place over three days, the events move quickly and the plot is tightly woven together. The result is a historical thriller brimming with action, odd characters, and an ending well worth the read.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
War-ready Japan becomes as nostalgically wonderful as the doomed central Europe of Alan Furst in the latest masterwork from the author of Gorky Park. The gripping pleasure that put Smith (Havana Bay, 1999, etc.) at the top of Cold War-era thriller lists was his detailed and utterly believable revelation of Moscow as a weary city full of real people. Here, it's Tokyo-on December 6, 1941. Smith's guide to the tinderbox megalopolis is Harry Niles, an American supposedly in the care of his drunken uncle (the only iffy premise) while his missionary parents beat the bushes for potential Baptists. As a gaijin-foreigner-Harry is the permanent victim of his schoolboy chums in their re-creations of samurai sagas. The games may be imaginary, but the beatings are real, and Harry gains legendary survival skills along with the language and cultural understanding of a native. December 6 finds him the owner of Happy Paris, a nightclub featuring the d.j. skills of Michiko, a Modern Girl as thoroughly independent and wily as the cynical Harry. The pair's prickly relationship is complicated by Harry's occasional wanderings with the code-breaking wife of a fatuous British peer and by the mortally frightening news that Colonel Ishigami, whom Harry caused to lose face as Ishigami was removing heads in Manchuria, is in town and looking for him. He's not alone. Harry's tormenting childhood friends have grown up, one of them making it into the inner circle of Admiral Yamamoto, and they too appear to have plans for Harry, whose own fate may narrow down to getting out of Tokyo before the balloon goes up. At the heart of Harry's problems is the little bit of bogus intelligence he's slipped into the militarymachinery in an effort to forestall the war that would inevitably obliterate the adopted country he loves so passionately. Intelligent, jazzy, romantic, unbelievably tense, completely absorbing. Worth the wait.
From the Publisher
The Denver Post [December 6] packs plenty of suspense....A page-turning thriller....A solid piece of entertainment and an undeniably brilliant display of the author's literary genius.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743250061
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/6/2002
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 121,584
  • File size: 416 KB

Meet the Author

Martin Cruz Smith’s novels include Stalin’s Ghost, Gorky Park, Rose, December 6, Polar Star, and Stallion Gate. A two-time winner of the Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers and a recipient of Britain’s Golden Dagger Award, he lives in California.

Biography

"You have to be an outsider to write," the novelist Martin Cruz Smith has said, and the protagonists of Smith's novels also tend to be outsiders, viewing their surroundings with the wariness and sharpened attention of the displaced. Smith spent his early writing years churning out potboilers, but with the 1977 publication of Nightwing, a bestseller about a plague of vampire bats that descends on a Hopi Indian reservation, Smith finally earned enough money to embark on the book he really wanted to write: a detective novel set in Moscow.

The book opens on a grisly scene: three corpses are found frozen in Gorky Park, their faces and fingerprints obliterated. Homicide investigator Arkady Renko is put on the case, but his superiors seem less than eager to uncover the truth. Dense, atmospheric and intricately plotted, Gorky Park drew comparisons to the spy novels of John le Carré. It was hugely successful, and was made into a movie starring William Hurt in 1983. Smith wrote a historical novel about the first atom bomb, Stallion Gate, before returning to Renko’s checkered career as a detective in Polar Star and Red Square. Though he bears some resemblance to the disaffected detective of noir tradition, the cynical, depressive Renko also exemplifies the Soviet dissident -- an outsider in his own country.

Renko has been immensely popular with readers, some of whom were disappointed when Smith's 1996 novel Rose featured a new protagonist. But most Renko fans were won over by boozy, broke mining engineer Jonathan Blair, who arrives in an English coal-mining town on a mission to clear up the mysterious disappearance of the local curate. Time magazine called Rose "the most interesting and richly textured crime story of the season."

One thing that sets Smith's work apart from other thrillers is the breadth and depth of his research. Before writing Gorky Park, the author visited Moscow, befriended exiled Russians and read scores of Russian newspapers and magazines in translation. For Rose, he spent weeks in Lancashire talking with miners and visiting mines. Smith's recent works Havana Bay, in which Renko goes to Cuba, and December 6, set in Tokyo just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, are equally fortified with research.

Though he's best known for Gorky Park, now considered a classic in the spy thriller genre, Smith is clearly a writer with more than one trick up his sleeve. "I never thought I would just be doing Arkady books," he once told a Salon interviewer. "I never intended to do any after Gorky Park, so I was pretty amazed when people asked me a few years ago what I was going to do now that the Cold War was over, as if I had been manufacturing missiles. I hate to be categorized. The great thing about being a writer is that you are always recreating yourself."

Good To Know

Martin Cruz Smith was born Martin William Smith, but changed his middle name to his grandmother's surname, Cruz. Smith is the son of a white jazz musician and a Pueblo Indian jazz singer.

George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier was one inspiration for Smith's novel Rose, set in the English coal-mining town of Wigan; another was a magazine article about the "pit girls" who flouted Victorian convention by wearing pants for their dangerous jobs above the mines.

Havana Bay, which reached No. 17 on the bestseller list, apparently didn't sell quite well enough to keep both author and publishers happy; a Random House publicity director told Salon that "[Havana Bay] didn't do as well as we'd hoped." After it came out, Smith left Random House for Simon & Schuster, which was looking to add more authors who could draw a male audience.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Martin William Smith (birth name); Simon Quinn; Jake Logan
    2. Hometown:
      San Rafael, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 3, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      Reading, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1964
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


Prologue
[MUST BEAR CENSOR'S STAMP FOR TRANSMISSION]

Letter from Tokyo

JAPAN APPEARS CALM AT BRINK OF WAR

British Protest "Defeatist Speech" by American

By Al DeGeorge

Special to The Christian Science Monitor

TOKYO, DEC. 5 -- While last-minute negotiations to avert war between the United States and Japan approached their deadline in Washington, the average citizen of Tokyo basked in unusually pleasant December weather. This month is traditionally given to New Year's preparations and 1941 is no exception. Residents are sprucing up their houses, restuffing quilts and setting out new tatamis, the grass mats that cover the floor of every Japanese home. When Tokyoites meet, they discuss not matters of state but how, despite food rationing, to secure the oranges and lobsters that no New Year's celebration would be complete without. Even decorative pine boughs are in short supply, since the American embargo on oil has put most civilian trucks on blocks. One way or another, residents find ingenious solutions to problems caused by the embargo's sweeping ban on everything from steel and rubber to aviation fuel. In the case of oil, most taxis now run on charcoal burned by a stove in the trunk. Cars may not have the old oomph, but passengers in Tokyo have learned to be patient.

In a country where the emperor is worshiped, there is no doubt about Japan's position in the negotiations, that Japan has fairly won China and deserves to have the embargo lifted. The American position, that Japan must withdraw its troops first, is considered hypocritical or misguided. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Secretary of War Henry Stimson are regarded here as unfriendly, but the Japanese people have great faith in President Franklin Roosevelt as a more sympathetic ear. A Ginza noodle vendor gave his appraisal of the high-level stalemate: "It is the same with all negotiations. At the last moment, resolution!"

In fact, one of the most anticipated events is the release of the censor's list of new films from Hollywood. There is no embargo on American movies. They fill the theaters, and stars like Bette Davis and Cary Grant grace the covers of fan magazines here. The older generation may sit still for Kabuki, but the younger set is wild for the silver screen.

The only frayed nerves visible showed in a speech delivered today at the Chrysanthemum Club, the meeting place for Tokyo's banking and industrial elite. American businessman Harry Niles declared that Japan had just as much right to interfere in China as America did to "send the marines into Mexico or Cuba." Niles described the American embargo as an effort to "starve the hardworking people of Japan." He also attacked Great Britain for "sucking the life's blood of half the world and calling it a Christian duty."

British Embassy First Secretary Sir Arnold Beechum said that Niles's words were "out-and-out defeatist. The French and the Danes fell through the treasonous activities of collaborationists just like Niles. We are seriously considering a protest to the American embassy over the activities of their national." The American embassy refused to comment, although one official suggested that Niles had stood outside embassy control for a long time. The official, who preferred anonymity, said the club's choice of Niles as its speaker was telling. "It's a strong suggestion of Japanese impatience with the talks in Washington, an ominous indication, I'm afraid."

Otherwise, the city went about its business in its usual brisk fashion, squirreling away treats for the New Year, perhaps lighting an extra stick of incense to pray with, but apparently confident that no final rupture will break Japan's amiable relationship with the United States.

[CABLE TRANSMISSION DENIED]

[MUST BE TRANSLATED INTO JAPANESE FOR CABLE TRANSMISSION]

Copyright © 2002 by Titanic Productions

Chapter One: 1922

Five samurai crept forward with a scuffle of sandals, eyes lit like opals by a late setting sun. A bloody haze flooded the alley, tinting street banners red, soaking drab wooden shops and houses in a crimson wash.

The story was tragic, true, profoundly satisfying. Lord Asano had been taunted by the unscrupulous Lord Kira into drawing a sword in the shogun's presence, an act punishable by death. He was beheaded, his estate confiscated and his retainers dispersed as ronin, wandering samurai with neither home nor allegiance. Although the evil Kira went unpunished, he watched the samurai, especially their captain, Oishi, for the slightest sign that they plotted revenge. And when, after two years, Kira's vigilance finally relaxed, on a snowy December night, Oishi gathered the forty-six other ronin he trusted most, scaled the walls of Kira's palace, hacked the guards to pieces, hauled Kira himself from his hiding place and cut off his head, which they carried to the grave of their dead Lord Asano.

Gen, the strongest and fastest boy, played Oishi, his leadership marked by the aviator's goggles he set high on his head. Hajime, second in command, had a face round as a pie pan and wore a baseball catcher's quilted vest as his suit of armor. Tetsu wrapped muslin around his waist, the style of a criminal in training. The Kaga twins, Taro and Jiro, were rotund boys in raveled sweaters. Both were ready to eat nails for Gen if he asked. Each of the five boys swung a bamboo rod for a sword, and each was deadly serious.

Gen motioned Hajime to look around the ragpicker's cart, Tetsu to search among the sacks stacked outside the rice shop, the twins to block any escape from a side alley of brothels and inns. Prostitutes watched from their latticed windows. It was summer, the peak of a warm afternoon, with neither clouds nor customers in sight, shabbiness plain, the city's poor clapboard houses huddled like a hundred thousand boats battered and driven by storm from the bay to founder along rivers, canals and filthy sluices, here and there a glint of gilded shrines, at all levels laundry rigged on poles, and everywhere the scurrying of children like rats on a deck.

"Kira!" Gen called out. "Lord Kira, we know you're here!"

A whore with a face painted white as plaster hissed at Tetsu and nodded through her bars to a pile of empty sake tubs at the alley's end. Gen approached with wide-apart legs, his bamboo sword held high over his head with both hands. As he brought it down, the tubs thumped like drums. His second stroke was a thrust. The tubs rolled away and Harry squirmed out, his ear pouring blood.

Tetsu jabbed at Harry. The twins joined in until Harry swung his own rod and drove them back. Harry wore two layers of woolen sweaters, shorts and sneakers. He could take a blow or two.

"Submit, submit," Tetsu screamed, whipping up his courage and raining down blows that Harry had no problem deflecting. Gen swung his pole like a baseball bat across Harry's leg, dropping him to one knee. The twins synchronized their blows on Harry's sword until he threw a tub at their heads and bolted by Tetsu.

"The gaijin," Hajime shouted. "The gaijin is getting away."

This always happened. No one wanted to be the vile Lord Kira. Harry was Kira because he was a gaijin, a foreigner, not Japanese at all. As soon as the hunt began in earnest, the fact that he was a gaijin was reason enough for the chase. Harry's hair was as closely cropped as the other boys'. He went to school with them, dressed and moved exactly like them. Didn't matter.

Down the street, a storyteller in a dirty jacket had gathered smaller kids around his paper slide show of the Golden Bat, champion of justice, a grotesque hero who wore a skull mask, white tights and a scarlet cloak. Harry slipped between them and the cart of an orange-ice vendor.

"It's going for the wagon," Hajime said. A gaijin was always "it."

Harry ducked around the ragpicker's teetering wagon and between the legs of the wagon's swaybacked horse, tipping a sack at the rice shop and pausing only long enough to whack Tetsu's shin. The twins weren't fast, but they understood commands, and Gen ordered them to block the doorway to a peep show called the Museum of Curiosities. Hajime threw his rod like a spear to catch Harry in the back. Harry stumbled and felt a hot, damp stab of blood.

"Submit, submit!" Tetsu hopped on one leg because the muslin had started unwrapping from his stomach from the effort of the chase.

"Got it!" Hajime tripped Harry, sending him rolling over the ground and through an open door into the dark yeasty interior of a bar. A workman drinking beer at the counter stood, measured his boot and kicked Harry back out.

The action had drawn the twins from the peep-show door, and Harry raced for it. The peep show itself was a gallery of muted lights, "mermaids" that were papier-mâché monsters stitched to fish and "exotic nudes" that were plaster statues. Harry backed up the stairs past the peep-show entrance, where constricted space meant he faced only one attacker at a time. The twins squeezed forward, falling over each other to reach Harry. Gen took their place, goggles over his eyes to show he meant business. Harry took a stiff jab in the stomach, another on his knee, gave a short chop on Gen's shoulder in return but knew that, step by step, he was losing ground, and the stairway ended on the second floor at a door with a sign that said NO ENTRANCE. THIS DOOR IS LOCKED AT ALL TIMES.

Blood ran down Harry's neck and inside his sweater. At school their one-armed military instructor, Sergeant Sato, gave all the boys bayonet practice with bamboo poles. He would march them onto the baseball diamond dressed in padded vests and wicker helmets to train them in thrust and parry. Gen excelled in attack. Since Harry, the only gaijin in school, was always chosen as a target, he had become adept at self-defense.

Hajime launched his spear again. Its tip raked the crown of Harry's head and bounced off the door. Gen broke Harry's pole with one stroke and, with another, hit Harry's shoulder so hard his arm went numb. Pressed against the door, Harry tried to defend himself with the halves of the pole, but the blows came faster, while Gen demanded over and over, "Submit! Submit!"

Magically, the door opened. Harry rolled backward over a pile of shoes and sandals and found himself on a reed mat looking up at a gaunt man in a black suit and French beret and a circle of women in short satin skirts and cardboard crowns. Cigarettes dangled from expressions of surprise. The air was thick with smoke, talcum, the fumes of mosquito coils and the heavily perfumed sweat of chorus girls.

The man carried an ivory cigarette holder in fingers painted red, blue and black. He tipped his chair to count Gen, Hajime, Tetsu and the Kaga twins gathered at the top of the stairs. "Hey, what are you trying to do, kill him? And five against one? What kind of fair fight is that?"

"We were just playing," Gen said.

"The poor boy is covered with blood." One of the women knelt to lift Harry's head and wiped his face with a wet cloth. He noticed that she had painted her eyebrows as perfect half-moons.

"He's not even Japanese," Hajime said over Gen's shoulder.

The woman reacted with such shock that Harry was afraid she would drop him like a spider. "Look at that, he's right."

"It's the missionary boy," another woman said. "He's always running through the street with this gang."

A man in a straw boater heaved into view. "Well" -- he laughed -- "it looks like the gang has turned on him."

"We were only playing," Harry said.

"He defends them?" the man in the beret said. "That's loyalty for you."

"It speaks Japanese?" Someone pressed forward to observe Harry more carefully.

"It speaks a little," Gen said.

The woman with the cloth said, "Well, your victim isn't going anyplace until he stops bleeding."

Harry's head stung, but he didn't find it unbearable to be in the gentle hands of a chorus girl with half-moon eyes, bare white shoulders and a paper crown, or to have his shoes removed by another chorus girl as if he were a soldier honorably wounded and carried from a field of battle. He took in the narrow room of vanity mirrors, screens, costumes glittering on racks, the photographs of movie stars pinned to the walls. The floor mats were covered with peanut shells and orange rinds, paper fortunes and cigarette butts.

"Achilles stays here." The man in the beret smiled as if he had read Harry's mind. "The rest of you can scram. This is a theater. Can't you see you're in a women's changing room? This is a private area."

"You're here," Gen said.

"That's different," the man with the boater said. "He's an artist, and I'm a manager. Go ahead, get out of here."

"We'll be waiting outside," Hajime threatened. From farther down the stairs, the twins rattled their poles with menace.

Harry looked up at the woman with the cloth. "What is your name?"

"Oharu."

"Oharu, can my friend stay, too?" Harry pointed to Gen.

"That's what you call a friend?" Oharu asked.

"See, that's Japanese spirit, what we call Yamato spirit," the artist said. "Loyal to the bitter, irrational end."

"But he's not Japanese," the manager said.

"Japanese is as Japanese does." The artist laughed through yellowed teeth.

"Can he stay?" Harry asked.

Oharu shrugged. "Okay. Your friend can wait to take you home. But only him, no one else."

"Forget him," Hajime said into Gen's ear. "We'll get him later."

Gen wavered on the threshold. He pulled the goggles from his eyes as if seeing for the first time the women amid their cushions and mirrors, the packs of gold-tipped Westminster cigarettes, tissues and powder puffs, the sardonic men angled in their chairs under a blue cloud of cigarette smoke and mosquito coils stirred languidly by an overhead fan. Gen looked back at the stairway of boys, then handed his bamboo pole to Hajime, slipped off his clogs to step inside and closed the door behind him.

"How is it you speak Japanese?" the artist asked Harry.

"I go to school."

"Japanese school?"

"Yes."

"And bow every day to the emperor's portrait?"

"Yes."

"Extraordinary. Where are your parents?"

"They're missionaries, they're traveling."

"Saving Japanese souls?"

"I guess so."

"Remarkable. Well, fair is fair. We will try to do something for your soul while you are here."

Harry's position as the center of attention was short-lived. A music hall might offer thirty comic skits and musical numbers and as many dancers and singers. Performers shuttled in and out, admitting a brief gasp of orchestra music before the door to the stage slammed shut again. Costume changes from, say, Little Bo Peep to a sailor suit were done on the run, Bo Peep's hoop skirts tossed in all directions for the wardrobe mistress to retrieve. Three or four women shared a single mirror. While Oharu removed Harry's sweaters to wipe blood from his chest, he watched a dancer hardly older than himself slip behind a screen to strip and pull on a ballerina's tutu. In the mirror he could see all of her.

Harry's experience with women was mixed, because his mother was on the road so often as partner to his father's ministry. Since Harry had been a sickly child, he had stayed in Tokyo with his nurse, who knew no better than to treat him like a Japanese. So he had grown up in a world of indulgent warmth and mixed baths, a Japanese boy who pretended to be an American son when his parents visited. But still a boy who had only speculated about the painted faces that stared from the windows of the brothels a few blocks from his home. There was something ancient and still and hooded about the whores in their kimonos. Now he was surrounded by an entirely different kind of woman, casually undressed and full of modern life, and in the space of a few minutes he had fallen in love first with Oharu and her half-moon brows and powdered shoulders, and then with the ballerina. If pain was the price of a sight like this, he could bear it. Sitting up, with the blood wiped off, he was small and skinny with a collection of welts and scratches, but his features were almost as uniform and his eyes nearly as dark as a Japanese boy's.

The artist offered Gen and Harry cigarettes.

"You shouldn't do that," Oharu said. "They don't smoke."

"Don't be silly, these are Tokyo boys, not farm boys from your rice paddy. Besides, cigarettes cut the pain."

"All the same, when the gaijin feels better, they have to go. I have work to do," the manager announced, although Harry hadn't seen him budge. "Anyway, it's too crowded in here. Hot, too."

"Damn." The artist felt his jacket pockets. "Now I'm out of fags."

Harry thought for a second. "What kind of cigarettes? We can get them for you. If you're thirsty, we can get beer, too."

"You'll just take the money and run," the manager said.

"I'll stay. Gen can go."

Gen had been dignified and watchful. He gave Harry a narrow look that asked when he had started giving orders.

"Next time," Harry said, "I'll go and Gen can stay."

It was a matter of adapting to the situation, and Harry's point of view had altered in the last ten minutes. A new reality had revealed itself, with more possibilities in this second-floor music-hall changing room than he'd ever imagined. Much better than playing samurai.

"It would be nice for the girls if we had someone willing to run for drinks and cigarettes," Oharu said. "Instead of men who just sit around and make comments about our legs."

The manager was unconvinced. He picked his collar from the sweat on his neck and gave Harry a closer scrutiny. "Your father really is a missionary?"

"Yes."

"Well, missionaries don't smoke or drink. So how would you even know where to go?"

Harry could have told the manager about his uncle Orin, a missionary who had come from Louisville to Tokyo's pleasure quarter and fallen from grace like a high diver hitting the water. Instead, Harry lit his cigarette and released an O of smoke. It rose and unraveled in the fan.

"For free?" the manager asked.

"Yes."

"Both of you?"

Harry looked over to Gen, who still held back, sensitive about the prerogatives of leadership. The door to the stage flew open for a change of acts, singers dressed in graduation gowns rushing out as ballet dancers poured in. The ballerina Harry had seen before didn't even bother with the privacy of a screen to strip to her skin, towel herself off and pull on a majorette costume with a rising sun on the front. To Harry, her change of costumes suggested a wide range of talents and many facets of personality. Gen had been watching, too.

"Yes," said Gen. "I'm with him."

"You should be. Look at him, a minute ago he was about to lose his head, and now he's in Oharu's lap. That is a lucky boy."

Was it only luck, Harry wondered? The way the fight had unfolded, the stumbling upstairs into the theater's roost, encountering Oharu and the artist, the transition of him and Gen from would-be samurai to men of the world all had a dreamlike quality, as if he had stepped through a looking glass to see a subtly altered, more defined image from the other side.

Otherwise, nothing changed. The following day he and Gen were at school again. They marched onto the baseball field in the afternoon and had the usual bayonet drill with Sergeant Sato. Harry put on his padded vest and wicker helmet so that, one after the other, Jiro and Taro, Tetsu and Hajime could take turns pummeling the gaijin. Gen beat Harry into the ground more viciously than ever.

At the end of the drill, the sergeant asked what their ambition in life was and, to a boy, they shouted. "To die for the emperor!"

No one shouted more fervently than Harry.

Copyright © 2002 by Titanic Productions

Chapter Two: 1941

Harry and Michiko were dancing barefoot to the Artie Shaw version of "Begin the Beguine," the Latin sap taken out of the music and replaced by jungle drums.

There was room to dance because Harry didn't own much, he wasn't a collector of Oriental knickknacks -- netsuke or swords -- like a lot of expatriates in Tokyo. Only a low table, oil heater, gramophone and records, armoire for Western clothes and a wall hanging of Fuji. An oval mirror reflected the red of a neon sign outside.

An erotic zone for the Japanese was the nape of the neck. Harry slipped behind Michiko and put his lips to the bump at the top of her spine, between her shoulder blades, and ran a finger up to the dark V where her hair began, black and sleek, cut short to show off the delicate ivory whorl of her ears. She was skinny and her breasts were small, but her very smoothness was sensual. At the base of her neck where it pulsed were three pinpoint moles, like drops of ink on rice paper. Michiko took his hand and slid it down her stomach while he shifted behind her. When a Japanese said yes and meant it, the word "Hai!" came directly from the chest. It was the way she said "Harry" over and over. In Japanese prints, the courtesan bit a sash to keep from crying out in passion. Not Michiko. Sex with Michiko was like mating with a cat; Harry was surprised sometimes afterward that his ear wasn't notched. But she did possess him, she claimed all of him with a backward glance.

How old was she, twenty? He was thirty, old enough to know that her heart-shaped face was offered as innocently as the ace of spades. And if Saint Peter asked him at the Pearly Gates, "Why did you do it?" Harry admitted that the only honest answer would be "Because it fit." Before lovers leaped into the red-hot mouth of a volcano, did they pause to reconsider? When two addicts decided to share the same ball of opium, did they ask, "Is this a good idea?" His sole defense was that no one fit him like Michiko, and each time was different.

"Harry," she said, "did I tell you that you were the first man I kissed? I saw kissing in Western movies. I never did it."

"Do you like it?"

"Not really," she said and bit his lip, and he let go.

"Jesus, what is this about?"

"You're leaving me, aren't you, Harry. I can tell."

"Christ." It was amazing how women could turn it off, Harry thought. Like a golden faucet. He felt his lip. "Damn it, Michiko. You could leave scars."

"I wish."

Michiko plumped herself down on a tatami and pulled on white socks with split toes. As if those were enough wardrobe in themselves, she sat cross-legged, not knees forward like a woman should, and took a cigarette and her own matches. She was the only Japanese woman he knew who made love naked. Polite Japanese women pitched their voices high when talking to men. Michiko talked to men, women, dogs all the same.

"I can't leave. There are no ships going to sea, there haven't been for weeks."

"You could fly."

"If I could get to Hong Kong or Manila, I could catch the Clipper, but I can't get to Hong Kong or Manila. They won't even let me leave Tokyo."

"You go all the time to see your Western women."

"That's different."

"Tell me, are they fat German fraus or Englishwomen with faces like horses? It's the Englishwoman you're always calling, that cow."

"A horse or a cow, which is it?"

She sucked on her cigarette hard enough to light her eyes. "Westerners smell of butter. Rancid butter. The only good thing I can say for you, Harry, is that for an American, you don't smell so bad."

"There's a lovely compliment." Harry pulled on pants for dignity's sake and fumbled for cigarettes. Michiko had a physical horror of Western women, their color, size, everything. They did seem a little gross next to the fineness of her hands, the sharpness of her brows, the inky curls at the base of her white stomach. But, call it a breadth of taste, he liked Western women, too. "Michiko, I hate to remind you, but we're not married."

"I don't want to be married to you."

"Good." She was an independent free-love Communist, after all, and he was grateful for any dry rock he could stand on when talking to her. "So what the hell are you talking about?"

She had the kind of gaze that penetrated the dark. Harry sensed there was some sort of silent conversation going on, a test of wills that he was losing. Michiko was complicated. She might be Japanese, but she was from Osaka, and Osaka women didn't mince words or back down. She was a doctrinaire Red who kept stacks of Vogue under a Shinto shrine in a corner of the room. She was a feminist and, at the same time, was a great admirer of a Tokyo woman who, denied her lover's attention, had famously strangled him and sliced off his privates to carry close to her heart. What frightened Harry was that he knew Michiko regarded a double suicide of lovers as a happy ending, but she'd be willing to settle for a murder-suicide if need be. It seemed to him that the safest possible course was to deny they were lovers at all.

"You're never jealous, are you, Harry?"

"How do I answer a question like that? Should I be?"

"Yes. You should be sick with it. That's love."

"No," Harry said, "that's nuts."

"Maybe you just wanted a Japanese girl?"

"I think I could have found an easier one."

Some Americans did take up with Japanese women for the exoticism. Harry, though, had been raised in Japan. A corn-fed girl from Kansas was stranger to him.

Michiko's long look continued, as if she were sending out small invisible scouts to test his defenses.

"The Western woman, is she married? If she's here, she must be married."

"I had no idea when I found you on the street and took you in like a wet stray that you were going to be so suspicious."

Suspicion was in season. Harry moved to the side of the window to look down on the street, at the flow of figures in dark winter kimonos. The evening was balmy for December. The warble of a street vendor's flute floated up, and at the corner a customer in a black suit shoveled noodles from a box into his mouth. In front of a teahouse at the other end of the block, a taller man nibbled a bun. Plainclothesmen had always watched missionaries, too. It was as if he'd inherited a pair of shadows.

"I saw them," Michiko said. "Are you in trouble?"

"No. Harry Niles is the safest man in Japan."

"You've done nothing wrong?"

"Right or wrong doesn't matter." He remembered his father, a Bible thumper with never a doubt in his righteousness. Harry's confidence was in his unrighteousness, his ability to dodge the consequences.

"So, are you going to leave?" Michiko asked. She took a long draw on her cigarette and rearranged her limbs, leaning back on her hands, legs forward, ankles crossed. He could just make out her eyes, the dark caps of her breasts. "You can tell me. I'm used to men who disappoint."

"What about the men in the Party, your local Lenins?"

"The men in the Party talked all day about the oppression of the working class, but every night they headed to the brothels. You know why I chose you, Harry? Because with an American, I had no expectations. I couldn't be disappointed."

Harry didn't know quite what she meant. The big problem with Michiko was that she acknowledged no rational position, only emotion in the extreme, whereas Harry regarded himself as pure reason.

"Do you want us to burn down, Harry?"

It took him a moment to notice his cigarette carried an ash an inch long. People who lived on straw mats had a ready supply of ashtrays. The one he picked up was ceramic and said PACIFIC FLEET OFFICERS CLUB -- PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII around a gilded anchor. Hawaii sounded good. Sunday would be the pre-Christmas party at Pearl, the same as at all U.S. Navy officers clubs around the world.

"Know what?" Harry said. "We should have a party. We're too tense, everyone is. We'll have a few friends over. A couple of the old reporters, artists, movie people."

"That's like the club every night."

"Okay, Michiko, what would make you happy? I'm not going anywhere, I promise. The entire Japanese Empire has marshaled its forces to keep me here. I'm blocked by land and sea and air. Even if I went to the States, what would I be, what would I do? My talent is speaking more Japanese than most Americans, and more English than most Japanese. Big deal. And I know how to buy yen and sell a movie and read a corporate ledger."

"Harry, you're a con man."

"I'm a philosopher. My philosophy is, give the people what they want."

"Do you give women what they want?"

Michiko was capable of retroactive jealousy. She had nothing in common with the mousy Japanese wife or mincing geisha. Harry slipped behind her and picked his words as carefully as a man choosing what could be a necktie or a rope. "I try."

"With all women?"

"No, but with interesting women I try hard. You are interesting."

"Other women?"

"Boring."

"Western women?"

He slid a hand around her. "The worst."

"How?"

"Too big, too busty, too blond. Just awful."

She took a deep drag, and her cigarette flared. "I should burn you every time you lie. They're really awful?"

"Unbearable."

"There won't be a war?"

"Not with the United States. Just war talk."

"You won't leave?"

"No, I'll be right here. Here and here and here." He put his lips to the beauty marks on her back. "And do the things I really might."

"So you're staying?"

"As long as you want. I'm telling you true..." He dug his fingers in her hair, soft and thick as water.

"You swear?"

He whispered, "If I could be with you."

"Okay, okay, Harry." Michiko let her head loll in his hand. She stubbed out her cigarette and pulled off her socks. "You win."

The Happy Paris had originally been a tearoom. Harry had transformed it with saloon tables, a bar stocked with Scotch instead of sake and a red neon sign of the Eiffel Tower that sizzled over the door. Half the clientele were foreign correspondents who had been blithely assigned by the AP, UPI or Reuters without a word of Japanese. Some were mere children sent directly from the Missouri School of Journalism. Harry took mercy on them as if he were their pastor and they were his flock, translating for them the gospel of Domei, the Japanese news agency. The other regulars were Japanese reporters, who parked motorcycles outside the club for a quick getaway in case war broke out, and Japanese businessmen who had traveled the world, liked American music and knew one Dorsey brother from the other. The closer war seemed, the more people packed the Happy Paris and all of Tokyo's bars and theaters, peep shows and brothels.

They didn't come for geishas. Geishas were a luxury reserved for financial big shots and the military elite. But if it was a rare man who could afford a geisha, a couple of yen could buy even a poor man the attentions of a café waitress. Waitresses came in all varieties, sweet or acid, shy or sharp, wrapped in kimonos or little more than a skirt and garter.

Many came for Michiko. Michiko was the Record Girl for the Happy Paris. Her task was simply to stand in a sequined jacket by a Capehart jukebox as tall as she was and, at her own mysterious whim, push the buttons for music -- "Begin the Beguine" followed by Basie followed by Peggy Lee. Seventy-eights changed in slow motion from tone arm to turntable under an illuminated canopy of milk-blue glass, and dropped down the spindle with an audible sigh. Michiko did virtually nothing. The waitresses, Kimi and Haruko, circulated in short tricolor skirts. Haruko patterned herself from her hair to her toes on Michiko, but her legs were sausages in contrast to Michiko's in their silky hose. While Haruko and Kimi had actually been geishas and could simper and giggle with the best, Michiko cut customers dead. She played only records of her choice, a balance of swing and blues, closing her eyes and swaying so subtly to a song that she sometimes seemed asleep. The year before, there had been a fan magazine devoted to her -- "The Sultry Queen of Jazz: Her Music, Her Hobbies, Her Weaknesses!" -- totally fabricated, of course, with some snapshots. What made Michiko stand out most, Harry thought, was that even in the middle of a crowded club, with a dozen tables and booths full of voices, food and drinks shuttling back and forth on trays, she could have been alone. Michiko maintained a lack of self-consciousness that, added to a complete lack of morality, lent her a feline independence. She replaced "My Heart Stood Still" with "Any Old Time," Shaw's clarinet made lush with a saxophone reed.

Harry turned away to deal with Willie and DeGeorge. Al DeGeorge was the correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor and as stir-crazy as a zoo bear. Willie Staub was a young German businessman headed home from China via Japan and looked like an innocent among thieves.

DeGeorge was saying, "Harry runs a pool on when war will start between America and Japan, Tokyo time. Say there's even military action. The Philippines are on our side of the dateline, Hawaii's a day behind, doesn't matter, has to be Tokyo time. There's got to be at least ten thousand yen in there now. Of course, the house -- that's Harry -- takes five percent. Harry would take five percent on the apocalypse. Today's the fifth. Hell, Willie, you've still got most of December. I got Christmas Day."

"You're a sentimentalist," said Harry.

"The only problem," DeGeorge said, "is that if we're still here when the war begins, we're fucked. No way out." He directed a baleful gaze at Harry. "Rumor is, they're going to get Nippon Air flying again. Put on a show with champagne, cute air hostesses and photographers, and fly some foreign bigwigs to Hong Kong as if everything is absolutely normal. My question is, who gets on that plane?" He turned to Willie. "The embassy sent special-delivery letters telling all Americans to leave. But no, we waited to see what Harry would do. We figured the boat Harry takes, that's the last boat out. Now all the boats are gone and we're down to a single plane."

"I don't know anything about this," Willie said. "I just got here."

"The Nazis must have told you to stay away from Harry."

"I am a Nazi."

"Willie thinks he's a Nazi," Harry told DeGeorge. "Anyway, don't you have a job to do? Didn't you tell me that the first man who calls the war can pick up a Pulitzer?"

"There's no point in staying if I can't do my job. No one will be interviewed by an American. I can't even get them on the telephone because the Japs say all calls have to be in Japanese. Who speaks Japanese?"

Willie told Harry, "My embassy said you were engaged in sharp practices and I should stay away from you."

"Good advice," said Harry.

"But they don't want me, either. I told them about my China report."

"What report?" DeGeorge asked.

Harry said, "Willie was factory manager for Deutsche-Fon in China. He saw a lot."

DeGeorge lowered his voice. "Jap atrocities? Rape of Nanking?"

"Exactly," Willie said.

"Old news."

"Not in Berlin. Germans should know these things."

"It was just one of those things..." Michiko hugged herself as if holding someone tight, her face conveying a private reverie that men in the Happy Paris yearned to join. The noise level was high because the Japanese loved to drink and got drunk fast and flirted with the waitresses even as they craved Michiko. Kimi batted her eyes at Willie, who had the golden looks of Gary Cooper and displayed a wounded Cooperish look when people disappointed him.

"I don't think the German people are interested in atrocities," Harry said. "There's been a lot going on there that you haven't heard about in the hinterlands of Asia."

"But Germany is winning the war."

"Maybe. You should probably keep your nose clean and stay away from me."

"You're the only person I know in Tokyo. Also I had to show you something." Willie pulled a folded newspaper from his jacket, but Harry was distracted by a customer who grabbed Haruko and planted her on his lap while she squirmed like a satin worm. This wasn't a rare occurrence; she had many admirers.

Harry joined them. "Haruko, go wait on tables. Matsu, let her go."

"He's just playful," Haruko said.

"He's drunk."

"That, too."

Matsu released her and let his head roll sloppily. He had an artistic beard and wore a viewfinder around his neck, in case anyone forgot his calling.

"It was just one of those nights," Matsu sang along.

"You're pissed."

Matsu inhaled deeply and broke into a grin. "Yesss, I think so. I hope so. Harry, do you remember Watching Cherry Blossoms Fall?"

"A sensitive film."

"My film, thank you. Do you think, afterward, that people will remember that film when they think of the director Matsu?"

"After what?"

Matsu lifted the viewfinder to his eye and scanned the room. "This is beautiful. Not Paris, I'm sorry, but still beautiful. Because the only time you'll know the soul of another man is when he's drunk. And a man can tell things to a waitress that he will never tell his wife. This is a happy place."

"That's very profound. How is the new film?"

"Just starting."

"A love story?"

"No lovers. Many planes."

"You're still with Toho Studios?"

"No." Matsu laughed, and somewhere in the laugh was a moan. "Not anymore."

Harry finally grasped the other man's despair. "They called you up."

"I will serve the emperor." Matsu tucked in his chin.

"What are you going to do in the army? You're a moviemaker."

"I'll still be making films. I'm going in the morning, but I wanted to see Michiko one more time. That is the image I want to carry with me, the unattainable Michiko. Unless you think perhaps I can attain her."

"You can't afford her."

"But I'm rich," Matsu said. "Tonight I'm rich." From an envelope he pulled a stack of crisp, light green bills that said japanese government in English. Matsu stuffed the bills back into the envelope. "For my new assignment. There will be many planes, many tanks. No cherry blossoms."

"A trip to the moon on gossamer wings..." Michiko mouthed the words as if each rested momentarily on her lips. Not that she understood English.

Harry returned to his table. "Sorry. A conversation about the arts."

"This is what I have to show you." Willie unfolded a newspaper to a picture of soldiers in winter coats raising their rifles as they walked down the gangway of a transport ship. He passed it to Harry. "I saw it at the German embassy today. I can't read it, but I know you can."

The photo caption read, "WELCOME HOME. Hero Returns from China to Well-Deserved Honors." Although the page was smudged -- newspapers hadn't had decent paper stock for years -- Harry saw that the man on the ramp was a colonel with the deep-set eyes of a fasting monk. A long sword in a utilitarian sheath hung from his belt.

"Ishigami. How about that?"

"That's what I thought," Willie said.

"Who is it?" DeGeorge asked.

"A long-lost friend," Harry said. "I ought to read the newspapers more thoroughly."

DeGeorge asked Harry, "What day is left in the pool for Willie?"

"The eighth. That's Monday. War in three days is cutting it a little close."

"I don't bet," Willie said.

"A social bet," said DeGeorge. "Could happen."

Harry shook his head. "Ninety new American films have just arrived. Too Hot to Handle, Tarzan Escapes, One Hundred Men and a Girl. Who on earth would go to war when there's entertainment like that?"

"What do you do here, Harry?" Willie asked.

DeGeorge said, "Ostensibly, he's a movie rep. He does something else, I've just never been able to figure out what the fuck it is. Is it true, Harry, you're actually giving a speech at the Chrysanthemum Club tomorrow? You, at the Chrysanthemum Club?"

"I'm virtually respectable."

Willie returned to the picture in the newspaper. "Can Ishigami find you?"

"You did," Harry said. He didn't want to look at the picture, as if the image might sense his attention and look up from the page.

"If we'd thought a bit, of the end of it..." Michiko whispered with the song. Sometimes she seemed to know every nuance of the lyrics, Harry thought, sometimes she might have been repeating nonsense. He couldn't tell anymore.

"So, really and truly, Harry, is it going up?" DeGeorge asked.

"What?"

"The big balloon. War. Everyone's reading about last-minute negotiations in Washington. What do I tell the readers of The Christian Science Monitor and Reader's Digest and The Saturday Evening Post while they drink their warm Postum and listen to Amos 'n Andy and Fibber McGee, what do I tell Mr. and Mrs. America about the glorious Japanese Empire?"

"Tell them that the Japanese have only the purest of intentions. As exemplified by their actions in China, right, Willie?"

Willie kept his mouth shut.

"Weren't you in China?" DeGeorge asked Harry.

"Not for long."

"What are you going to do?" Willie asked Harry.

"I don't know. No good deed goes unpunished, right?"

"You must leave Japan."

"How? Americans can't even leave town. Maybe Ishigami just wants to say hello." Harry tried to hoist a smile for Willie's sake. "Maybe this whole war scare will just blow over."

"You think so?" asked Willie.

Not a chance, Harry thought. He had performed one decent act in his life, and something so out of character was bound to catch up. Michiko followed Artie Shaw with Benny Goodman, clarinets for the ages. Goodman was the complete musician: he could cover registers high and low. In comparison, Shaw was all flash, living at the higher register, poised for a crash. Harry figured he was more like Shaw. When he looked at the picture of Ishigami, he was back in Nanking all over again. Ten Chinese prisoners knelt in the light of torches, hands tied behind their backs. A corporal ladled water from a bucket over Ishigami's sword. Ishigami took a practice swing and left a shining fan of water in the air.

Kimi shook Harry's shoulder to get his attention. "There's a soldier at the door."

The blood left Harry's face as he rose from his chair, expecting the worst, but it was only a sergeant with a gun, shouting, "Come out, Lord Kira, wherever you are!"

Copyright © 2002 by Titanic Productions

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(15)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(4)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2003

    Profound deceit

    It's no wonder that thriller readers will read December 6th and will be puzzled, to say the least. 'Thriller' is the guise of this Kfakaesque novel. The difficulty in understanding Harry Niles is because this is not a linear novel. It's true apex is a single amazing, love scene (which you'll never forget) that occurs in the middle of the novel. His lover is then gone and Harry is as good as dead without even knowing it. Not dead in the Western sense, but in the dramatic, suicidal Japanese way. The sights, sounds and aromas of this novel will lead you in all directions. If you don't try to pegg December 6th into a ready-made genre but let the novel 'come to you' you're in for a litrary treat. A profound and sophisticated work of art that just 'happens to be' a crackiling, suspensful thriller. Unlike Arkady, the hero of Gorkey Park, Harry is not the protagonist who the story happens to -- he IS the story. Realizing it takes unwrapping the novel layer by amazing layer only to find...you'll have to make up your own mind about that. I don't believe any two readers will find the same core. An amazing work of art by a towering master disguised as 'popular fiction' writer.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2011

    Excellent Book

    This is a look at Pearl Harbor seen by an American in Japan, who is more Japanese than American. It is a suspenseful read, full of detail about living in Japan and Japanese attitudes towards the world at that time. This is a book that can hold your attention from about page 20 to the end. And, as a Nook book, it is certainly a bargain.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2008

    This is the best of Martin Cruz Smith's books yet.

    This is such a good book that I sat here and read the whole thing in less than a day. As a thriller, it kept me enthralled more than anything I have read in years. What a good entertainment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2004

    Almost Perfect Pitch

    I felt inclined to add a comment on this book because I think Martin Cruz Smith has done something quite extraordinary: he has written a novel that catches the sense of life in Japan extremely well. His talent in this regard was certainly evident in his Arkady Renko novels, where his version of life inside the Soviet Union seemed to have just the right feel to it. In December 6, he has not only gotten Japan pretty much right -- down to the 'kaeru no uta' song that children sing -- but also paints the varying shades of what it can mean to be a gaijin in Japan just about perfectly. Others have compared this book to Casablanca and they are not wrong. Like Casablanca, this book is true to the intricacies of early World War II history, diplomacy, and politics. Unlike Casablanca, though, the culture of the locale is not just background: it carries the bulk of the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2003

    last day of peace

    This story set in 1941 Japan has many historical twists and almost would lead you to a "what if" situation. Harry Niles, the central character, grew up in Japan,is a son of misionaries who spread their word in Japan. Harry is not a spreader of the good word, he runs a nightclub and follows the Japanese way of life. The biggest struggle for Harry is to decide if he is a Japanese citizen or a true American. He has friends (both men & women) who try to understand him and enemies from the Police and a certain Army Major that challenge his true inner self. Harry has to make a decision which will test his loyalty between the country of his blood or the home of the Rising Sun.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Not too bad ......

    I enjoy world history from this time period and I also have read every Arkady Renko novel and thoroughly enjoyed those. So, naturally I had to read December 6. It does not have quite the "can't put it down" factor of the Renko novels, but is still a pretty good read if you like historical novels of this time period.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Author's best.

    Casablanca in Japan.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 30, 2012

    For everyone who loves fiction base on fact.

    As a person who lived thru WWII and clearly remembers December 7th I thoroughly enjoyed this. It is Martin Cruz Smith's best to date. Gorky Park and Rose were good, December 6 is great. In it I discovered much about Japan and I was held in fantastic suspense even though I knew the big answer of bombing of Pearl Harbor.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Piece Of Historical Fiction!

    I love Smith's Arkady Renko series but didn't know what to expect here. What I got was a great piece of historical fiction about the Japanese side of the events leading up to Pearl Harbor. Smith's lead, Harry Niles, is a fun somehow relatable character although its unlikely anyone has lead a similar life, as an American missionary living and thriving in '40s Japan. The fantastic atmosphere that's created here really illuminates a part of the world many Americans don't know especially during that time frame. Truely a great read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2005

    Complex and Compelling

    On the eve of the Japanese sneak attack against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, Harry Niles, a roguish expat American adventurer, who had actually been raised in Japan and grown up in a near feral state in the mean streets of the seamy side of Tokyo, finds himself still stuck in that country, angling to get out. All around him the people he knows, both Japanese and foreign, are engaged in an elaborate dance, fearing and expecting war but hoping against hope that they'll be proved wrong. Martin Cruz Smith does a wonderful job of conjuring up this lost pre-war world of depravity, dissolution and Japanese honor, and of creating a sense of what it might have been like to be completely enmeshed in that culture, so alien to us and yet so familiar to his protagonist, Niles. The book actually opens with the young Harry, son of Southern Baptist missionaries and now a Tokyo school boy, fleeing from his schoolmates in an eerie game of 47 Ronin which puts Harry on the receiving end of his friends' relentless blows. As in the best novels, the seeds of the rest of the tale are all found here, for the opening scene will eerily reach its denoument, years later, as Harry struggles for his life amidst a militant Japanese society bent on establishing itself in the modern world. In the meantime, Harry is tied to a lover, a bohemian Japanese woman he barely understands, as he philanders with the British ambassador's wife and struggles to stay afloat amidst the intrigue of competing Japanese factions. The adherents of the Japanese navy and army are in seeming conflict, despite the superficial loyalty to the emperor they share, while the Tokyo police are shadowing him closely. At the same time, a skilled Japanese swordsman, Colonel Ishigami, has returned from the Chinese campaign intent on taking vengeance on Harry for a loss of face he caused him some years before in China where Harry had been doing a little blackmarketeering. There's a secret plan to develop synthetic oil and a question of who may have been stealing oil shipments to the island nation that Harry must decipher for some of the parties and all the while he's got to nail down a way to get out of the country, without giving his exit plans away to a government that wants to keep him there and a lover who threatens to kill him if he goes. This is a deep and complex tale and one that is compelling from beginning to end. For a first class adventure, in the old film noir Humprhey Bogart mold, you won't find better. I don't usually offer glowing praise about the books I read like this, but when they hold me to them and keep calling me back till late in the evening, what else can I do? As an author of a very different sort of adventure, The King of Vinland's Saga, about vikings in North America in the eleventh century, I know how hard it can be to keep a story moving with this kind of power. Martin Cruz Smith is an author with much to teach and well worth reading. -- SWM

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2002

    Sumptuous, Elegant, Delightful

    This story transports you to Tokyo days before Pearl Harbor. Harry Niles, a quintessentially American con man with a unique moral code, manipulates others as he and the events of this time in Tokyo roil perceptions. Filled with movement, color, intriguing characters. Martin Cruz Smith is a remarkable writer who has created a rich and substantial story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2002

    December 6

    I would only recommend this title to people with insomnia. In fact if half a star was an option I would have chosen that. By a long shot this is definitely not one of Mr. Cruz-Smith's best. The mere title of this book suggests action and excitement though that couldn't be further from the truth. Instead you read through endless dialog hoping it will get better but it never does. I read on hoping that at least something would happen to make me like or even care about the main character Harry Niles but that didn't happen either. I found him to be very one-dimensional and callous. I cannot remember the last time I was this bored reading a book, it would often lay untouched for days at a time until I finally finished. Dull and disappointing. Do not waste your money.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2002

    Kim in Casablanca?

    I don't see the "imagination". Harry is Kim in the youth chapters, Rick Blaine in the 1941 part.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2002

    December 6

    After reading Martin Cruz Smith's fabulous work in Gorky Park, Polar Star, Red Square and the mysterious Rose I have to say I questioned the fact that I was reading the same author in December 6. I also read with amazement the rave reviews this book received on the B & N website and again questioned whether I had a different version of this book. Overall the book was flat and dull with far too much dialog and not nearly enough action as in Mr. Smith's previous works. I cannot remember ever disliking a main character as much as I disliked Harry Niles. One word to it's credit I do say the sights, sounds and smells of pre-WWII Tokyo are described vividly and well. But overall definitely not recommended.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2002

    Perhaps his best

    I loved Gorky Park and Red Star his other works not as good as these two but December 6 is his best. Would love a sequel!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2002

    Thoroughly Original

    I am someone who is sort of a history buff, but prefers to learn about history through a fictional novel. Martin Cruz Smith does a great job of making you feel what life was like in Tokyo on the eve of Pearl Harbor. The characters are well developed and gives you an understanding of the Japanese and why they attacked pearl harbor. The story rolls along and climaxes with a great ending. I highly recommend this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2002

    Martin Cruz Smith is at the Top of his Game

    Cruz Smith is at his best since Gorky Park and Polar Star. His anti-hero, Harry, a gaijin American reared in Japan is a character one hopes to read again in a sequel. Cruz Smith is at his best in researching a culture which few Westerners understand. The historical background has one breathless with wonder at the precision and respect he grants Japanese culture. It is both a thriller and a historical novel. The reader will not be able to put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)