December 6: A Novel

Smith, Martin Cruz

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2002
ISBN 10: 0684872536 / ISBN 13: 9780684872537
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Synopsis: 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.

Review: Ever wonder how things might have been different for Rick Blaine, the ostensibly selfish nightclub owner from Casablanca, had he lived in Japan during the 1940s, rather than Morocco? Martin Cruz Smith offers a reasonable scenario in December 6.

This slickly plotted, exotically atmospheric thriller opens in Tokyo just a few days before bombs start raining on Pearl Harbor. There we meet roguish Harry Niles, the culturally conflicted son of religious missionaries and owner of the Happy Paris, a club known for its enigmatic jukebox jockey, Michiko, who also happens to be Harry's mistress. With war rumors rampant, Harry--distrusted by both U.S. and Japanese authorities--"was skipping town. Any sane person would." He has a seat waiting on what may be the final flight out to Hong Kong, and plans to escape from there to the States with a British diplomat's wife. But first, there are business and personal affairs to settle, not the least of which is an oil-tank con he's been running on the Imperial Navy--a desperate strategy to stop his beloved Japan from entering into self-destructive conflict with America. Harry also has to duck a sword-wielding military fanatic, who's seeking revenge for a long-ago incident that cost him honor, and bid sayonara to Michiko, a woman as scary as she is seductive. (Oh, well, at least they'll always have the Happy Paris.)

This book memorably re-creates wartime Tokyo, with its pet beetles and mincing geishas and naive belief that "victory lies in a faith in victory." Yet it's Harry Niles--cynical on top, sentimental beneath--who really carries December 6, a novel as brilliantly convoluted and captivating as any Smith (Gorky Park , Havana Bay ) has yet concocted. --J. Kingston Pierce

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Bibliographic Details

Title: December 6: A Novel
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Very Good
Edition: First Edition.

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