by Bruce TierneyOctober, 2002
Did Harry's loose lips sink ships?
<B>Did Harry's loose lips sink ships?</B>Harry Niles is the owner of Happy Paris, an expat nightclub in the glitzy Asakusa district of Tokyo. A charming con man, Harry is skilled at schmoozing the diplomats, soldiers and journalists who make up the bulk of his clientele. The date is December, 1941, just before the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor.
Harry is involved with an elegant moga (Japanese slang for modern gal ), the platter-spinning disc jockey at his club. As jealous as she is beautiful, Michiko suspects that Harry is keeping more than one paramour, and she is right. Harry is also involved with the wife of a British diplomat, a woman who will supposedly help him flee the country before the outbreak of hostilities. Michiko intends never to let Harry board that airplane.
In an effort to forestall a Japanese attack on America, Harry hatches a clever little scheme. The Japanese armed forces are faced with a serious shortage of oil, exacerbated by embargoes from the West. Harry plants the suggestion that there are oil tanks in abundance in Honolulu, put there to fuel the U.S. Navy should war break out in the Pacific. Harry figures that if the Japanese recognize the U.S. strategic advantage, perhaps cooler heads will prevail in the Japanese military establishment. When things begin to fall apart, he is left scurrying about in a futile attempt at damage control. As he did with Russia in <I>Gorky Park</I>, and Cuba in <I>Havana Bay</I>, Martin Cruz Smith demonstrates a superb sense of milieu: exotic location, explosive times. The streets of prewar Japan come alive, evoking the music of samisen and koto, the illumination of rice paper lanterns, the aromas of cooked noodles and recent rain. At the end of the day, though, it is the relentlessly intense narrative of espionage and deceit that is memorable. Will Harry make good his escape with the British diplomat's wife? When faced with the hasty exit of her lover, where will Michiko's allegiances lie? When push comes to shove, what (or who) will matter most to Harry? With <B>December 6</B>, Smith takes an event well-known to all of us and creates a compelling back story to fit the details.