Tokyo Doll by John McPartland (1953). Ex Army Captain (field promotion) Mate Buchanan was a WWII and Korean War veteran who spent quite a bit of time in Tokyo before he was booted out because he failed to follow orders in Korea. Now living in San Francisco, the CIA and a mysterious government official contact him with a job; go back to Tokyo and find an old girlfriend’s father, who may have a doomsday virus other nations are trying to get. Arriving, and before he makes contact with Akiko Tsumi (his assignment), he meets DAC (Department of Army Civilian) Sandra Tann, a beautiful blond American singer with the Far East Radio, and falls in love with her. But more complications arrive. In order to reach Akiko’s father, he must propose marriage to Akiko. This was a tough man novel set in Tokyo just before occupation ends, and things are still a little uneasy. The author was actually a Korean War veteran, and most likely spent considerable time in Tokyo, as he wrote about Tokyo with first hand and extensive knowledge. It was also fun reading about my old Army Command, the 1st Cav, and my old unit, the 720th MPs. It’s a good story, well written, just not a lot of killing or karate (though the Tokyo Doll uses a bit of savate), but well worth the read. The author only wrote about a dozen novels, all very popular, including one I remember reading when it first was released, “The Kingdom of Johnny Cool,” also made into a notable film in the early 1960s starring Henry Silva and Elizabeth Montgomery. “Tokyo Doll” was one of the first novels to feature this type fiction set in Tokyo so soon after WWII and the Korean War. This is a very good story and would have made a good action movie at the time; there is a lot of pain before the story concludes. Some of the same characters will appear in his next novel, “Affair In Tokyo”.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Affair In Tokyo by John McPartland (1954). Army Sergeant First Class Robert E. Lee, from Mississippi joined the Army during the Korean War, where he picked up the nickname Lonesome Lee; a reporter for Stars & Stripes, he volunteered to accompany patrols, in order to get the war stories. When soldiers asked why, he told them he was lonely and wanted their company. Now he’s writing the news in Japan. One night at a club in Shimbashi he meets a red headed American girl who is reporting the news for one of the big American news outfits. They fall in love, but there’s a problem – she’s already engaged to an Army two-star general. Covering an underwater volcano erupting near Devil Islands, they are ship wrecked and obtain refuge on a canvas-covered portal of the ship with another reporter who tries to assault the girl. A fight ensues and the man falls overboard and disappeared. When they are rescued the man says Sergeant Lee tried to kill him, pushing him off their temporary raft. He dies, and Lee is in big trouble. This was a tough man novel set in Tokyo just after occupation, and things are still a little uneasy. The author was actually a Korean War veteran, and most likely spent considerable time in Tokyo, as he wrote about Tokyo with first hand and extensive knowledge. It was also fun reading about my old Army Command, the 1st Cav, and my old unit, the 720th MPs. It’s a good story, well written, just not a lot of killing or karate, but well worth the read. The author only wrote about a dozen novels, all very popular, including one I remember reading when it first was released, “The Kingdom of Johnny Cool,” also made into a notable film in the early 1960s starring Henry Silva and Elizabeth Montgomery. “Affair In Tokyo” is actually the second novel the author set in Tokyo. In 1953, his novel “Tokyo Doll” was one of the first novels to feature this type fiction set in Tokyo so soon after WWII and the Korean War. Very good story, and a lot of pain before the story concludes.
Friday, September 20, 2013
This was the original cover for The World of Susie Wong, although this is a Penguin Books 1997 edition, the 40-year anniversary of the book. The first paperback edition was from Signet in 1957.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
“The World of Susie Wong” by Richard Mason is not a karate-chop action novel like the Earl Norman and other spy/mysteries set in the Far East, but it is a ground breaking book about Americans and prostitution in Hong Kong, and well worth the read. You could substitute Hong Kong with anywhere else in the Far East, and this novel would be right on the mark. It was made into a movie with William Holden and Nancy Kwan that is still highly regarded today.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
“Operation Tokyo” by Ted Middleton. Published in 1956, the story is set in Japan during the Korean War. Naval Lt/Commander Emerson Thackeray Higgins is a pilot billeted with two other officers. One dies in a plane crash, and the other one leaves a note indicating suicide, but he is missing. Navy Intelligence (ONI) is investigating, and brings in Higgins for questioning, though he isn’t a suspect in the odd things happening on the Naval base at Tanikawa. Still, there is something strange. Higgins is further drawn into the case when his girl, a secretary at the State Department in Tokyo, appears involved in the mystery in some way. It turns out that the office did not commit suicide, but had discovered a secret in tunnels running beneath the base, where a treasure was buried. His squadron was preparing to ship out to Korea, and he figured it was time to disappear – with the treasure, if he can find it. This novel came out about the same time as “Tokyo Intrigue” by William Bender, whose main character was an Air Force pilot, but wasn’t as good as “Tokyo Intrigue”, and didn’t have as many interesting characters. Other than the plots, however, the two stories are quite similar.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
"Tokyo Intrigue" by William Bender, Jr. Major Mark Talbot, an Air Force pilot in the Korean War is grounded after a flight of North Korean planes shoot down his wing man. Talbot chases them across the border, destroying the flight before they reach their airfield, then strafes the airfield. After the war he's transferred to Germany, where he now works for the public information office (PIO). Here they must play the Cold War game with Russia, until strange orders send him back to the Far East. Now assigned to Japan as ISO where he's to investigate the death of a colonel under mysterious circumstances, as well as the strange disappearances of Air Force aircraft. Talbot's main job is to uncover the killer, and beat the Russians at their own game of propaganda. I had to laugh at what the author says, though: "As it happens, our Air Force doesn't work that way. We are officially dedicated to truth and accuracy." Meaning, we don't use propaganda in any form. Gee, we played the propaganda game with Hitler during WWII, so we were old hands at the game.
I wasn't able to find anything on the Internet about the author, but if we are to believe the Introduction by him, he was a captain in the Air Force in Tokyo, assigned to the information office when he wrote this book. I have no reason to doubt the claim. There is a lot of military jargon that rings true, and he writes of Tokyo from first hand experience, not from an encyclopedia. Yes, there are a few stretches of the truth, but basically everything is correct. I found several things very interesting in this 1956 novel. First, there are a lot of similarities between Talbot and the future "American Avenger" series. Whether or not the similarities are a coincidence, or the author of American Avenger read Tokyo Intrigue is a matter of conjecture. Second, the similarities to Earl Norman's (Norman Thompson) Burns Bannion series two years later I don't think can be questioned. Norman worked for DOD in Japan at that time, bringing entertainment to all the bases in the Far East. He would have known William Bender through this connection, and probably read his book. Bannion is a lot like Talbot, though there isn't as much karate in Tokyo Intrigue as Norman brings in his later stories. There is the police inspector who shadows both of our heroes, and the reporters who may have mysterious ways. Without a doubt this novel would have influenced the future "Kill Me In …" series by Earl Norman. This is a good read, and I'm curious why the author didn't write more books. Perhaps a career in the Air Force took precedence to a writing future.