Monday, June 3, 2013

Tokyo Intrigue


"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.

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