Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Girl Named Tamiko

A Girl Named Tamiko by Ronald Kirkbride.  This is a case where the movie version is better than the book. Ivan Balin is a man without a country. Born in China, his father was Russian, his mother Chinese; he escaped to Japan when the communist took control of China. He works as a photographer, but dreams of immigrating to America. A racist, he hates the Japanese, and the Americans will have little to do with him. Then the world collapses around him when he meets Tamiko, a Japanese woman of high society, who sees through his racial hatred. Although a pretty good story, it doesn’t come close to The World of Susie Wong, and in truth, the 1962 movie version starring Lawrence Harvey and France Nuyen was much better than the book.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Greg Ballard #1

Greg Ballard #1 (1969): “The Temple Dogs Guard My Fate” by Dennis Sinclair. Ballard, a newspaperman, was once married to Yuk Kuan, the daughter of a retired Chinese general now living in Hong Kong. He had met her at the university, and they were married for six months until she caught him in bed with another woman. Returning to Hong Kong, she doesn’t see him for four years, but suddenly he’s here on assignment for his paper, and he wants to marry her again. In truth, at first he was using her as a reason to be in Hong Kong. His true mission was to penetrate China and rescue a Russian held prisoner. For Ballard is also a member of Survival, an amateur spy organization seeking to stop deadly wars in, if possible non-violent ways. Scientists who had created the atomic bomb wanted to bring something good for the evil they gave the world, and their solution was Survival. Now that he has reestablished contact with Yuk Yuan, he really wants to marry her again, but she tells him early on that her life – and fate – is guarded by the stone dogs in her garden that have no eyes. She tells him the story of the Temple Dogs early on, so we can guess what the outcome is going to be. This was really an interesting story. The Russian engineer being held prisoner has nothing to do with nuclear weapons and, in fact, he is also a member of Survival – but he doesn’t mind being a little lethal when he needs to be. The Chinese plan on using him as a plant for mass murder, when China releases poisoned water into the Hong Kong water system. With the American also on hand, they plan to add Ballard to the list of scapegoats, blaming Russia and America for the mass killings. Ballard is big and tough, but when it comes to a mercy killing, he can’t do it.  The Russian takes care of the situation. At one point they discuss Susie Wong, which was neat. This was the first for four novels featuring Greg Ballard and Survival. He would write two more 1976, and the last one in 1977. The concept was neat; I mean an amateur non-violent spy organization with no government affiliation. And though Ballard may be non-violent, but many of his contacts are. They use a Pakistani towards the end, and he loves to fight and kill.