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lgpiper

Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

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The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
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Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
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STOPOVER TOKYO

STOPOVER TOKYO - John P. Marquand I'm glad to report that after a rather weak effort with Mr. Moto #5, Marquand ended the Mr. Moto series strongly. I really liked this book. It's probably the best of the whole series, or at least the one I liked the best. The set up is a bit different from previous versions, we're now after WWII, whereas all previous books took place before WWII (Mr. Moto was interred during the war). So Japan is no longer trying to extend it's influence in the world. It's more that they hope, Mr. Moto hopes at least, to keep the Russians from extending their influence into Japan. American influence is at least tolerable, and much preferable to Russian influence.

It's a nice change that in this book, the action takes part in Japan itself, so we get some nice background feeling for that country. All the other Mr. Moto books take place in foreign venues, China, Manchuria, Mongolia, Hawaii (ok, technically, Hawaii isn't foreign), the Caribbean, but not, primarily, Japan (a little glimpse in the first one). This one does, and I liked that. I've visited Japan several times because my younger son lived there for a few years, and am rather fond of that country and its culture.

Another deviation from the other plot lines is that the main protagonists are not a callow young man and a competent, independent young woman who just happen to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time the young man, Jack Rhyse, and the young woman, Ruth Bogart are both highly competent, professional spies. They have been sent to Japan to foil a rumored Soviet plot to sew anti-Americanism in Japan by creating a situation whereby the Americans become the fall guys for the assassination of a prominent Japanese politician that they, i.e. the Reds, are planning. Jack and Ruth's cover is to be that they are investigating the Asia Friendship League and are also in the process of becoming starry-eyed lovers. In the book, they fall in love in fact as well as in the fantasy play acting in which one engages for cover as a professional spy. Quaint, perhaps, but also somewhat charming. Needless to say, Mr. Moto is flitting around the edges, helping things out in the background.

I found several things extremely interesting in this book, things that would have little meaning to anyone else, but since this is my review, I'll bore y'all with recounting those things anyway. Besides, other than poor Michael (sometimes, perhaps) no one else ever reads my crap. It's just a memory helper for me. So, I can write whatever I wish. Sorry 'bout that.

It turns out that Jack Rhyse is a graduate of Oberlin College and played tackle on their football team. One of his targets, i.e. an enemy agent, is also a former football player, but one who played for a "jerk-water Southern Baptist college", not "big time" like the Oberlin. Huh? Oberlin football was sort of big time 120 or so ago when they had John Heisman as their coach—yeah THE Heisman of trophy fame. If I recall correctly, Rhyse was class of '41. I'm pretty certain that Oberlin—the last college in the state of Ohio to have beaten Ohio State in football (true fact)—ceased to show even a vague semblance of being in "big time" athletics some 15 or 20 years before Jack Rhyse. So, I found that weird. But I liked the Oberlin reference, it is, after all, my own alma mater, and I was also, in fact, an Oberlin Athlete, albeit in wrestling. I sucked, of course, but that was the joy of college sports in olden days, it was to give the students an outlet for blowing off a bit of steam, not a marketing activity featuring hired, de facto professionals who had little to no aspiration toward academic pursuits.

A second interesting feature is that Ruth was alleged to have been a graduate of Goucher College. What's that you say? Yeah, who ever heard of Goucher? Well, I actually had a job at Goucher, the summer after I graduated from high school. My sister, believe it or not, is a Goucher graduate.

The third point of interest for me is that one of the characters had the same cover name as I do (in my fantasies that is). That is to say, once, probably in my teen years, I thought about the possible need one day to have a cover name or alias, so I picked one. Low and behold, a guy in this book has the same one. To protect my cover, I'll not divulge said name.

One last interesting-to-me feature is that both Jack Rhyse and the enemy-agent football player liked singing old songs from long-ago musicals. They're my kind of guys! Who doesn't like a rousing chorus of After the Ball is Over or some old Cole Porter and Irving Berlin creations? Actually, they didn't sing those. Rather it was one I didn't know, The Streets of New York from Victor Herbert's Red Mill.

So, anyway, what you have here is a good, well paced story that also has three or four weirdnesses that I found to be supremely endearing.