SOLDIERS IN HIDING by Richard Wiley

SOLDIERS IN HIDING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A first novel about Japanese-Americans during--and long after--WW II. Teddy Maki is born and raised in Los Angeles, where, after high school, he plays in a jazz band led by the principled and smoldering Jimmy Yamamoto. In 1941, the young musicians take their band to Japan, and are caught there by the outbreak of war. Jimmy Yamamoto has by this time married Kazuko, sister of the band's Japanese manager Ike, and flight back to the States is impossible. Sent as Japanese soldiers to the Philippines, Teddy, Jimmy, and Ike remain in the same outfit, but disaster falls when Ike is believed lost on patrol, Jimmy is shot by one Major Nakamura for giving a candy bar to an American prisoner in Bataan, and Teddy, to save his own life, follows Major Nakamura's order and himself shoots the American (who, too, came from Los Angeles). Teddy is to be haunted for life by Jimmy's killing (he returns to Japan and marries Jimmy's widow Kazuko, by then pregnant) and by his own compromised guilt in the killing of the American prisoner. Following the war, he becomes a celebrity on Japanese television (partly because the American occupation forces choose to broadcast his old rendition of ""Mood Indigo""--""I had the first hit song of postwar Japan""), and, by the time the novel opens, he is the inwardly scornful host of a tasteless and low-grade but vastly successful TV showcalled, yes, ""The Original Amateur Flour."" Life is interrupted by the surprise return of Ike, decades after the war, from the Philippines, where he'd been thought dead. He and Teddy, ""armed"" with television cameras and crew (and dressed in soldier's costumes), seek out the now-aged Major Nakamura and confront him, at last, with the murder of Jimmy Yamamoto. The spirit of Graham Greene is here in the man-without-a-faith Teddy Maki and in the numerous graceful efficiencies of the narrative (Tokyo under the Allied bombings is especially evocative, seen from the ""other side""). If the novel's close is too heavy with symbol (the media ""confrontation"" with Major Nakamura takes place as a Noh drama), this and other points of strain are offset by the book's consistent touches of subtle delicacy. Though self. conscious here and there, a mature first novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1985
ISBN: 097663113X
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown