TOKYO UNDERWORLD

THE FAST TIMES AND HARD LIFE OF AN AMERICAN GANGSTER IN JAPAN

Whiting revels in the seamy side of Japan. One of the mysteries of the Orient is how an ultra-orderly, respectful, duty-bound culture can coexist with a corruption-riddled political and business world. Whiting, a journalist based in Japan (You Gotta Have Wa, 1989), notes this tension but offers no explanations; indeed, this is not the place to look for insights into Japan or even its criminal element. If you want lurid stories featuring colorful miscreants and shady deals, however, this book is for you. Whiting picks up the action during the post-WWII American occupation period, where shortages of everything produced a widespread black market. Among those trying to cash in was Nick Zappetti, an American soldier who remained in Japan after his discharge and whose first score involved smuggling 20,000 lighter flints inside a Ford convertible. A lifetime of wild schemes, one solid business venture—the first American-style restaurant featuring pizza in Tokyo—and several tense encounters built Zappetrti’s’s reputation for toughness and earned him the mostly honorary title of “king of the Tokyo mafia.” While the book is loosely (very loosely) organized around Zappetti and includes description of a personal life even more amusing than his criminal activities’setting records for number of marriages to Japanese women by a foreigner and number of lawsuits filed in the Japanese courts—there is no shortage of characters here: Rikidozan, the judo-chopping wrestler who began his career as a mobster by starring in professional wrestling matches as the vanquisher of hulking Americans; Machii, the Tokyo gang boss who was always accompanied by a bodyguard half his size; Tanaka, the politician who took the art of political corruption to new levels. The presentation is entirely anecdotal with no pretense at analysis, but Zappetti’s life would hold anyone’s interest.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-41976-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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