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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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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