A penetrating spy story full of celebrities and unsung heroes.

The Emperor and the Spy


In this debut historical novel, Katz pulls back the curtain on real-life American master spy Sidney Forrester Mashbir and his close relationship with Japan’s royal family before, during, and after World War II.

Mashbir first makes his mark as a spy during the Mexican-American Border War, hunting German terrorists with a clandestine style of diplomacy, organization, and information-gathering that would go on to shape the foundation of the CIA. As a true patriot with a deep understanding of foreign cultures and languages, he’s sent to Japan to set up a spy ring, keeping an eye on the country’s growing military power and colonial overtures. He falls in love with the country while exploring its language, customs, and numerous martial arts, eventually becoming a self-styled American samurai. He cultivates a relationship with the wise Prince Tokugawa, one of Emperor Hirohito’s closest mentors, and this unprecedented access would allow Mashbir to befriend the emperor as both sought peace in an era of inevitable war. During WWII, he shows compassion and respect for Japan, bringing numerous second-generation Japanese-Americans, called nisei, out of internment camps to work as translators and helping negotiate the country’s surrender. Katz crafted this look at Mashbir’s life and career from a series of documents, letters, and other resources that once belonged to the spy himself—sources that he samples but regrettably doesn’t share in full. The author packs the story with historical events that took place outside of WWII, from a German act of sabotage in New Jersey to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and even a near-assassination of filmmaker Charlie Chaplin in Japan. He effectively populates the novel with other historical icons to show just how influential the spy was, such as Gen. George Patton, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, and even Hedy Lamarr, with whom Mashbir must turn down a one-night stand in a true test of his mettle. Katz also gives the story a tragic element, making plain Mashbir’s sacrifices as he loses family and lovers; at one point, he’s even suspected of being a double agent.

A penetrating spy story full of celebrities and unsung heroes.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9903349-4-1

Page Count: 526

Publisher: Horizon Productions

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet