DECEMBER 6 boasts all
of the goodies expected of a popular historical novel.
CRUZ SMITHıS "DECEMBER 6"
book review by Alex Grant
A playful and
phantasmagoric epic hinged upon the fate of the world in the last
month of 1941-largely the 24 hours prior to The Day of Infamy Japanıs
sneak attack upon Hawaii-
Plot unending,atmosphere you could cut with a butterknife,a corrupt claque
of money-grubbing businessmen-whores adulteresses and miscreants of every
The ring-master of this teeming cirque dıhiver is one Harry Niles" an
American expatriate and soldier of fortune and a very devious con-man
brought up in pre-war Japan by absentee missionary parents. Harry an amazingly
articulate and insightful person may be a fifth-columnist or a double-
[or triple-] agent or simply a vile cynical shit.
Niles is at the center of a scheme to either secure or to sabotage the
Japanese Armed Forcesı supply of fuel oil/ gasoline/ petroleum by hook
or by crook. He is also cognizant of a bizarre experiment to convert seawater
into fuel oil. On the eve of the Pearl Harbour debacle Harryıs assorted
cronies and co-conspirators converge upon a bakerıs dozen of lovingly
evoked Tokyo landmarks. The late James Dickeyıs final novel TO THE WHITE
SEA set on the cusp of Japanıs defeat by the Allies in 1945.when Tokyo
was being bombed into oblivion by the U.S. Air Force, even more successfully
then DECEMBER 6 caught the spirit and character of war-torn Japan.
The confidence-manı is a key and durable figure in mainstream American
fiction, going back to Herman Melvilleıs THE CONFIDENCE MAN. In actuality
today, assorted corporate con-men and con-women [Martha Stewart allegedly,
and in our country Garth Drabinsky, allegedly ] have been assiduously
ransacking the public coffers and impugning the body politic throughout
And as in DECEMBER 6 energy is the primary cause of such widespread malfeasance.
As Harry Nilesı declares on page 152 of DECEMBER 6: " A con. No,more
than that itıs the most beautiful con Iıve ever seen. This is the motherlode,
this is magic."
Naturally Cruz Smithıs latest book is also a con. A far lesser accomplishment
than his one masterwork ROSE his eighth novel. DECEMBER 6 purveys a convincing
grasp of the zeitgeist of 1941 yet remains utterly preposterous due to
the magical powers of acumen and analysis laid at the feet of the demi-god
superhuman Harry Nilesı, a chameleonic Superman/Clark Kent ubermensch.
© Alex Grant November 2002
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