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A 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-
DECEMBER 6 boasts all of the goodies expected of a popular historical novel.
Plot unending,atmosphere you could cut with a butterknife,a corrupt claque of money-grubbing businessmen-whores adulteresses and miscreants of every stripe.
The ring-master of this teeming cirque dıhiver is one ŒHarry 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 Œconfidence-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 2002.

And as in DECEMBER 6 energy is the primary cause of such widespread malfeasance. As ŒHarry 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 ŒHarry Nilesı, a chameleonic Superman/Clark Kent ubermensch.

© Alex Grant November 2002

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