A FUNNY THING HAPPENED WHEN I WAS IN TOKYO—I SAW MY FIRST BOOK DISPLAYED—AND DIDN’T BELIEVE IT (AT FIRST)
This isn’t Tokyo, by the way. This is a recent photo taken by my daughter, Evie, in Chicago. I’m still thrilled. It’s nice to know my books are still out there—second hand or not.
Tokyo happened in the early Nineties—and it came as a total surprise because I had been told the paperback wouldn’t be out for another month. I recall just staring. I was in shock. I was beyond pleased. I was absolutely ecstatic. You know you work for years just trying to get your book right—but never sure it will see the light of day. Then it gets published—and that is fantastic. But when I realized it was going global, I just flipped. And then to see it in Japan… WOW! I needed a considerable quantity of sake to recover. Fortunately, that is rarely in short supply in Japan. The Japanese drink like—the Irish.
My Tokyo trip was the most successful research trip I have ever made—and I attribute that my wonderful research assistant at the time, Jill Kennedy, plus the fact we took our time preparing the expedition. In fact, I believe we worked on it—on and off—for about a year. It was time well spent. I saw everybody I had planned to see—and many more besides. Perhaps the highlight of a trip that had many highlights was meeting one of my great journalist heroes, Murray Sayle (Illustrated above while receiving an honorary doctorate. The attractive woman next to him was his wife, Sadly Murray died a couple of years ago).
At the time he lived in a little village outside Tokyo—and I find it hard to imagine a finer host. This was a man whose work I had admired for decades, but who was as unpretentious as they come. We talked for hours and he was hugely helpful. Murray was an empath and not only fascinated by Japanese culture, but extremely fond of the people. They help him in equally high regard, and when his house in the village burned down, they all got together and provided him with another.
My Japanese trip led to my second novel, RULES OF THE HUNT. It featured terrorism, A critic on Irish radio said my plot was ridiculous because everyone knew that the Japanese were remarkably law-abiding and there was no terrorism in Japan. About three weeks later, in 1995, the Japanese terrorist group, Aum Shinriko, released Sarin gas in a Tokyo subway. 13 commuters were killed, 54 were seriously injured and 980 were affected.
My critic never did broadcast a retraction.
You know it is truly amazing how few Americans really understood that terrorism posed a very real threat until 9/11. It still does. Nonetheless, the trick is not to over-react. To spend several trillion dollars waging endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in response to 9/11 was playing into Bin Laden’s hands. Not only did we waste a prodigious amount of money and an untold number of lives, but we lost the moral high ground too.
All in all, it has been a tragic decade for the U.S. Have the right lessons been learned? I’m far from sure.