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#4 – Thank You, Mr Moto John P. Marquand BOOK REVIEW

January 17, 2018

After finishing with the competent but pozzed Moriarty book I needed to return to a pre-pozz era for my next story. I was gradually reading through a couple of non-fiction books that were a long way from completion and felt like another short one-day read would be suitably distracting. I’d taken delivery of several old paperbacks bought from eBay and now chose the shortest of them.


This is the edition I read

James Bond wasn’t the first hero of espionage fiction, though he’s quite likely the best of them. I’ve long been attracted to spy stuff because it is so alien to my desired mode of communication. To me, life is lived in a straight line where you set targets, do the work, and reach those targets overtly. This attitude is why the adventure stories of Tarzan, Conan, or more modern hero fiction like Jack Reacher fire up my blood and make me want to run outside with a sword and smite my enemies. These are strong determined men who face their challenges head on and out in the open.

Spies, naturally, are covert. They are scheming, sneaking weasels. Their world is one of deception, misdirection, and manipulation. Just as the grifters and low-lifes of hard-boiled fiction fascinate me because of how alien their mindset is, so do the spies of espionage fiction. They walk a crooked path where they set targets, manipulate others to do the work, change the targets, and reach those targets covertly.

If I was to live that way, I’d feel permanently dirty. But reading about it is fascinating. It feels like understanding my enemy, and getting a briefing on an entirely different expert system.

Writers of spy fiction thus face a quandary: how to get the reader invested in and rooting for the spy? It’s not easy to root for a shadowy manipulator. Different writers resolve the quandary in different ways. The most obvious answer is “he’s our scumbag”. The English spy is on Team England and the book is read by English readers. The loyalty group can be whichever allegiance the intended readers have, such as Team Western Civilisation or allegiance to a cause, such as Team Anti-Drug Cartel [1]


The movie adaptation has quite a different plot

Another quandary-solving strategy is to make the spy a man of personal honour and a consummate professional. As anyone playing competitive sports knows, you can hold players of rival teams in the highest respect while still trying to beat them. Every red-blooded man respects the brave and competent fighters of his tribe’s enemies. It’s the traitors – the men without honour – that we really hate, even when they are selling out their team to help our own.

“The first and fiercest punishment ought to fall first on the traitor, second on the enemy. If I had but one bullet and I were faced by both an enemy and a traitor, I would let the traitor have it” – Cornelieu Zelea Codreanu

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

This is why I hate the Left, Labour, the Democrats, the Brexit-underminers, the EU, and the NGO do-gooders. But I digress.

I think it takes real skill to make the reader respect and root for a spy who is furthering the interests of a rival country [2]. This is what John P. Marquand accomplishes with his long-running Mr Moto series, of which this is the second I’ve read. Mr Moto is a small unassuming agent of the Imperial Japanese government in the 1930s, and thus he is advancing the interests of an aggressively expansionist empire at the peak of it’s aggressive expansionism [3]

The narrative trick Marquand uses is to present Mr Moto as a bit-part character in each novel, where the primary narrative perspective is of an Englishman or American who is encountering Mr Moto flitting in and out of his life as momentous events take place around him [4]. This is similar to how Ian Fleming approached James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. Most Fleming books follow Bond as the main character from a third-person perspective. TSWLM is different, it’s written first-person from the point of view of a young women taking an off-season job at a campsite. Bond passes through her campsite entirely by coincidence, on his return from an assignment, and she becomes very curious about him.

Most people consider it a weak link in the series but I admired Fleming’s ambition and found it fascinating to watch a master spy save the world as an outsider who barely sees him.

The main theme of Thank You, Mr Moto is not spying at all. At heart it’s about an American man in his mid-thirties who has spent so long in China that he’s ‘gone native’. He speaks Chinese perfectly, has a house of loyal local servants, and idles away his days in the ex-pat circuit of parties at the Ambassador’s events.


And being really spoiled with the Ferrero Rocher

He meets an adventuress from the US who appears to be neck-deep in an art theft ring that Mr Moto is looking into. The story progresses like a normal adventure, with a focus on oriental inscrutability, in which the hapless American tries to rescue the girl from her folly [5] while a growing insurrection grips Peking. I dare say Mr Moto’s screen time is about 25 pages total.

The overriding theme is of shattered delusion. This American, Tom Nelson, really believes that he has been accepted by the Chinese. His servants are nominally loyal, his Chinese friends receive him with courtesy, and he’s bathing in his self-image as an enlightened westerner who has proven wrong those who say it can’t be done. I know how this feels because I had the 2000s version of the same thing in Tokyo while I lived there almost four years.

For as long as the weather is fair, all is well. But, as Evander Holyfield said before his first fight with Mike Tyson: “pressure busts pipes”. Trouble brews and Mr Nelson realises he hasn’t been accepted at all. The Chinese have been humouring him. His servants disappear overnight after first betraying him to an assassination attempt, his main friend Prince Tung shows himself utterly unhelpful, and soon after Mr Nelson has some real soul-searching to do.

I too have experienced Asians pulling rank when alliances shift. It was trivial and harmless, but opened my eyes to how they conceive of group allegiance. I noted both at my school and at my kickboxing gym that once you’ve left the group you are much further out of it than leaving an equivalent group in the West would leave you.

Tom Nelson realises he was never accepted by the locals. He experiences profound anomie and most of the book carries this undercurrent, like he’s floating in a bubble world and what was previously distinct and tangible is now blurred and treacherous. Fascinating to me, having experienced exactly the same thing [6]

There is no magic dirt. There is no kumbayah we-are-the-world. If you’re a stranger in a strange land then that’s just how it is. You can contribute to the community, build solid friendships, and even become essential to your adopted nation’s survival but if push comes to shove, you’re expendable because you’re not one of them. Robert Mugabe can still steal your farm. Nelson Mandela can still have your servants butcher your family in your home.

You still have to go back.

If you like my attempts to draw political and cultural parallels from a man’s adventures with women overseas, you’ll likely enjoy my memoir series Balls Deep, A Deplorable Cad, and Adventure Sex. If you hate that stuff, stick to my textbook Daygame Infinite which shows how to pick up hot girls for free.

[1] I once tried a new author who, forty pages in, revealed the spy was on Team Homo. I literally threw that book across the cafe, surprising other guests. Then I had to pick it up, in case any of them read it and started thinking I was a shirt-lifter.
[2] I don’t mean literally to support them in the real world as they act against your country. I mean simply to respect them and support them within the context of a fictional novel.
[3] I have a soft spot for all aggressive expansionists including Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, Mongolian Khans, British Empire, Imperial Rome, and Alexander of Macedonia.
[4] That these momentous events take place in Asia is another narrative device to reduce our hostility to a Japanese agent because, lets face it, none of us give a flying fuck if a load of Chinese, Japanese and Burmese massacre each other in political intrigues so long as they leave us well out of it.
[5] Folly here meaning ‘consequences of her own greedy, deceptive, and manipulative practices’. I’d have cut her loose immediately but this book was written in 1937 partly as a cautionary tale to not white-knight devious bitches.
[6] I believe Westerners living in Thailand with Thai wives are in precisely the same position.

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Title #4 – Thank You, Mr Moto John P. Marquand BOOK REVIEW
Author krauserpua
Date January 17, 2018 4:04 PM UTC (5 years ago)
Blog Krauser PUA
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