The Reading Room

Stopover Tokyo

John P. Marquand’s Mr Moto….

Here’s another great find in one of my local secondhand bookshops, fifty English pence for this 1959 Collins Thriller Book Club edition of Stopover Tokyo by John P.Marquand featuring his most popular character, Mr Moto. First edition aficionado’s may balk at the idea of a Book Club copy but not I!

John Phillips Marquand (1893-1960) was an American Pulitzer Prize winning author best known for his novels of society life in New England including The Late George Apley (1937) and Wickford Point (1939) In his six volume Mr Moto series, Marquand departed from societal fiction and developed his popular spy series beginning with No Hero (1935) also titled Mr Moto Takes a Hand (1940) and Your Turn, Mr Moto (1963) Marquand’s Japanese secret agent was originally  serialised in the Saturday Evening Post and in Stopover Tokyo, the last in the series, we see Mr Moto more than sharing the limelight with intelligence agent Jack Rhyce and his assistant Ruth Bogart. By 1956 fifteen years had elapsed since the last Mr Moto outing, tempted out of retirement by the lure of $5,000 travel expenses for a research trip to Tokyo and a staggering $75,000 advance from the Saturday Evening Post, Marquand spent a month in Japan and finished the novel in late 1956.

His research was put to good use throughout the book as he describes a drive through Yokohama; “The thatched farmhouses, the jade-green of the rice plants reflected in the shallow water of the checkerboard squares of the paddies, the bamboo windbreaks, the farmers in their huge straw hats meticulously tending each rice shoot, the jagged mountains in the background were part of an eternal picture of a way  that could survive all change” An interesting historical and geographical look at Japan in the fifties if nothing else.

Mr Moto is described as a small man with ‘finely chiselled features, slender and graceful hands’, he arrives late into the story as an aid to  Rhyce who is charged with breaking up a Communist espionage and terrorist ring in Tokyo. It proved to be a hit and despite protestations by the newspaper to change the somewhat sad ending, Marquand stuck by his storyline. It’s a decent enough read, like Nevile Shute it’s style is very much of its time but  worth a place on any spy fiction collector’s bookshelf, especially at that price!

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