Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Writers who become bound up in quixotic, violent causes: Sadly, you could write a book.

1823: The poet Lord Gordon George Byron becomes swept up in the Greek independence movement. He chips in cash, various other resources, and, eventually, plans to personally lead a military action. Byron falls ill, undergoes a course of “therapeutic bleeding” (from which he probably contracts sepsis) and dies in Greece in 1824.

1939-45?: Ernest Hemingway ran his own spy/anti-German submarine contingent called “The Crook Factory,” then later operated a guerilla unit while serving as a WWII correspondent in the European Theater. Hem ended up facing a formal hearing for his actions (see my Hector Lassiter novel, ROLL THE CREDITS for more on that latter).

A young Yukio Mishima.

1970: On November 24, Japanese novelist-playwright Yukio Mishima, 45, stages a coup attempt that ends in his committing seppuku (ritual disembowelment) and then beheading at the hands of one of his four conspirators.


Yukio Mishima (born Kimitake Hiraoka) was a gifted novelist and one of Japan’s great literary figures. He was a true renaissance man who composed nearly three dozen novels, nearly as many books of essays, more than two dozen short story collections, plays, screenplays and who dabbled in acting.

Mishima's poorly received speech delivered
minutes before his ritual suicide.

He was considered a likely contender for the Nobel Prize for literature.

Mishima was increasingly appalled by Japan’s post-war Westernization and turned further and further toward martial arts studies and an embracement of Samurai codes of life and personal conduct. He practiced body-building and kendo, and, in 1968, he formed is own private militia.

His death came almost immediately upon completion of his novel, THE DECAY OF THE ANGEL, the final volume of his SEA OF FERTILITY tetralogy that many regard as Mishima’s masterwork.

Yukio Mishima shares a lunch with my fictional novelist, Hector Lassiter, in DEATH IN THE FACE, the next-to-last novel in the Lassiter series.

Lassiter is in Japan, dogging the steps of his fellow thriller writer Ian Fleming, who has come to gather materials for his James Bond novel YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

Over a meal and drinks, Mishima shares his horror at Japan’s post-war condition to Hector—a deep and troubling concern shared by many of the villains in my novel, including an all-too-real clandestine ultranationalist cabal called the Black Dragon Society. (The group was actually operating in 1940s America, in the San Joaquin Valley of all places, and within Japanese internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor.)

In sum, Mishima is yet another in a long-line of gifted, self-destructive creative artists who poses a cautionary, unsettling example to novelist Hector Lassiter who is now himself becoming a “lion in winter”.


NEXT TIME: Robert Shaw, actor and novelist, and his role in DEATH IN THE FACE.


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