Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jake Adelstein's TOKYO VICE

Pal and intrepid reporter Jake Adelstein's first book, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, has just been published in the U.S., and Jake has embarked on a brief book tour ahead of an upcoming 60 Minutes/CBS report on related topics in early November. In our era of cheap armchair journalism and errant blog chatter (like this), Jake's book is something of an anomaly: an account of a singular story researched and written by a writer on the scene--or, more literally, on the beat, whose knowledge of his subject is unassailable, and whose intimacy is so stark it nearly got him and his family killed. What's more, the research, interviews, encounters and writing were initially done in Jake's second language. If you haven't deduced from his name, Jake is not Japanese, but he is very fluent, both linguistically and culturally.

Like most good books, Tokyo Vice is many narratives--a coming-of-age story about a boy from the American Midwest who follows a yellow brick road to his own Oz; a curtain-lifting expose of cronyism, corruption and sclerosis in the world's second largest economy; and a wise embrace of paradoxes--which we can all learn from in the 21st century.

Together with Bob Whiting's seminal account of postwar chaos in Japan, Tokyo Underworld, Jake's book reveals the underbelly of Asia's biggest economy and America's major ally across the Pacific, in English prose as plain and clear as a pool of carp.

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