Nearly two years after The Spy’s Son launched in North America, the book is getting an exciting second act in foreign markets. But the forthcoming edition, in Japanese, pushed me into unfamiliar waters last Saturday, when I found myself entertaining an exceedingly polite video crew inside my home.
When I first learned that a popular Japanese television show was shooting an episode featuring my nonfiction spy story, and that producers wanted me to go on camera, I thought I'd wear my "author" uniform -- Levis, a gray cashmere sweater, and my favorite Lucchese cowboy boots -- and sit for the interview in the library of Portland's stately University Club.
But I was told that on Japanese TV, it's customary for authors to dress in business suits and present themselves in their "studies" -- a word that scarcely describes my writing room. To the untrained observer, my quirky work space probably looks a flophouse for the maladjusted. I mean, it's choked with totems that are supposed to keep me on track, turn me away from bad habits, and mostly startle me awake.
For example: A plastic meat cleaver over one shoulder reminds me to hack away at surplusage. A little stuffed shark, dangling overhead, pays homage to my favorite book, The Old Man and the Sea, and reminds me to be cunning, vigilant, and ferocious. A drum pad and sticks, to my right, help me correct rhythms in my head when the words show up on my screen out of tempo, drunk, and derelict of duty. Then, for unmitigated mirth, there is a cheap foot-long plastic alligator sprawled on a corner shelf (a wink to Carl Hiaasen’s darkly comic novel Tourist Season, notably page 6, wherein a medical examiner extricates just such a trinket from the gullet of a dead Shriner named Theodore Bellamy). This is not a normal place. This is clearly not a study.
Yet this is precisely where an adorable young woman named Hazuki Ichinose wanted to point a camera at me. She flew into Portland from New York with a cameraman identified as “Mr. Sato” in tow. I never got his first name, and I never asked, because I really, really enjoyed calling him Mr. SAH-to. They were shooting footage for a show on Japan’s Fuji TV Network called “Unbelievable.” I’m told the broadcast will help sell a few books when Hayakawa Publishing releases The Spy’s Son on May 9.
Hazuki and Mr. Sato seemed to have a good time during the video shoot. They were respectful, gave me good prompts for my responses, and were in and out in a few hours. When they left, I felt like I was bidding farewell to a couple of new friends. I hope to see them again one day.
I want The Spy's Son to go big in Japan. North American sales have naturally cooled in the two years it's been on the shelves. So Japan offers a whole new life.
I keep thinking back to those final scenes in This is Spinal Tap, the hilarious 1984 mockumentary about a long-in-the-tooth heavy metal band whose members (spoiler alert) find their popularity waning as their Spandex pants inflate. In the end (this is your final spoiler alert), the band finds new life in Japan, where its song "Sex Farm” is on the charts.
Spinal Tap plays to a raucous crowd in Kobe Hall, Tokyo.
When I get to Japan (I've never been), I want to read in Kobe Hall, assuming there really is such a place in Tokyo as Kobe Hall, and I hope there is. I'll try to learn a little Japanese. Yes, I'll be ready. I'll even dress appropriately.
Somewhere around here I have some faded Spandex.