In Arms and Idleness
Manufacturer: Publish Green
Emmett Slake has written a very good, fast-moving, emotional story about young American soldiers in occupied Japan who become caught up in the opening weeks of the Korean War. Basically the story centers on moral choices made by the story’s main characters as the Korean crisis suddenly engulfs the Americans on duty in Japan in 1950. Should a young, earnest private, part of the occupation forces and in love with a Japanese refugee, accept his duty to go to Korea or should he heed the advice of a friend to bribe his way out of transfer to a combat unit? Should his friend, already responsible for the death of another American soldier, become further corrupted by joining a complex scheme to blackmail officers? Should a rising career officer approve a court martial in order to advance his military career? The story of the occupation is framed within these dilemmas.
The occupation of Japan is the heart of the story. Slake has clearly delved into considerable research in order to write a detailed portrait of this part of the American military experience. Slake’s characters are similarly well-developed, believable, and compelling in their words and actions. The dialogue between the characters is crisp and clever and carries the story along quickly to a memorable and apt ending. One can only hope that Slake will follow up with another novel that goes into the Korean conflict in more detail.
The book will appeal to anyone interested in the beginnings of the Korean conflict, has an interest in this period of Asian history, or simply likes a good story. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by: Terry Shoptaugh (2013)