I recently learned [29 October 2005 show, round 3] that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, recently indicted for his role in, at the very least, the coverup of the Valerie Plame Wilson leak, is a published author. Why should I care, I hear you ask? Because his book, The Apprentice is about a dramatic encounter in 1903 Japan. (You can view the book at Amazon, as well as decidedly mixed reader reviews)
The Apprentice takes place in a remote mountain inn in northernmost Japan, where a raging blizzard has brought together wayfarers who share only fear and suspicion of one another. It is the winter of 1903, the country is beset with smallpox and war is brewing with Russia.
In the flickering shadows of the crowded room, the apprentice, charged with running the inn during the owner’s absence, finds himself strongly attracted to one of the performers lodged there. His involvement with the mysterious travelers plunges him headlong into murder, passion and heart-stopping chases through the snow.
Several of the news stories which mention the book say that it got “favorable reviews” but, on the erotic bits at least, the New Yorker (which was probably the source for the Wait, Wait questions) disagrees. I can’t find any reviews which seem to be written from a good Japanese historical or literary background. Libby worked for the State Department’s East Asia desk in the early-mid 1980s, which seems to be where he got his interest in Japanese history as a backdrop for his writing.
My university library system does not, alas, have a copy, but my state public library does. I’ve put in a request, so I might be able to answer my own questions shortly. But if anyone out there who knows the period has already read it, I’d be happy to hear from them first.