An invincible Japanese warlord. A beautiful woman torn between two ways of life. Set in the year , it tells the story of a bold English pilot whose ship was blown ashore in Japan, where he encountered two people who were to change his life: a warlord with his own quest for power, and a beautiful interpreter torn between two ways of life and two ways of love. The principal figures are John Blackthorne, whose dream it is to be the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, to wrest control of the trade between Japan and China from Portuguese, and to return home a man of wealth and position; Toranaga, the most powerful feudal lord in Japan, who strives and schemes to seize ultimate power by becoming Shogun—the Supreme Military Dictator—and to unite the warring samurai fiefdoms under his own masterly and farsighted leadership; and the Lady Mariko, a Catholic convert whose conflicting loyalties to the Church and her country are compounded when she falls in love with Blackthorne, the barbarian intruder. In dramatizing how a Westerner, the representative man of his time, comes to be altered by his exposure to an alien culture, Mr. Clavell provides a spellbinding depiction of a nation seething with violence and intrigue as it moves from the medieval world to the modern.
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Clavell was educated at Portsmouth Grammar School , after which he returned to Australia. Though trained for desert warfare, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December he was sent to Singapore to fight the Japanese. The ship taking his unit was sunk en route to Singapore, and the survivors were picked up by a Dutch boat fleeing to India. The commander, described by Clavell years later as a "total twit," insisted that they be dropped off at the nearest port to fight the war despite having no weapons.
Later he was transferred to Changi Prison in Singapore, where only 1 in 15 prisoners survived. Among the inmates there were experts in all walks of life -the high and the low roads. I studied and absorbed everything I could from physics to counterfeiting, but most of all I learned the art of surviving, the most important course of all.
Clavell believed that if atomic bombs were not dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki he would not have survived the war. For a time he carried a can of sardines in his pocket at all times and fought an urge to forage for food in trash cans. He also experienced bad dreams and a nervous stomach kept him awake nights. He enrolled with the University of Birmingham , where he met April Stride, an actress, whom he married in date of marriage sometimes given as He tried to get into producing but had no luck so started writing screenplays.
In he moved to New York, then to Hollywood. While trying to break into screenwriting he paid the bills working as a carpenter. It was wonderful. Lippert who hired Clavell to write the science-fiction horror movie The Fly This became a hit and launched Clavell as a screenwriter.
Clavell wrote Five Gates to Hell for Lippert, and when they could not find a suitable director, Clavell was given the job. Neither was a proposed movie about Francis Powers made. In , Clavell wrote "Moon Landing" and "First Woman in the Moon", two episodes of Men into Space , a "day after tomorrow"-style science fiction drama, which depicted, in realistic terms, the at the time near future of space exploration. Early prose and screenplay work[ edit ] In the Writers Guild went on strike, meaning Clavell was unable to work.
He decided to write a novel, King Rat , based on his time at Changi. It took him three months and several more months after that to rework it. The book was published in and sold well. It was turned into a film in He wrote scripts for the war films The Great Escape and Squadron He also wrote Richard Sahib for Sturges which was never made. It was a huge bestseller, and Clavell sold the film rights for a sizeable amount although the movie would not be made until It was a huge critical and commercial success.
It was another massive best seller. Clavell was heavily involved in the mini-series which starred Richard Chamberlain and achieved huge ratings. In the late s he spent three years researching and writing his fourth novel, Noble House , set in Hong Kong in It was another best seller and was turned into a miniseries in He was meant to do a sequel to Shogun but instead found himself writing a novel about the revolution in Iran, Whirlwind This was his last completed novel at the time of his death.
Books by James Clavell
To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. Feudal Japan. The year The age of iron and the morning of gunpowder, 12 years of peace after an epidemic of butchery. But the Taiko. Lord Protector of Japan, the peasant general who ordered , men to build Osaka Castle and ran his country like a genius chess player, has been dead a year.
Plot[ edit ] Feudal Japan in is in a precarious peace. The heir to the Taiko Regent is too young to rule, and the most powerful five overlords of the land hold power as a Council of Regents. Portugal, with its vast sea power, and the Catholic Church mainly through the Order of the Jesuits , have gained a foothold in Japan and seek to extend their power. But Japanese society is insular and xenophobic. England and Holland seek to disrupt Portuguese and Catholic relations with Japan and establish ties of their own through trade and military alliances. Erasmus is blown ashore on the Japanese coast at the village of Anjiro during a storm. Yabu puts Blackthorne and his crew on trial as pirates, using a Jesuit priest to interpret for Blackthorne.
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