A War of Words: The Man Who Talked 4000 Japanese into Surrender
University of Queensland Press $32.95 pb, 332 pp, 9780702253171
Hamish McDonald has for more than thirty years written about foreign affairs and defence in Asia for publications such as the Sydney Morning Herald, Far Eastern Economic Review, and, more recently, as the world editor for the Saturday Paper. His writings on Indonesian politics and Australian complacency over the Balibo controversy have been more likely to put him in the firing line than on the bestseller’s list in Jakarta’s bookshops, but his tenacity and journalistic skills place him among Australia’s finest. In a departure from his usual subject matter, McDonald has shone a spotlight on Japan’s historical past in the form of a memoir. A War of Words owes its origins to a chance encounter while he was on assignment in Tokyo when the Japanese economic bubble was at its peak. After a fellow journalist gave him a box of papers that included photographs and an anecdotal manuscript of the life and adventures of one Charles Bavier, McDonald spent the better part of three decades piecing together the details of Bavier’s colourful life. Besides being an excellent tale, The War of Words represents an enlightening chapter in the history of both Japan and its ever-changing relationship with Australia.