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Description

Product Description

A classic spy novel from the bestselling author, Trevanian, about a westerner raised in Japan who becomes one of the world''s most accomplished assassins.

Nicholai Hel is the world’s most wanted man. Born in Shanghai during the chaos of World War I, he is the son of an aristocratic Russian mother and a mysterious German father and is the protégé of a Japanese Go master. Hel survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world’s most artful lover and its most accomplished—and well-paid—assassin. Hel is a genius, a mystic, and a master of language and culture, and his secret is his determination to attain a rare kind of personal excellence, a state of effortless perfection known only as shibumi.

Now living in an isolated mountain fortress with his exquisite mistress, Hel is unwillingly drawn back into the life he’d tried to leave behind when a beautiful young stranger arrives at his door, seeking help and refuge. It soon becomes clear that Hel is being tracked by his most sinister enemy—a supermonolith of international espionage known only as the Mother Company. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other . . . shibumi.

Review

“One hell of a pleasure to read.” — Washington Post

“It’s hard to imagine a more nearly perfect spy story.” — Milwaukee Journal

From the Inside Flap

A westerner raised in Japan, he survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world''s most artful lover and its most accomplished assassin. His greatest desire is to attain a state of effortless perfection . . . shibumi. But he is about to face his most sinister and corrupt enemy -- a supermonolith of espionage and monopoly bent on destroying
him. . . .

From the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Nicholai Hel is the world''s most wanted man. Born in Shanghai during the chaos of World War I, he is the son of an aristocratic Russian mother and a mysterious German father and is the protege of a Japanese Go master. Hel survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world''s most artful lover and its most accomplished--and well-paid--assassin. Hel is a genius, a mystic, and a master of language and culture, and his secret is his determination to attain a rare kind of personal excellence, a state of effortless perfection known only as "shibumi.
Now living in an isolated mountain fortress with his exquisite mistress, Hel is unwillingly drawn back into the life he''d tried to leave behind when a beautiful young stranger arrives at his door, seeking help and refuge. It soon becomes clear that Hel is being tracked by his most sinister enemy--a supermonolith of international espionage known only as the Mother Company. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other . . . "shibumi.

About the Author

Trevanian lives in the French Basque region. He is the author of  The Crazyladies of Pearl Street, The Eiger Sanction, The Loo Sanction, The Main, The Summer of Katya, Incident at Twenty-Mile, and  Hot Night in the City. Visit trevanian.com for the Crazyladies cybernotes, Trevanian’s commentaries, items from the author’s desk, and more.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Washington


The screen flashed 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 . . . then the projector was switched off, and lights came up in recessed sconces along the walls of the private viewing room.

The projectionist''s voice was thin and metallic over the intercom. "Ready when you are, Mr. Starr."

T. Darryl Starr, sole audience member, pressed the talk button of the communication console before him. "Hey, buddy? Tell me something. What are all those numbers in front of a movie for anyway?"

"It''s called academy leader, sir," the projectionist answered. "I just spliced it onto the film as a sort of joke."

"Joke?"

"Yes, sir. I mean . . . considering the nature of the film . . . it''s sort of funny to have a commercial leader, don''t you think?"

"Why funny?"

"Well, I mean . . . what with all the complaints about violence in movies and all that."

T. Darryl Starr grunted and scrubbed his nose with the back of his fist, then he slipped down the pilot-style sunglasses he had pushed up into his cropped hair when the lights first went off.

Joke? It damn well better not be a joke, I shit thee not! If anything has gone wrong, my ass will be grass. And if the slightest little thing is wrong, you can bet your danglees that Mr. Diamond and his crew will spot it. Nit-picking bastards! Ever since they took control over Middle East operations of CIA, they seemed to get their cookies by pointing out every little boo-boo.

Starr bit off the end of his cigar, spat it onto the carpeted floor, pumped it in and out of his pursed lips, then lit it from a wooden match he struck with his thumbnail. As Most Senior Field Operative, he had access to Cuban cigars. After all, RHIP.

He scooted down and hooked his legs over the back of the seat before him, like he used to do when he watched movies at the Lone Star Theater as a boy. And if the boy in front objected, Starr would offer to kick his ass up amongst his shoulder blades. The other kid always backed off, because everybody in Flat Rock knew that T. Darryl Starr was some kind of fierce and could stomp a mud puddle in any kid''s chest.

That was many years and knocks ago, but Starr was still some kind of fierce. That''s what it took to become CIA''s Most Senior Field Operative. That, and experience. And boo-coo smarts.

And patriotism, of course.

Starr checked his watch: two minutes to four. Mr. Diamond had called for a screening at four, and he would arrive at four—exactly. If Starr''s watch did not read four straight up when Diamond walked into the theater, he would assume the watch was in need of repair.

He pressed his talk button again. "How does the film look?"

"Not bad, considering the conditions under which we shot it," the projectionist answered. "The light in Rome International is tricky . . . a mixture of natural light and fluorescent overheads. I had to use a combination of CC filters that brought my f-stop way down and made focus a real problem. And as for color quality—"

"I don''t want to hear your piddly-assed problems!"

"Sorry, sir. I was just answering your question."

"Well, don''t!"

"Sir?"

The door at the back of the private theater opened with a slap. Starr glanced at his watch; the sweep second hand was five seconds off four o''clock. Three men walked quickly down the aisle. In the lead was Mr. Diamond, a wiry man in his late forties whose movements were quick and adroit, and whose impeccably tailored clothes reflected his trim habits of mind. Following closely was Mr. Diamond''s First Assistant, a tall, loosely jointed man with a vague academic air. Not a man to waste time, it was Diamond''s practice to dictate memos, even while en route between meetings. The First Assistant carried a belt recorder at his hip, the pinhead microphone of which was attached to his metal-rimmed glasses. He always walked close beside Mr. Diamond, or sat near him, his head bowed to pick up the flow of clipped monotonic directives.

Considering the heraldic stiffness of CIA mentality, it was inevitable that their version of wit would suggest a homosexual relationship between Diamond and his ever-hovering assistant. Most of the jokes had to do with what would happen to the assistant''s nose, should Mr. Diamond ever stop suddenly.

The third man, trailing behind and somewhat confused by the brisk pace of action and thought surrounding him, was an Arab whose Western clothes were dark, expensive, and ill-fitting. The shabby look was not his tailor''s fault; the Arab''s body was not designed for clothes requiring posture and discipline.

Diamond slipped into an aisle seat across the auditorium from Starr; the First Assistant sat directly behind him, and the Palestinian, frustrated in his expectation that someone would tell him where to sit, finally shambled into a seat near the back.

Turning his head so the pinhead microphone could pick up the last of his rapid, atonic dictation, Diamond closed off the thoughts he had been pursuing. "Introduce the following topics to me within the next three hours: One—North Sea oil rig accident: the media suppression thereof. Two—This professor type who is investigating the ecological damage along the Alaska pipeline: the termination thereof by apparent accident."

Both these tasks were in their final phases, and Mr. Diamond was looking forward to getting in a little tennis over the weekend. Provided, of course, these CIA fools had not screwed up this Rome International action. It was a straightforward spoiling raid that should not have presented any difficulties, but in the six months since the Mother Company had assigned him to manage CIA activities involving the Middle East, he had learned that no action is so simple as to be beyond CIA''s capacity for error.

Diamond understood why the Mother Company chose to maintain its low profile by working behind the cover of CIA and NSA, but that did not make his job any easier. Nor had he been particularly amused by the Chairman''s lighthearted suggestion that he think of the Mother Company''s use of CIA operatives as Her contribution to the hiring of the mentally handicapped.

Diamond had not yet read Starr''s action report, so he reached back for it now. The First Assistant anticipated him and had the report ready to press into his hand.

As he glanced over the first page, Diamond spoke without raising his voice. "Put the cigar out, Starr." Then he lifted his hand in a minimal gesture, and the wall lights began to dim down.

Darryl Starr pushed his sunglasses up into his hair as the theater went dark and the projector beam cut through slack threads of blue smoke. On the screen appeared a jerky pan over the interior of a large, busy airport.

"This here''s Rome International," Starr drawled. "Time reference: thirteen thirty-four GMT. Flight 414 from Tel Aviv has just arrived. It''s going to be a piece before the action starts. Those I-talian customs jokers ain''t no speed balls."

"Starr?" said Diamond, wearily.

"Sir?"

"Why haven''t you put that cigar out?"

"Well, to tell you God''s own truth, sir, I never heard you ask me to."

"I didn''t ask you."

Embarrassed at being ordered around in the presence of a foreigner, Starr unhooked his leg from the seat in front and ground out the almost fresh cigar on the carpet. To save face, he continued narrating as though nothing had happened. "I expect our A-rab friend here is going to be some impressed at how we handled this one. It went off slick as catshit on linoleum."

Wide shot: customs and immigration portal. A queue of passengers await the formalities with varying degrees of impatience. In the face of official incompetence and indifference, the only passengers who are smiling and friendly are those who anticipate trouble with their passports or luggage. An old man with a snow-white goatee leans over the counter, explaining something for the third time to the customs officer. Behind him in line are two young men in their twenties, deeply tanned, wearing khaki shorts and shirts open at the throat. As they move forward, pushing their rucksacks along with their feet, camera zooms in to isolate them in mid-close-up.

"Those are our targets," Starr explained needlessly.

"Just so," the Arab said in a brittle falsetto. "I recognize one of them, one known within their organization as Avrim."

With a comically exaggerated bow of gallantry, the first young man offers to let a pretty redheaded girl precede them to the counter. She smiles thanks, but shakes her head. The Italian official in his too-small peaked cap takes the first young man''s passport with a bored gesture and flicks it open, his eyes straying again and again to the girl''s breasts, obviously unfettered beneath a denim shirt. He glances from the photograph to the young man''s face and back again, frowning.

Starr explained. "The mark''s passport picture was taken before he grew that silly-assed beard."

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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5
996 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

RoniH
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
... when my Kindle ran out of juice and turned itself off I found my place in my ancient book copy and continued reading
Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2017
This is not a new book. I have had a copy since it first came on the shelf and have read it more than several times. It stands alone. Any effort - i.e. Satori to "cover the lost period " is unnecessary. The book is perfect, the characters strong and well... See more
This is not a new book. I have had a copy since it first came on the shelf and have read it more than several times. It stands alone.
Any effort - i.e. Satori to "cover the lost period " is unnecessary.
The book is perfect, the characters strong and well drawn - especially the bad guys.
I love the book and when my Kindle ran out of juice and turned itself off I found my place in my ancient book copy and continued reading.
It is not for the squeamish or sensitive.
I recommend this book to any adult.
43 people found this helpful
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Steve Ruis
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Bizarre Word Changes
Reviewed in the United States on July 19, 2017
I read this book way back when and I thought it was worth another read. It is till a good book. My gripe is with the creators of the Kindle version. As a creator of online books, I know this is not an easy task, but sheesh. I suspect someone did a global spell check without... See more
I read this book way back when and I thought it was worth another read. It is till a good book. My gripe is with the creators of the Kindle version. As a creator of online books, I know this is not an easy task, but sheesh. I suspect someone did a global spell check without their brain engaged. The asian borad game Go plays a role in the storyline, but everywhere the word "Go" should be is the word "Goo!" Even after I figured it out it was jarring every time I encountered it. I was once a ranked amateur Go player, so I know more about the game than the average reader, but c''mon people. The purpose here is to take advantage of the legs an older book might still have, not by reprinting it (very expensive) but by republishing it as an e-book. Take a little time and do it right. Pay someone to proof read the text after it is converted, maybe.
36 people found this helpful
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vegasbill
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Still a great read
Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2017
Normally I don''t reread books, however, since I first read Shibumi in the 70''s when it was originally published, I do remember that I enjoyed it very much, along with Eiger Sanction and Loo Sanction, so I decided to try it again. To my delight it holds up very well. The... See more
Normally I don''t reread books, however, since I first read Shibumi in the 70''s when it was originally published, I do remember that I enjoyed it very much, along with Eiger Sanction and Loo Sanction, so I decided to try it again. To my delight it holds up very well. The cast of characters, led by Nicholai Hel, his concubine Hana, sidekick Le Cagot and many others are well drawn and each has his own distinct character traits, some are endearing and others hateful. There are some slow parts to the story when Trevanian gets preachy, but what amazed me is these are the same political and environmental issues we are discussing today, fifty years later. Another slow area of the book was the great detail Trevanian goes into with regard to spelunking. I understand he worked it into the plot but it could have easily been shortened. The rest of the book is terrific. It is at once exciting, sexy, funny, satirical, philosophical and educational. We learn about Japanese culture, Chinese culture, WWII history, Basque culture and spelunking, all the while Hel deals with the CIA, NSA, MI5 and MI6. Trevanian was also a philosopher of sorts, giving us his take on society and how we relate to one another. Hel is the bastard child of a Russian aristocrat mother and her boy toy Prussian Count who she considered to be only breeding stock, He was born in Shanghai and ultimately raised by the Russian woman and a Japanese general during the Japanese occupation of that city. As the outcome of WWII became clear the general sends Hel to Japan to study with one of his dear friends until he reached manhood. Here he learned much of what would serve him well as an independent paid assassin. How this''ll ties into the story line Trevanian has woven makes for a great read. I will probably reread Eiger Sanction and Loo Sanction again as this experience was so enjoyable.
22 people found this helpful
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Ben
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very rich story. Common idea told from a unique perspective.
Reviewed in the United States on May 25, 2017
I read this book because it was vaguely related to the movie John Wick. I am very glad I did. Most popular American literature has a common tone. This book is written from a perspective that has made me want to broaden my horizons further. This is the... See more
I read this book because it was vaguely related to the movie John Wick. I am very glad I did.

Most popular American literature has a common tone. This book is written from a perspective that has made me want to broaden my horizons further.

This is the first time I have read literature that is from the point of view of the Japanese during WWII and it was refreshing.

If you liked John Wick, I''d highly recommended this book as well.
18 people found this helpful
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Big Bear
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A great book. Trevanian is a bold author to even begin to describe a mind formed by a game that makes chess look child''s play.
Reviewed in the United States on January 25, 2018
A great book, but certainly not serious literature. Perhaps Trevanian''s best, and for a "Spy Novel" certainly amazing. Trevanian is a bold author to even begin to describe a mind formed by a decade of passionate disciplined of study a game that makes chess look... See more
A great book, but certainly not serious literature. Perhaps Trevanian''s best, and for a "Spy Novel" certainly amazing. Trevanian is a bold author to even begin to describe a mind formed by a decade of passionate disciplined of study a game that makes chess look like a game for high-schoolers, and physical training and discipline that very few have the ability to approach, much lest pursue for years and master. If you think that ordinary states of consciousness are the only states that are valuable, that meditation is a waste of time, or that your mom and dad knew (or you know) almost everything about sexual pleasure, this is probably not the book for you. If you have made a study of (or some penetration into) the edges of human consciousness and capabilities and would like to read a spy novel, this is well worth your time.
12 people found this helpful
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Zatoichi 007
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Recommended to those seeking something genuinely unique and literary
Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2017
While masquerading as an assassin/spy thriller, Shibumi is really a very interesting and mostly successful exercise in literary style and substance. At its core the book is an essay on a wide range of topics such as politics, socioeconomics, spelunking, sex, and East/West... See more
While masquerading as an assassin/spy thriller, Shibumi is really a very interesting and mostly successful exercise in literary style and substance. At its core the book is an essay on a wide range of topics such as politics, socioeconomics, spelunking, sex, and East/West culture clashes. That all of those disparate elements are wrapped up in a spoof of sorts of spy novels with a near inhuman superman who remains an enigma as its protagonist is both daring and audacious. Yet the book remains entertaining during each of its unexpected turns. Recommended to those seeking something genuinely unique and literary. Not recommended for the run-of-the-mill action thriller fan.
12 people found this helpful
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Phil Boyd Studge
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
In case you can''t tell - I like this one a lot!
Reviewed in the United States on March 17, 2018
I think I was 15 when I found this book on my dad''s table next to his pipes and humidor. When I re-read Shibumi I was in my twenties living in Tokyo with my brother who asked what I was reading... Third reading is a bit more vague - but happened in my early fourties.... See more
I think I was 15 when I found this book on my dad''s table next to his pipes and humidor. When I re-read Shibumi I was in my twenties living in Tokyo with my brother who asked what I was reading...
Third reading is a bit more vague - but happened in my early fourties. In my late fifties I gave several out as gifts to younger guys who missed the sixties.
Now in my sixties, I want a digital version for my digital library...
Nuf'' said?
7 people found this helpful
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MKS
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Masterpiece, read and devour the words.
Reviewed in the United States on May 20, 2015
The cover shown here for this review is different than the one I thought I downloaded so I don''t know if there is a difference between covers. I loved this book. There are many reviews already which are accurate. The main thing I think that is important to know when... See more
The cover shown here for this review is different than the one I thought I downloaded so I don''t know if there is a difference between covers. I loved this book. There are many reviews already which are accurate. The main thing I think that is important to know when reading Shibumi is that it''s a book written as a majestic literary genius piece of art. The author is truly amazing and needs to be read and absorbed. It''s not for the person who does not enjoy reading like eating a fine meal. No skimming, no skipping words. Enjoy the talent the author has in description. I''ve read this twice now many years apart. I had forgotten many things and just knew it had left me the first time with a feeling of what true greatness can be if we only knew how to achieve "Shibumi" Enjoy him, try to be in his shoes, read it again. Well worth an avid reader''s time. THANK YOU MKS
24 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

BRS
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It has not stood the test of time.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 31, 2018
Read this book many years ago, but it has not stood the test of time.
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C Mansfield
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good book fair condition
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 2, 2017
Dustcover more work than expected, but otherwise ok. Good story gripping to follow. Arrived in time from seller
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thomas scott
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 27, 2016
Great read.
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Client d'Amazon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 11, 2017
Perfect product as expected !
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Cliente Amazon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good stuff
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 12, 2016
Quick and as promised
Report
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Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale

Shibumi: outlet online sale online A Novel outlet sale