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"Don't know much about history..."


Sam Cooke remarked.


I don't either, as it turns out. After reading, studying, and writing books and essays

about historical subjects for decades, I daily find new information that leaves me

saying, "I didn't know that." One of my current works-in-progress, The Unfrozen Sea, includes scenes set in 1904 Yokohama, a time and place I knew little about. But I love

research and welcome any excuse to wade into unknown waters.


Yokohama in 1904, as it turns out, was the principal port of entry for foreign correspondents

The Settlement 1904 Yokohama
Yokohama 1904

arriving in Japan to cover the war between the Japanese Empire and Czarist

Russia. The Settlement, a set-aside district within the city where foreign interests could conduct business and trade with Japan, was soon filled with newspaper reporters and magazine writers eager to get to the battlefront in Korea. Japan's military, suspicious of outsiders, and equally eager to keep them away from the front, shuttled the correspondents to Tokyo and kept them isolated and entertained in luxurious accommodations in Tokyo's hotels and private clubs.


Since the war cut telegraph links between the two combatant nations, reporters relied on overseas mail to get their stories to Europe and America. And most of the regular shipping lines were between Yokohama and foreign ports. Yokohama, and to a lesser extent, Tokyo, became a hotbed of intrigue. What could be better for a novel of intrigue and dramatic events? One of the pleasures of historical fiction is the serendipitous discovery of real events that dovetail with fictional events and character movements.




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