I've thought about that remark while reading The Wandering Ghost, fifth of Limón's novels about Ernie Bascom and George Sueño, a pair of U.S. Army investigators in South Korea in the 1960s and '70s, especially when I read these bits:
"Small rooms open, no doors. Jam-packed with black-market merchandise, cardboard cases of canned fruit cocktail imported from Hawaii. In the next room, cases of crystallized orange drink were piled almost to the ceiling. The next held boxes of bottled maraschino cherries and about a jillion packets of nondairy creamer."and
"The entire facility reeked of damp canvas and decayed mothballs. A cement-floored walkway was lined by square plywood bins, each bin filled to overflowing with steel pots, web gear, helmet liners, wool field trousers, fur-lined parkas, ear-flapped winter headgear, rubber boots, inflatable cold-weather footgear, ammo pouches, and everything the well-dressed combat soldier needs to operate in the country once known as Frozen Chosun."The sheer profusion gives a convincing idea of the staggering amount of stuff it takes for a wealthy country to provision a modern army, and of the temptation to crime that must come with it. You can keep your submachine guns and briefcase-size nuclear devices for cotton-headed thriller fantasies. If I want a convincing mystery, rich with criminal possibility, I'll take a warehouse full of crystallized orange drink, nondairy creamer, and canned fruit cocktail by any day.
I suspect Martin Limón would not be surprised.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011