Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 05/10/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/10/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>James Clavell

THE RISING SUN NEVER SETS ON HIS EMPIRE

OVER LUNCH AT THE BEAU-RIVAGE Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, near his home, James Clavell looks every inch the successful expatriate British author, down to the navy blazer and the ascot. At first he wants to talk about his books, particularly his latest, Gai-Jin. "Gai-Jin is up to my standard, good, bad or indifferent," he says. "If people read it, they won't be disappointed." Then he wants to talk about the books he has already written, from 1962's King Rat (based on his World War II experiences in a Japanese POW camp) to Shogun to Noble House. And of course, there are the books he wants to write. "I've planned these 12 or 13 novels," he says. "Not that I think I will ever have time, because each one takes about five years."

Gradually, though, it becomes apparent: James Clavell's real subject is James Clavell—and it is one he enjoys. "I didn't plan to be a writer," he says. "I planned to be an officer in the British Army." After the war he discovered the movies and became a writer, director and producer before writing King Rat. He has thoughts about breakfast ("A glass of champagne, preferably pink, at 11 a.m., is a civilized way to start the day"), opinions about Japan ("There, the only sin is failure") and his 42-year marriage ("Like in all families, the woman controls it, whether the man wants to admit it or not"). He becomes coy about just one thing: his age. "Sixty-five, how about that? Not too old or too young," he says. Then Clavell, who is actually 67, qualifies it. "Don't believe everything I tell you. I am a storyteller."

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