Mr. Moto, a fictional Japanese detective, achieved mass popularity through a series of 1930s films starring Peter Lorre. Moto was the creation of successful writer John P. Marquand (1893–1960), whose novels depicted a Japanese international spy quite different from the genial Mr. Moto of film. Revisiting the original Mr. Moto novels illuminates a Japanese character who rationalized Japan’s 1930s continental expansionism in ways that might have been acceptable to many Americans. Although Marquand intended to present Mr. Moto as a “moderate” and reasonable Japanese agent and generally present East Asians in a positive light, it is difficult to see the novels as doing anything more than buttressing prevailing racial and ethnic stereotypes.
David MuraSong for Uncle Tom Tonto and Mr. Moto: Essays and Interviews on the Relationship of Color and the Literary Canon (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press2002); Jessica Hagedorn (ed.) Charlie Chan is Dead: An Anthology of Asian American Fiction (New York: Penguin 1993); Helen Zia Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an Asian American People (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux 2001).