Barry Eisler (Author of John Rain)

Mike Grist Japan, People / Culture 3 Comments

Barry Eisler is the author of the world-wide bestselling John Rain hit-man series, now 6 books in total, translated into 20 languages, winner of multiple awards and plaudits. He was in town this past week for a sneak preview of the movie made from his first book- ‘Rain Fall’- to which he’d invited his Tokyo fans via his website. I found out about the preview the day before and just managed to snag a seat in the screening room, in the process briefly meeting the man himself:


Me and Barry Eisler.

I only started on the John Rain books a few weeks ago, but they were so fast-paced and fun to read I ploughed through the first four without a break. The character John Rain is a ruthless aging assassin somewhat in the vein of Bond or Bourne, with the unique twist of much of the action being set in Japan and in Japanese (though of course written in English), since Rain himself is Japanese on his father’s side. Ex-CIA and a veteran of numerous atrocities in the Vietnam war, Rain is now a haunted and lonely hit-man, working the hardest cases for the highest value- his brand of death by ‘natural causes’ drawing huge pay cheques.

But Rain is not content- he understands there is something missing from his life. This ache for greater meaning, for connectivity, to be more than a masterless and barely moral ronin, drives and undergirds much of the plotting and heart-racing action. Over this solid core, Eisler builds a world of whiskey and jazz, surveillance and anti-surveillance, sudden violence and passive aggression, judo, humor, and even love, all filtered through an expert understanding of Tokyo and Japanese culture.


Barry Eisler’s John Rain books.


Eisler speaks from a position of some authority on many of the matters in the books- he himself trained in judo to black belt level, he was in the CIA for three years, he lived in Tokyo for a further three, and he loves whiskey and jazz. While reading the books I felt myself rising to a new level of toughness, of street-awareness, even becoming a litle more ‘bad-ass’ like John Rain. I noticed the sidelong glances of people on the train. When I crossed the street, I snuck looks behind me to see if I was being followed. I developed a curious fascination with whiskey, despite having no taste for it.

Meeting Barry Eisler was a great experience- I was nervous as I went into the Sony screening hall, but he was very friendly and smiley, despite having so many proper friends to talk to- he made time to exchange a few words with me, and some other fans who’d come along. He even remembered my website, which I’d mentioned on his forum when offering to give him a guided tour of some ruins.

I had a great time watching the movie- though I shouldn’t say more since this was a pre-press screening preview. The movie poster on the right is on general release though so that shouldn’t be a problem. We can see the John Rain character in front, Gary Oldman in the back, a beautiful girl alongside him, and Tokyo in the background.

After the screening, Barry was happy to sign a copy of the book- ‘Rain Fall’, and also pose for the photo I opened this post with.


Rain Fall.


You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:

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