Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

The Summit of Mauna Kea

Quick question: What is the tallest mountain in the world? Hint: It’s not Mt. Everest. It is Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai‘I. Mauna Kea stands 13,976 feet above sea level, whereas Mt. Everest rises to 29,035 feet above sea level. However, Mauna Kea’s base is on the sea floor, 19,700 feet below. More than half of Mauna Kea’s height is below the surface of the Pacific. In total,Mauna Kea’s height is 33,676 feet, nearly a mile taller than Mt. Everest.

How is this possible you ask? Mt. Everest clearer reaches higher into the upper atmosphere. Yes, it goes higher, but that’s because it started higher. Consider a movie starring Sigourney Weaver, who is six feet tall, and Tom Cruise who, at five feet seven inches, is five inches shorter than Sigourney. In order to make it appear that he is equal to, or taller than, Sigourney, the director might have Sigourney stand in a ditch in the scenes they are together. Does that make Cruise taller? No. He is still shorter than she is. The heights don’t change.

It is interesting to note that even though Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world, it is not the largest. That honor belongs to Mauna Kea’s sister, Mauna Loa, also on the Big Island. Mauna Loa has the largest volume of all the mountains in the world. Mauna Loa is also taller than Mt. Everest, but 110 feet shorter than Mauna Kea.

Both mountains are volcanos, formed when the Pacific plate moved over a hot spot in the Earth’s crust. All the Hawaiian Islands are volcanic and were formed in the same way. The island chain stretches all the way to Midway island. The crescent shape of the chain is what indicates that they were formed by plate movement. Mauna Kea’s last eruption took place about 2460 BC. Mauna Loa’s last eruption occurred in 1984 AD.


Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea opening at dusk

Mauna Kea is an astronomer’s paradise. It has high altitude, low humidity, and high visibility due to its distance from light sources. There are currently thirteen telescopes Mauna Kea, which makes it the best place to view the universe. A fourteenth telescope is planned. It has been the subject of dispute by Native Hawaiians and a source of contention in the state, but recently the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a permit to build the telescope. It is expected to cost $1.4 billion. The opposition is not over, however, and there are likely to be many more delays.You can read about it here in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.


Cold on Mauna Kea

The summit of Mauna Kea is about a two-hour drive up the access road from the Daniel K Inouye Highway. There is a visitor’s center at about the 9,000 foot level. The road is paved to the visitor’s center. Beyond that, visitor’s need four-wheel drive. Ascending to the summit is dangerous for several reasons. First, two hours is insuffient to acclimate yourself to the altitude. As a result, anyone going to the summit is strongly advised to spend a half-hour to an hour at the visitor’s center before moving on. They are also advised to drink warm liquids such as soup and hot chocolate. If you are submitting with a tour, the tour will stop for the required length of time and will provide the liquids. Second, the grade is steep and the turns are sharp. Even if you are in a four-wheel drive, you need to know how to handle it. It is easy to burn out the breaks on the way down and several people die each year from that. In one incident just a few weeks before we went to the summit, a vehicle lost its brakes coming down and the driver tried to slow down by using the vehicle ahead to stop him. It didn’t work and the occupants of both vehicles lost their lives.


The shadow of Mauna Kea on the top of the clouds below

We took a tour to the top. If you are on the Big Island, a tour is a must. The sunset from the top of Mauna Kea is spectacular. As the sun goes down, you will see the shadow of the mountain on the layer of clouds below. Once the sun is down, the stars are truly amazing. However, because of the altitude, your vision changes. Intraocular pressure, in particular, changes, which makes it harder to see the stars than at a lower altitude. As a result, your best view of the stars is lower at the visitor’s center. In addition, the visitor’s center sets up small telescopes to public viewing. The astronomer’s in the observatories are not affected by the altitude because they are viewing the stars through their instruments, not directly.

Go For Broke

More about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II

In France, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was attached to the 36th division of the Seventh Army under the command of Major General John Dahlquist. After ten days of brutal fighting at the towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine in Eastern France near the German border, the 442nd received two days of rest before being thrust into the rescue of the Lost Battalion, one of the top ten battles in US Army history. Dahlquist set the stage by ordering another division of the 36th, the 141st Texas Regiment, known as “T-Patchers” for their uniform insignia, to advance into the Vosges forest four miles past friendly forces. The Texans warned Dahlquist that they would be trapped, but he sent them anyway. The area had been fortified for several years by the Germans, who were under orders to hold the position at any cost. As the Texans predicted, the Germans closed the trap, stranding more than 200 Texans on a ridge with dwindling supplies and ammunition.


Insignia of the 141st

Unable break through the German lines with other units of the 36th and unable to resupply the Texans, Dahlquist ordered the 442nd to effect a rescue. On October 25th, low on men from the previous fighting, the 442nd moved in. They made little progress because the terrain, the weather, and German resistance. The area was heavily forested, criss-crossed with steep ravines and narrow, sodden logging trails, which were mined and barricaded. The Germans were well entrenched. The 442nd had to clear the area tree by tree. Tanks and artillery were not effective. The 442nd had to fight with what they could carry: rifles, grenades, bazookas, machine guns, automatic rifles, and pistols. Weather played a big factor. It was cold and rainy, with dense fog and nights that were so dark, the men had to hold onto one another to remain in file. The Germans fought fiercely. The 442nd made little headway. By October 29th, the 141st was in desperate straights.

Pinned down behind trees and in foxholes, the 442nd appeared to be at a stalemate. Companies I and K of 3rd Battalion had their backs against a wall. Then one by one they rose and charged the Germans, yelling BANZAI, with fixed bayonets and firing from the hip. They attacked through machine gun and artillery fire, and exploding trees. Nisei fell on all sides, but they continued the charge up the hill, finally overrunning the Germans. On October 30, the 3rd Battalion broke through and rescued 211 T-Patchers. The toll for the 442nd in five days was over 800 men killed or wounded. I Company, which had initiated the Banzai charge, was down to eight men from 185 five days before.

“Comrades who are slain
In our charge on the ridge
Have not died in vain
But forged through heroism a bridge
For all Japanese Americans to cross
This was I Company’s fate.
To prevail with heavy loss
And then there were eight.”
– Lloyd Tsukano

Medals of Honor

Hajiro, Barney F.
Born: September 16, 1916, Maui, Hawai‘I.
Died: January 21, 2011, Waipahu, Hawai‘I
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Two months after Pearl Harbor, Hajiro was drafted into an engineering battalion. In 1943, he volunteered for the 442nd. He repeatedly distinguished himself in the fighting around Bruyeres and Biffontaine. Then on October 29, in the Vosges Mountains, he single-handedly destroyed two German machine gun emplacements. For seven months, he was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.

Medal of Honor citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life beyond and the call of duty: Private Barney F. Hajiro distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 19, 22, and October 29, 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, eastern France. Private Hajiro, while acting as a sentry on top of an embankment on October 19, 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres, France, rendered assistance to allied troops attacking a house 200 yards away by exposing himself to enemy fire and directing fire at an enemy strong point. He assisted the unit on his right by firing his automatic rifle and killing or wounding two enemy snipers. On October 22, 1944, he and one comrade took up an outpost security position about 50 yards to the right front of their platoon, concealed themselves, and ambushed an 18-man, heavily armed, enemy patrol, killing two, wounding one, and taking the remainder as prisoners. On October 29, 1944, in a wooded area in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France, Private Hajiro initiated an attack up the slope of a hill referred to as “Suicide Hill” by running forward approximately 100 yards under fire. He then advanced ahead of his comrades about 10 yards, drawing fire and spotting camouflaged machine gun nests. He fearlessly met fire with fire and single-handedly destroyed two machine gun nests and killed two enemy snipers. As a result of Private Hajiro’s heroic actions, the attack was successful. Private Hajiro’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Sakato, George Taro
Born: February 19, 1921, Colton, California
Died: December 15, 2015, Denver Colorado
Rank: Private
Unit: Company E, 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Sakato’s family moved to Arizona to avoid internment during World War II. Sakato joined the Army in March 1944 and volunteered for the 442nd.

Medal Of Honor Citation

Private George T. Sakato distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 29 October 1944, on hill 617 in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France. After his platoon had virtually destroyed two enemy defense lines, during which he personally killed five enemy soldiers and captured four, his unit was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Disregarding the enemy fire, Private Sakato made a one-man rush that encouraged his platoon to charge and destroy the enemy strongpoint. While his platoon was reorganizing, he proved to be the inspiration of his squad in halting a counter-attack on the left flank during which his squad leader was killed. Taking charge of the squad, he continued his relentless tactics, using an enemy rifle and Walther P-38 pistol to stop an organized enemy attack. During this entire action, he killed 12 and wounded two, personally captured four and assisted his platoon in taking 34 prisoners. By continuously ignoring enemy fire, and by his gallant courage and fighting spirit, he turned impending defeat into victory and helped his platoon complete its mission. Private Sakato’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Earl Staggs

file oct 08, 7 34 31 pmMy guest today is Fort Worth mystery author, Earl Staggs.  Earl is the author of two novels, Memory Of A Murder and Justified Action, both of which have earned all Five Star reviews. He is a two-time recipient of the  Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Fans can find him at conferences and seminars where he  is a frequent speaker. I’ve known Earl for many years and have been privileged to follow his career through many novels and stories. I, along with many others, have been delighted to meet the many characters he has created for us.

Welcome Earl.

MT: Let’s start with you. Besides being a hot shot mystery writer and editor, you’re a PROUD school bus driver. How does that background play into your stories?

ES: When I retired from the insurance business, I tried staying home for a year but discovered I didn’t like it. I didn’t want a full-time job, so I looked around for something part-time and found driving a school bus was perfect. It got me out of the house every day, put me in touch with other members of the human race, and left enough time during the day for writing. It helped that I liked kids. Most of them.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about how I happened to get the job and how I felt about it. I called it “For Whom the Bus Rolls.” It’s a fun piece about what I consider the best possible job for a writer. It’s available here if anyone wants to read it: http://tinyurl.com/yby7gfxd
A few months ago, my wife and my doctor ganged up on me and convinced me I should give up the job and try full-time retirement again, so I did. I still miss the kids, the teachers, and the parents. I even miss that big old yellow bus.
In all the time I drove, I never used a school bus in a mystery story. I didn’t feel comfortable mixing crime, especially murder, with kids. Last year, however, I was invited to submit a story for an anthology called MURDER ON WHEELS. Since a school bus has six wheels, it seemed a perfect time to try it. After wrestling with the idea for a while, I came up with a solution. I called the story “Dead Man on a School Bus.” The murder occurred after school hours, and the body was discovered the next morning before school started. Result: no kids involved.

MT: What drew you to writing mysteries?

ES: Mystery has always been my favorite genre for reading as well as for watching movies and TV. That’s why writing mysteries fell like a natural niche for me. For most people, daily life is an ordinary and unremarkable experience until something extraordinary happens and they’re forced to deal with it. Few things do that better than a crime, particularly a murder. Cops are forced into action because it’s their job. Private Eyes get involved because it’s how they make their living. Amateur sleuths get pulled into action because, like Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple, they just can’t help themselves. Once the characters get involved in solving the crime, their personal lives become a major part of the story and we have a complete character/plot arc.
Besides, I love a good puzzle and a mystery story provides that.

MT: How would you characterize your mysteries? Cozy, hard-boiled, noir, humorous, zany, amateur, other? Why did you choose that sub-genre?

ES: I’ve dabbled in all of them except noir. For some reason, I have a problem bringing a tale to the dark or fatalistic ending noir requires. While I’ve written a number of stories what are pure hard-boiled, most have been soft-boiled bordering on cozy, and many of them include a touch of humor. For example, I’ve written a number of stories featuring Mollie Goodall, sheriff of a fictional county in Texas.
In fact, two Mollie stories were published this month. One has just come out in an anthology called THE KILLER WORE CRANBERRY: A FIFTH COURSE OF CHAOS from Untreed Reads. I called my story “Stakeout in a Maple Tree” and set the tone of it with this opening paragraph:

So, Mollie, she thought to herself, here you are. Fifty-one years old, after twenty years on the Fort Worth PD and five years as Sheriff of Watango County, you’re sitting in a maple tree at midnight, in full uniform, fighting to stay awake and hoping you don’t fall and break your neck. How did this happen?

My story is one of fourteen from some of the best mystery writers around and is available in ebook or print at: https://goo.gl/vLckVX

The other Mollie story, “Fishing For an Alibi,” is this month’s Editor’s Choice at B J Bourg’s excellent free flash fiction ezine, “Flash Bang Mysteries,” at: http://flashbangmysteries.com/

In this one, a career criminal thinks he can outwit Sheriff Mollie, but he’s in for a surprise.

MT: Which author or books have had the greatest influence on your writing?

ES: I’m been influenced by so many writers, but if I had to pare the number down to two, I’d have to say Ernest Hemingway and O. Henry. I admired Hemingway for his use of lean, strong language, without a lot of wasted words. O. Henry’s work appealed to me because he wrote about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances and how they dealt with them. He also had a way of bringing all the elements of his stories to an ending filled with irony and poignancy and often a pleasant surprise. I’m not all surprised when people say they see influences of both of them in my work. In fact, I’m flattered. I like to say I learned from the best.

MT: You’ve written some acclaimed novels and award-winning short stories. Do you have a preference for one format or the other?

ES: While I enjoy both, if I have to state a preference, it would be short stories. You can finish a short story in a matter of days while a novel can easily take months. Or years. Writing a novel is a major challenge and finishing one is a major achievement with long term rewards. Finishing a number of short stories in the same amount of time brings smaller rewards, but more of them. Fortunately, we’re not restricted to one or the other, and I intend to continue writing both for as long as I can.
Sometimes, when people learn I write both, they ask, “What’s the difference between a short story and a novel?” I always answer, “One’s bigger than the other.”
That usually earns me a chuckle or a “Huh?” look. I go on to explain that a novel is not only bigger in number of words, but also in the size and scope of the story being told. A novel can involve a large number of main characters, several subplots in addition to the main one, and can take place in a variety of settings over a period of years. In a short story, there’s normally one or two main characters, maybe two or three minor ones, no more than one or two settings, and the entire story usually plays out in day or two.


Thanksgiving Cookooff War

MT: Tell us about Adam Kingston. What qualities does he bring to the solutions of your mysteries? How does he get involved in the stories?


Memory of A Murder

ES: Adam Kingston was the main character in my first novel, and I’m currently working on a sequel. He’s exactly like me, except he’s younger, smarter, tougher, better looking, and much more interesting. He’s a former FBI agent who now works as a PI with a special and unique talent. After a near-death accident, he developed some psychic abilities. When he visits a crime scene or handles an object related to a crime, he receives a series of fleeting mental images. Sometimes the images contain clues which lead him in the right direction, and sometimes they leave him confused because he has no idea what they mean. Solving a case always comes down to old-fashioned police work.

MT: If your Adam Kingston books were made into movies, who would you cast in the role?

ES: That’s easy. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. I only hope somebody makes those movies before George and Sandra get too old to play the parts.

MT: What’s ahead for Adam Kingston, Tall Chambers, and Mollie Goodall?

ES: As I stated above, I’m working on a sequel for Adam Kingston. His first novel was titled MEMORY OF A MURDER. This one will be MEMORY OF A MISING GIRL, and I hope to finish it by the end of this year.


Justified Action

Tall Chambers is the main character in my second novel. JUSTIFIED ACTION. Like Adam, he’s exactly like me except for being younger, smarter, tougher, better looking, and much more interesting. He’s also taller. Anyone who wants to get to know him can read his interview at: http://tinyurl.com/nfd6jys. The closest to a sequel for Tall so far is a short story called “Rescue,” which is available as a free download at http://tinyurl.com/mdmqnyy

Mollie Goodall has become one of my favorite characters. I’ve used her in a bunch of short stories, and she has become a favorite of readers, too. Her stories are on the cozy-with-humor side, and three of them are featured in my short story collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS. I seem to hear her whispering, “Hey, Earl, when do I get my own novel?” Don’t worry, Mollie. It’s on my to-do list.

MT: You live in Texas, but before that in Maryland. Are those places important settings to your stories?

ES: Very much so. My first novel was set in Baltimore and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I spent most of my life in that terrific state and still miss it. Some of my short stories are also set there. My second novel involves international mystery and suspense adventures and takes place in Washington, DC, and several sites in the Middle East. I’ve lived in Fort Worth, Texas, for nearly twenty years now, and have placed a number of short stories here. I think it helps to be familiar with the settings you write about. I’ve never been in the Middle East, so I’m grateful to Internet research for making it possible to write about it.

MT: How can readers contact you and learn about your books?

ES: First of all. I welcome any comments or questions by email at earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net.
Also, readers are invited to visit my blogsite at earlwstaggs.wordpress.com where they’ll find:

  • Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER
  • Chapter One of JUSTIFIED ACTION
  • A short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer,” which some have said is the funniest story I’ve ever written.
  • A story called “White Hats and Happy Trails” about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers. There’s a picture of my wife and me with Roy to prove it’s true.

MT:  Thanks, Earl! We’re all looking forward to the new Sheriff Mollie story and Memory Of A Missing Girl.

The Hamakua Coast—Hilo to Laupahoehoe

CF6AB9D7-883D-444C-9516-ECABF5F8FBADJust north of Hilo is the Hamakua Coast, an area of rainfall averaging 84 inches per year producing lush vegetation overlooking craggy sea cliffs and narrow bays with pounding surf. There are not many beaches along this part of Hawai‘I, but the views are spectacular. The area used to be the heart of the Big Island’s sugar cane production. Now the cane has gone, leaving quaint little towns that are struggling for the tourist trade.


Onomea Bay, Hamakua Coast

Highway 19 leads North from Hilo and runs close to the coast and offers striking vistas, but for real excitement you have to leave the highway, about five miles past Hilo, and take the Old Mamalahoa Highway, a narrow, twisting road, that at times is almost in darkness from the thick canopy of trees over the road. The first stop on the road is Onomea Bay, a beautiful, but inaccessible bay. Actually, it is accessible if you are up for an arduous, dangerous hike. We contented ourselves with taking in the views from a lookout area. Farther on, is the Hawai‘I Tropical Botanical Garden, which affords an easier, though still difficult, access.


Laupahoehoe Bay

The road continues on across narrow streams and through forests. Nineteen miles from Onomea Bay is Laupahoehoe, population 581.The town itself is high up on the highway about 400 feet above sea level. A road leads down to a beach park on a peninsula of lava that juts out into the ocean.The name comes from “lau” meaning “leaf” indicating the shape of the peninsula, and “pahoehoe,” a type of lava that forms the peninsula.

9F06E790-4310-4A4C-B142-8B302CD43074Laupahoehoe was on the railroad that transported sugar cane from the plantations to the sugar mills and to Hilo. The railroad and part of the town were wiped out in a massive tidal wave on April 1, 1946. Twenty-six people died, twenty-one of them school children. The school was completely inundated. The tidal wave was the result of an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands. It was the most destructive tidal wave ever seen in the Island of Hawai‘I. Down at the beach park is a monument to the individuals who died in the wave and to the acts of bravery that save other lives. The tidal wave did damage and claimed lives at other parts of the island, including Hilo. In total, 160 people died in what came to be known as the April Fool’s Tidal Wave.

Go For Broke

After pushing the Germans into the Belmont area, the 2nd and 3rd battalions, aided by artillery fire from the the 522nd, captured the hamlet of La Broquane on October 21, 1944. They took 54 prisoners and a cache of weapons, for which F and L companies earned a Presidential Unit Citation.

At the same time, Major General John Dahlquist, commander of the 36th Division, ordered the 100th to take a ridge overlooking the town of Biffontaine. They were more than a mile from friendly forces. After the 100th dug in, the Germans attacked from three sides with artillery and rockets. Although the 100th held the ridge, they ran low on supplies. Men and tanks of the 2nd battalion tried to reach them, but encountered fierce resistance from the Germans, including bicycle troops attacking the 100th. Soldiers of the 2nd eventually broke through to the 100th with the aid of French resistance.

Shortly after being resupplied, Dahlquist ordered the 100th to descend the ridge and take the town of Biffontaine. It was generally thought that Biffontaine had no strategic value. Nevertheless, the 100th undertook the mission. They experienced some early successes in capturing German prisoners, some houses, and some arms supplies. The Germans, however, regrouped and aimed artillery fire on the town and the 100th positions. Once again, the 100th exhausted their supplies, including the supplies they had captured. Despite being out of radio contact with the 7th Army, they held on, engaging in house to house fighting for more than two days. In total, they had been fighting for more than a week, some men having not slept in the eight days since the battle for Bruyeres had begun. On October 23, the 3rd battalion broke through to the 100th.

Biffontaine was a farming hamlet of 300 people with no rail line. In liberating it, the 100th lost 21 killed, 120 wounded and 18 captured. The 442nd handed it over to the 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division. Dahlquist’s decision to take the insignificant town of Biffontaine, among other decisions, called into question his leadership, especially of the 442nd. By his actions, he seemed to consider the Nisei, expendable cannon fodder.

Although the fighting for Bruyeres and Biffontaine were difficult and costly, worse lay ahead in only a short time.

Medal of Honor

Ohata, Allan Masaharu
Rank and organization:’Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
Place and date:Cerasuolo, Italy, November 29, 1943
Entered service at:Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Born:’September 13, 1918, Honolulu, Hawaii


Sergeant Allan M. Ohata distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 29 and November 30, 1943, near Cerasuolo, Italy. Sergeant Ohata, his squad leader, and three men were ordered to protect his platoon’s left flank against an attacking enemy force of 40 men, armed with machine guns, machine pistols, and rifles. He posted one of his men, an automatic rifleman, on the extreme left, 15 yards from his own position. Taking his position, Sergeant Ohata delivered effective fire against the advancing enemy. The man to his left called for assistance when his automatic rifle was shot and damaged. With utter disregard for his personal safety, Sergeant Ohata left his position and advanced 15 yards through heavy machine gun fire. Reaching his comrade’s position, he immediately fired upon the enemy, killing 10 enemy soldiers and successfully covering his comrade’s withdrawal to replace his damaged weapon. Sergeant Ohata and the automatic rifleman held their position and killed 37 enemy soldiers. Both men then charged the three remaining soldiers and captured them. Later, Sergeant Ohata and the automatic rifleman stopped another attacking force of 14, killing four and wounding three while the others fled. The following day he and the automatic rifleman held their flank with grim determination and staved off all attacks. Staff Sergeant Ohata’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Hilo, Hawai‘i. March 2017

Mary Fran and I loved Hilo. After Oahu, the Big Island is out favorite. Hilo is such a great city with beautiful parks (Queen Liliuokalani), an interesting downtown, and a regular farmer’s market where you can purchase all manner of great produce and products. We bought lychee and mangoes. Mary Fran bought some hand-painted sarongs.


Hilo Farmer’s Market

Having come from the Orange Cottage at Mokuleia, we were prepared for the accommodations in Hilo to be a step down. That, they were. We had a condo on Banyan Drive overlooking Hilo Harbor. Of all the places we stayed on the trip, this one was the worst in terms of upkeep. It was clean, but old and badly in need of renovation. The carpet was worn and ugly, the paint needed to be freshened. The unit itself was small and cramped, especially the kitchen area.

The lanai was tiny compared to all of the other places we stayed, but it was still large enough for breakfast in the morning and cocktails in the evening. It looked over Hilo Harbor, which is small and not very attractive. It is a working harbor, after all. There are docks and warehouses and equipment. There are lights and noise. Still, it had a certain beauty in the mornings when the sun rose.


Cruise Ship Arrival in Hilo

At first light, paddle boarders and canoeists would appear on the harbor. Soon after, a cruise ship would arrive. We watched three cruise ships arrive in the four mornings we stayed there. In the evenings, we watched them leave. It is a tradition for the Kamehameha Canoe Club to escort the cruise ships out of the harbor in the evenings. Two or three outrigger canoes would paddle out alongside the liner until it cleared the harbor entrance.


The Banyan Tree planted by Babe Ruth in front of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Banyan Drive, one of the oldest streets in Hilo, is lined with Banyan trees planted by royalty, community leaders, and visiting VIPs. Every tree has a plaque denoting the person who planted it and the date it was planted. A short walk in one direction from the condo, took us to Verna’s III Drive Inn and Ken’s house of Pancakes. A slightly longer walk in the other direction took us to Queen Liliuokalani Gardens. Next door to our condo is the Naniloa Hotel and beyond that, the Hilo Hawaiian. In both places, you can find live music almost every night. Sometimes a combo, and sometimes a lone singer with a guitar. Always someone from the audience gets up to dance.

8A35D734-578B-4662-9F3F-6209B5A5940FYou can’t visit Hawai‘I without experiencing a Hawaiian plate which you can find at drive inns on every island. Verna’s Drive Inn in Hilo is one such place. It’s fairly typical in its menu and it’s service. There is no indoor dining, but you can eat at one or two tables outside. Most people prefer to eat elsewhere—home or the beach. There is no drive up window. You walk up to the window on which is taped the extensive menu. There are breakfast offerings such as Spam and eggs, or loco mocos. There are fast food offering such as burgers, hot dogs, fries. Best of all are the Hawaiian plate or plate lunch offerings. These usually include one or two meats such as shoyu chicken, roast pork, kalua pork, kalbi beef, mahi mahi, lau lau, and more. Each plate comes with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. Kimchi is usually extra. Mega calories. We had one plate which fed both of us for two meals.


Shoyu Chicken and Pork Plate from Verna’s

Another place for mega calories is Ken’s House of Pancakes, which claims to have been voted the best breakfast every year since 1997. Ken’s is not a drive inn. It is inside dining. The menu is also extensive. You can view it here. When you walk in, you will notice the statue of a sumo wrestler and a gong. Some of the items on the menu are sumo-size, i.e. gigantic. Most others can be sumo’ed up. Whenever someone orders a sumo, the waitperson hits the gong. We settled for normal size, but still felt over-stuffed on departure.

Poke Update

Two weeks ago I wrote about poke. Today, a real Aloha Friday, we learned that a poke place is coming to our neighbor hood, within walking distance. Coming Soon! Can’t wait.

Go For Broke

In September 1944, after securing the Arno River, the Fifth Army planned to continue pushing north to the Gothic Line, which the Germans had established in the Appennine Mountains. At the same time, the Seventh Army was in France moving up the Rhône River. The Allied command made the decision to detach the 442nd Regimental Combat Team from the Fifth Army and send it to France to join the Seventh Army. Accordingly, the 442nd returned to Naples where they boarded transport ships for Marseilles. If the campaign from Salerno to the Arno was brutal, it was only going to get worse.


442nd Marching in France

The 442nd arrived in Marseilles on September 30 and traveled 500 miles on foot or in boxcars up the Rhône Valley to the Vosges Mountains. In mid-October, they reached the town of Bruyeres in Northeast France, only 40 miles from Germany. Hitler had ordered that these mountains were to be defended at all costs because they were the last line of defense before Germany.

Bruyeres was a quaint little town in a valley between four hills, which the Allies labeled A, B, C, and D. To take Bruyeres, the 442nd had to take the hills. The 100th was assigned to take A and the 2nd was assigned to take B. The Germans had the high ground and and the weather on their side. The hills were more than 1000 feet high, covered with thick pine forests and shrouded in fog. A cold rain poured down.


442nd near Bruyeres, france

After three days of fighting and repeated attacks from the Germans, the 100th took Hill A, and the 2nd Battalion took Hill B, both with the help of artillery fire from the 522nd Artillery Brigade.. The 3rd Battalion forced the Germans out of the town of Bruyeres, but they were still in control of Hills C and D. During the fight to take the remaining hills, the Germans fired at and killed a Nisei soldier on a stretcher. The audacity of the act so infuriated the Nisei that they charged up the hill and annihilated the Germans. Nearby, another wounded soldier came under attack. Robert Kuroda came to the rescue and killed a number of Germans with his rifle and grenades. He was killed, but was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, as reported earlier. https://marktroyauthor.com/2017/07/28/aloha-friday-7282017

Finally, the 442nd captured hills C and D and pushed the Germans north into a forested area called Belmont. One of the Nisei shot and killed a German officer and captured a complete set of German defense plans.

Medal of Honor

Shinyei Nakamine was born in Waianae, Oahu. Waianae is on the Leeward Coast. He enlisted in the US Army one month before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He volunteered for the 100th Infantry Battalion. Nakamine was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for advancing on enemy forces when his own unit was pinned down. He was subsequently killed during the fight. After review by the Army, the Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Citation
Nakamine, Shinyei
Rank: Private
Unit: 100th Infantry Battalion, Company B
Born: January 21, 1920, Waianae, Hawai‘i
Died: June 2, 1944, La Torreto, Italy

Private Shinyei Nakamine distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 2 June 1944, near La Torreto, Italy. During an attack, Private Nakamine’s platoon became pinned down by intense machine gun crossfire from a small knoll 200 yards to the front. On his own initiative, Private Nakamine crawled toward one of the hostile weapons. Reaching a point 25 yards from the enemy, he charged the machine gun nest, firing his submachine gun, and killed three enemy soldiers and captured two. Later that afternoon, Private Nakamine discovered an enemy soldier on the right flank of his platoon’s position. Crawling 25 yards from his position, Private Nakamine opened fire and killed the soldier. Then, seeing a machine gun nest to his front approximately 75 yards away, he returned to his platoon and led an automatic rifle team toward the enemy. Under covering fire from his team, Private Nakamine crawled to a point 25 yards from the nest and threw hand grenades at the enemy soldiers, wounding one and capturing four. Spotting another machine gun nest 100 yards to his right flank, he led the automatic rifle team toward the hostile position but was killed by a burst of machine gun fire. Private Nakamine’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Honey West at 60

The first really successful female private eye in a series was a bimbo! Or at least frequently clothing challenged and none to swift. So says Kevin Burton Smith on The Thrilling Detective website about Honey West, created by the husband and wife team, Gloria and Forest, “Skip,” Fickling writing as G.G. Fickling.

I disagree with the bimbo appellation. Honey came along in 1957, the same year that Leave It To Beaver hit the airwaves and fifteen years before Ms Magazine landed on the newsstands. If June Cleaver was the model for the American woman, Honey West was her antithesis. She was single, independent, and kick-ass. She didn’t have and didn’t need a man to help or fulfill her. She was ahead of the sexual revolution in her sexual liberation. She took the occasional lover with no commitments.

This girl for Hire

This Girl For Hire

Honey appeared in eleven novels, beginning with This Girl For Hire in 1957. She ran her solo operation, “H. West, Private Investigator” from the third floor of the Wilks Building on Anaheim and Third Streets in Long Beach, California. The “H” actually stands for “Hank,” Honey’s father, who was killed six years before the first book began. He was shot in an alley. Honey witnessed his murder and claims to want to find his killer (she never does.) She took over his office and his rolltop desk. She carries a .32 revolver in her purse and a .22 automatic in her garter. She knows judo.

There is some truth to KBS’s allegation that she was clothing challenged. She did manage to lose some or all of her clothes in nearly every book, often at the point of gun. Her good looks were part of her appeal to readers and a frequent source of comments by associates and bad guys alike. Everyone desired her. Perhaps typical of the era, her attributes and measurements are listed on the back cover of the books. (38-22-36, 5’5”, 120 pounds, taffy-colored hair, blue eyes, heart-shaped birthmark inside her right thigh.) But to call her a bimbo implies a lack of ability, which is decidedly not the case. Honey was out there knocking on doors, uncovering clues, and answering to nobody but herself.  She could take a clip on the jaw or a knock on the head and give back more than she took. Men who tried to disparage her abilities received the lash of her sharp tongue.

BombshellThe Ficklings describe Honey as a combination of Marilyn Monroe (who was also seen as a bimbo, but was not) and Mike Hammer. Richard S. Prather, creator of the Shel Scott series, was a friend of the Ficklings. It was he who urged them to write a female P.I. along the lines of Shel Scott. This was the era of the goof-ball P.I. and the stories took some outlandish turns.

The breakout for Honey came when she appeared in an episode of Burke’s Law in 1965. This was followed by the Honey West TV series created by Aaron Spelling and starring Anne Francis. The series ran for 30 episode (30 minutes, black and white) in 1965/1966. It lasted only one season because it was up against stiff competition from Gomer Pyle, USMC.

Honey West

Anne Francis as Honey West with Bruce

Anne Francis was curvaceous and blonde, the exact image of Honey as described in the books. She first came to this writer’s attention in the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet, in which she portrayed Andromeda, the scientist’s beautiful and virginally naïve daughter. As Honey, she was outfitted in slinky catsuits and evening gowns, given high-tech, James Bondish gear such as lipstick microphones, tear gas earrings, and garter belt gas masks. She drove a Cobra sports car and had a pet ocelot named Bruce. The sexual innuendo was toned down for TV, but viewers were regularly treated to seeing a sensual blonde woman toss bad guys over her shoulder.

Even though the show last only a season, it broke ground for other shows such as Police Woman and Charlie’s Angels. Honey West was the first woman detective to appear as the central character in an American television series. The series was also an early pioneer in the co-merchandising department. There were Honey West games and Honey West dolls—Barbie-like creations with sleuthing clothes and accessories.

The stories don’t hold up well today, anymore than Leave It To Beaver holds up. But they are still fun glimpses at a pre-feminist world, and Honey is a delight to spend time with. She still kicks ass.

The Honey West books
• This Girl For Hire (1957)
• A Gun For Honey (1958)
• Girl On The loose (1958)
• Honey in the Flesh (1959)
• Girl on the Prowl (1959)
• Kiss for a Killer (1960)
• Dig a Dead Doll (1960)
• Blood and Honey (1961)
• Bombshell (1964)
• Stiff As a Broad (1971)
• Honey on Her Tail (1971)


Leeward Oahu

During our stay at Mokuleia, we took a day trip to the other side of Oahu, the Leeward side. In terms of a crow flight and even by foot, the Leeward Coast of Oahu is only a short distance from Mokuleia. We’re we to walk, we would go to Kaena Point, only a short distance from our cottage, as I described in an earlier post. From the entrance to Kaena Point on the North Shore to Yokohama Beach on the Leeward side is only about seven miles. By car, however, the distance is 48 miles, about an hour and a half.

Leeward Oahu was not a place we visited often when we lived on Oahu. We spent one weekend at Waianae, but otherwise, we seldom visited the Leeward beaches. In part, because they were hard to get to from where we lived and there were many gorgeous spots in between. I did have to visit Nanaikapono Elementary School in Nanakuli when I worked at KEEP, but that was the extent of it.


Yokohama Beach, Leeward Oahu, March 2017

We went on March 23, 2017. It happened to be Spring Break for Hawaiian schools so there were a lot of young kids in the water. The surf was heavy at Yokohama. The flags in the picture are surf advisories warning of dangerous shore breaks. But, since so many kids were in the water, we figured, how bad could it be? The surf didn’t seem to bother them. But it sure bothered us old guys. Getting in, no problem. that first wave tumbled us over. Good thing there was lifeguard on hand to help us out. Next time, heed the surf warnings.

Cyril Pahinui


Cyril Pahinui, Hi’ilawe Album Cover

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar virtuoso, Cyril Pahinui, son of the legendary master, Gabby Pahinui, has been honored as a 2017 National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellow at the Library of Congress on September 14, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser . Pahinui has been in poor health lately, but he still records and performs every Wednesday at the Kani Ka Pila Grille in the Outrigger Hotel in Waikiki
Watch and listen to Cyril perform his father’s signature song, Hi’ilawe 

Go For Broke

By the end of July 1944, the Allies had retaken Italy as far north as the Arno River. The Germans were pulling back to the Gothic Line in the Appenine mountains. Another allied force had landed in France at Normandy. The allied high command wanted to put pressure on the Germans in France. On July 15, while the 442nd along with the 34th was still engaged in the Arno campaign, the Anti-tank Company was detached from the 442nd and given the mission of providing anti-tank protection for the First Airborne Task Force invasion of Southern France.

The Nisei became glider Infantry. The gliders were 48 feet long and 12 feet high motorless crafts made of metal tubes, wood and canvas. They could hold a Jeep, or a trailer load of ammunition, or a six-pound anti-tank gun. Each glider was manned by two pilots and carried four to six members of the Anti-tank Company.

Operation Dragoon, as it was called, involved three elements: The airborne paratroopers, who left first; the glider soldiers who followed with ammunition and heavier weapons, and seaborne troops. The paratroops and the Anti-tank Company were to get in quickly and set up the battlefield for the seaborne troops who would follow.

The invasion of Southern France was launched on August 15. The unarmored gliders encountered anti-aircraft fire on the way to the landing areas. At the landing areas they encountered “Rommel’s Asparagus”—ten-foot-tall wooden poles that Rommel had ordered planted in open fields to thwart glider landings. The poles were cross-crossed with barbed wire and some of them were mined. Because of the poles, pilots had to adjust their planned landings. Some of the gliders hit trees. Others experienced problems with shifting loads due to sudden changes in descent.

Nine of the anti-tank company were injured in the landings. The glider pilots suffered many casualties. The Nisei unloaded their equipment and set up their positions, which they held for two days until the seaborn troops arrived. For two months, the Anti-tank Company protected the flank of the 7th Army. They cleared mines and guarded roads and tunnels.

In October, the Anti-tank Company was reunited with the rest of the 442nd who pushed into France.

Medal of Honor

Masato Nakae
Born: December 20, 1917, Lihue, Hawai‘I
Died: September 4, 1998.
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 100th Infantry Battalion

Two months after Pearl Harbor, in February 1942, Nakae joined the US Army and volunteered for the 100th Infantry. He trained at Camp McCoy and then Fort Shelby before sailing to North Africa and then Italy.

Medal of Honor Citation
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of United States Congress, March 3, 1963, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor to
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Private Masato Nakae distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on August 19, 1944, near Pisa, Italy. When his submachine gun was damaged by a shell fragment during a fierce attack by a superior enemy force, Private Nakae quickly picked up his wounded comrade’s M1 Garand Rifle and fired rifle grenades at the steadily advancing enemy. As the hostile force continued to close in on his position, Private Nakae threw six grenades and forced them to withdraw. During a concentrated enemy mortar barrage that preceded the next assault by the enemy force, a mortar shell fragment seriously wounded Private Nakae. Despite his injury, he refused to surrender his position and continued firing at the advancing enemy. By inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy force, he finally succeeded in breaking up the attack and caused the enemy to withdraw. Private Nakae’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.


Maka’ikiu Monday. Welcome Hawaiian author Terry Ambrose.

Terry Ambrose 400x560I met Terry Ambrose at Left Coast Crime—Honolulu Havoc in March. He served as moderator on the panel, “Writing Hawai’i: Surf’s up or is it a crime wave?” It was a fun panel. Terry kept it lively and informative. I think the panelists and the audience had a most enjoyable experience.

Terry is a a photographer and writer, the author of twelve novels including the Trouble in Paradise mystery series featuring Wilson McKenna, the Hawaii Parkour adventure series, and the License to Lie thriller series. He launches his newest series—the Seaside Bed and Breakfast mysteries—this week. A Treasure To Die For is the title. Look for it on Thursday, September 21.

Questions for Terry Ambrose

MT: Let’s start with you. You’ve been a skip tracer and debt collector. How does your background inform your stories?

TA: My characters come from a number of people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had over the years. In my Trouble in Paradise mysteries, McKenna was heavily influenced by my early career as a skip tracer. For those who don’t know, a skip tracer is someone who finds people who have not paid their bills. One thing a skip tracer does is see people at their worst. These are the people who either can’t, or won’t, pay their bills. Either scenario is one that’s difficult and gives tremendous insight into the human character.

MT: What drew you to writing mysteries?

TA: I started writing mysteries more than 20 years ago when the stress at work was becoming almost intolerable. At the time, I felt like murder might be my only option to solve some of the problems. But, being a huge chicken and not wanting to go to jail—which I figured would be an even worse option—I started writing a murder mystery. I’ve been on that path ever since.

MT: How would you characterize your mysteries? Cozy, hard-boiled, noir, humorous, zany, amateur, other? Why did you choose that sub-genre?

TA: I prefer stories that don’t have a lot of violence in them, so I’ve been gravitating toward the cozy genre for several years. I dove into the cozy mystery genre completely when I became involved in the Happy Homicides anthology project more than a year ago.

MT: Tell us about Wilson McKenna, landlord, womanizer, former skip-tracer. How does his personality get him into trouble in paradise?

TA: McKenna is a study in contrasts. He’s the guy who is slightly grumpy…okay, sometimes very grumpy…but quick witted and funny. Because he had to find people for a living, he has a curiosity to keep digging when any normal person would simply say, “Enough! Let the police handle it.” As a womanizer, McKenna is a failure. He did at one point fancy himself a bit of a Casanova, but he would panic when a pretty girl looked at him sideways. Eventually, the right woman did come along, and now he’s happily engaged—unless he screws that up.

MT: Marshall McLuhan said that if you don’t know if you will like a book, turn to page 69. If you like what you read there, you will like the book. What happens on page 69 of your latest book?

TA: This is an excerpt from page 69 (the Word doc) of A Treasure to Die For: A Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery. Rick Atwood is the protagonist and one of the people he suspects is hiding something is Reese Potok.

When Rick held the door open for Reese, she narrowed her gaze at him. “Are you kidding me? An antique dealer? I thought we were going to see a document expert.”
“He is.”
Rick gestured for Reese to enter with a tilt of his head. As she passed, her eyes locked onto his. A hint of floral perfume hung in the air. She brushed away a lock of hair.
“You do that a lot, don’t you?” Rick said.
The heels brought her almost to eye level. Inches away. She whispered, “Do what?”
“Push your hair back.” His heart hammered in his chest.
“Observant, aren’t you?” She licked her lips.
Good God, what was he doing? He had a daughter. A business to run. With a hard swallow, he said, “It’s cute.”
She gave him a lopsided grin and mouthed, “Oh.”
When she slipped away, he allowed himself a moment to breathe a final wisp of perfume. Not until she glanced at him over her shoulder and tilted her head toward the back of the store did he step inside.

MT: How important is the Hawai’I setting to your stories?

TA: Hawai‘i is an extremely important part of the Trouble in Paradise series. From the mix of cultures to the weather, from the magnificent landscapes to the seediest parts of the islands, it all comes together to create an atmosphere that contributes to the book.

In my Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery series, which launches on September 21 with “A Treasure to Die For,” the setting is fictional. For this series, the setting is the California coast, which contributes to a very different feeling in the book.

MT: Could the stories be set anywhere else? Why or why not?

TA: I think any story can be cast in a different location. The question is, should it be? For McKenna, he belongs in Hawai‘i and should stay there. For the Seaside Cove B&B Mysteries, those are set in a fictional location so I can do whatever I want! How much fun is that?

MT: What do you do to give readers a sense of Hawai’i and Hawaiian culture?

TA: In the Trouble in Paradise Mysteries, I try to contrast what the tourists see with what the locals see. McKenna is also fascinated by Hawaiian culture, including the legends, so he conveys that curiosity to the reader. In Maui Magic, the book revolved around the issues of water and pollution.

MT: What’s ahead for Wilson McKenna?

TA: I’m not sure what’s ahead for McKenna. He’s visited all of the major islands and had several adventures on O’ahu. He’s popped the question to his girlfriend, Benni Kapono, and so he might just have to start planning a wedding.

MT: What’s ahead for you in your career?

a-treasure-to-die-for-webTA: I’m focused on bringing out the first three Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mysteries. I’m also in the initial planning phases for the next Trouble in Paradise Mystery. It’s definitely a hectic schedule.

MT: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you and/or your books?

TA: For me, the story is all about two things: the characters and the tension. If the characters aren’t believable or are two-dimensional, the story falls flat. If the story doesn’t maintain the right amount of tension, it will also fall flat. At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping the characters and the tension in balance. That’s what I continually strive for.

You can learn more about Terry and his books at terryambrose.com
Follow Terry on Facebook: http://facebook.com/suspense.writer

Mahalo, Terry.


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