Hawai’i is burning. Fissures are opening on the East slope of Kilauea destroying homes and threatening the lives of more than a thousand residents. The danger comes not only from lava, but also from toxic gases emitted by the volcano. Now comes possibility of a new danger at the summit. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the lava lake in Halemaumau crater in Kilauea Caldera is draining due to the eruption at the lower levels. the concern is that the lake will drain down below the water table, which could cause a steam explosion that could send boulders rocks and ash into the air. Authorities have closed Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park as a precaution. An explosion in the caldera could do serious damage to Volcano House, which sits on the edge of the caldera.
Here are two images of Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea Caldera taken last year from the observation deck of Volcano House. The lava fountain you see in the night photo is estimated to be about sixty feet high.
Even in daylight, the eruption is impressive, although the lava itself is hard to see. Only smoke is visible in daylight. that smoke contains the toxic gases that are threatening the health of people in the subdivisions on the East slope.
When I worked for Kamehameha Schools in the 1980’s, we had a demonstration program at Pahoa Elementary School in the Puna District of the Big Island. The Puna district is where the current fissures are opening. According to reports, fifteen fissures have now opened. Although the school is not directly impacted by the eruption, many families with children at the school live in the endangered areas. One teacher has reportedly lost her home to the lava. We can only hope for the best for all of them and keep them in our thoughts.
One of the units making up the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, was the 522 Artillery Brigade. Once the 442nd arrived in France, the 522nd became a roving brigade, attached to whichever units needed them the most. In March, 1945, the 522nd remained in France for the campaign in the Lorraine region and the final drive into Southern Germany while the rest of the 442nd returned to Italy for the Gothic Line Campaign.
From March 12 -21, the 522nd participated in the attack on the Siegfried Line. When it fell, they crosded the Rhine and participated in the fall of Mannheim. In 60 days, the 522nd traveled 1,100 miles through 40 towns chasing the retreating Germans.
On April 29, some scouts from the 522nd came across some barracks surrounded by barbed wire in the Bavarian town of Lager Lechfield. What happened next wlll never be forgotten. This is how Technician Fourth Grade Ichiro Imamura described it.
“I watched as one of the scouts used his carbine to shoot off the chain that held the prison gates shut. . . They weren’t dead, as he had first thought. When the gates swung open, we got our first good look at the prisoners. Many of them were Jews. They were wearing striped prison suits and round caps. It was cold and the snow was two feet deep in some places. There were no German guards. The prisoners struggled to their feet. . . They shuffled weakly out of the compound. They were like skeletons – all skin and bones. . .”
The Nisei liberated Kaufering IV Hurlach, a Dachau satellite camp that housed 3,000 prisoners. Most of the prisoners had gone. In the last days of April, Hitler had ordered the concentration camp guards to march the prisoners to the interior in a terrible death march.
On May 2, Nisei from the 522nd came across a field with several hundred lumps in the snow. The lumps were people—Jewish prisoners—many had been shot. Some had died of exposure, but some were alive, although barely. They found other prisoners wandering the countryside. For the next four days, the Nisei were engaged in getting the people to shelter and providing them with warmth.
In what is, perhaps, the greatest irony of the war, many of these Nisei who liberated the concentration camp, had, themselves, left concentration camps in the United States to fight against oppression and totalitarianism. They still had family and friends behind barbed wire in Manzanar, Poston, Gila River, Jerome, Rohwer, Heart Mountain, Minidoka, Granada, Topaz and Tule Lake. It’s to their credit that the men of the 442nd were willing to risk so much to preserve freedom. It’s to our country’s lasting shame that we would incarcerate people solely because of their heritage. We must be vigilant that it never happens again.
I don’t know what to call this drink. It’s based on gin and elderflower liquor. It has several different spices to give it an exotic flavor.
Firsst muddle .5 oz simple syrup, .5 oz lemon juice, a sprig of Thai basil, and a slice of ginger root. Add 1.5 oz gin and 1 oz elderflower liquor. Shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass over ice. Top with a splash of tonic. It’s sort of sweet and sour with Asian overtones.
It has been a while since the bar has opened, but spring is here and it is time to get to it. We are heading to Peru in May, so today’s drink is the Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru. Peru, in fact, has a Pisco Sour Day, which is the first Saturday in February.
The Pisco Sour was created by an ex-pat American, Victor Morris, who opened a bar, Morris’s Bar, in Lima in 1915. the exact year that the drink was created is in dispute. Some put it in the 1920’s, while others say it was created soon after the bar opened.
The base liquor is Pisco, a type of brandy produced in Peru. The Spanish introduced grape to Peru shortly after conquest in the fifteenth century. Soon after they began producing a fermented liquor called aguardiente. It became known as Pisco after the port from which it was shipped back to Spain.
Making the Pisco Sour is easy. In a shaker, mix
Fill with ice and shake. Strain the drink into an old-fashioned glass. Add a few drops of Angostura bitters and garnish with a lime wheel.
The egg white makes it frothy. You can also make it in a blender, which will produce something like a frozen margarita, but the egg white will form a meringue to sit on top of the drink.
A new article in the Washington Post reports on the abuse of census data during World War II. Census data is supposed to be private and confidential, but it was long believed by Japanese Americans that data from the census was used to identify them for relocation to internment camps in the Western United States. Approximately 120,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry had their civil rights violated. they lost their homes, their savings, their businesses, and their freedom as a result of national xenophobia and fear mongering. Now a new report details how census data was used illegally to help accomplish that. At a time when our leaders have engaged in unashamed fear mongering and xenophobia, and have proposed changes to the census, all Americans should be concerned. We are facing serious threats to our democracy and our freedom.
My latest book, Questions Of Loyalty, is set, in part, in a Japanese Internment camp during World War II. The story is a mystery involving the cold case investigation of the death of a Buddhist priest in the Tule Lake camp. I can’t tell you when it will be published. Just a few days ago, I heard from my agent that she had sent the manuscript to ten publishers. Got my fingers crossed.
I should really call this, No Work For Another year. Yesterday was the anniversary of my retirement from Texas A&M on February 1, 2017. Looking back on the year, I have to say it was a year of one great event after another. Some highlights from the year of retirement:
And that was only the first year of retirement.
Kailua-Kona, usually referred to a Kona, is a port and city on the west side of the island of Hawai`i. It is known for deep sea fishing and the Ironman Triathlon. The beaches in Kona are not great, in my opinion. They are small and difficult to access because of the rock. the Big Island doesn’t have great beaches anyway because, being the newest island, has not experienced as many eons of erosion as the other islands.
Our favorite adventure in Kona was a night snorkel with manta rays. We signed onto a tour which left the harbor at dusk. They provided us with snorkels, masks and flippers. We set out for about a 45 minute trip to the manta ray feeding ground. On the way, we experienced a gorgeous sunset (of course) and witnessed pods of dolphins. There were about 15 of us on the boat, not counting crew and guides.
Once at the feeding spot, we donned our gear and entered the water where we clung to surfboards outfitted with rails along the sides and lights in the middle. The guides swam us to the viewing site and turned on the light. The light shines into the water and attracts plankton, which are the primary food source of mantas. Then we waited. Not for long, however. In a short time we saw several mantas below. Magnificent creatures with huge wingspans. All of a sudden, one pealed off and swam up at us and did a barrel roll right under our board. We could look into the creature’s gaping mouth. It gave us a show of several rolls before swimming off. Altogether we saw five or six mantas. We had brought waterproof cases for our phones and I would like to say that I got some great pictures. Each appearance happened before I could get the phone aimed. So all I have are memories. But great memories nonetheless. If you go to Kona, I recommend a manta ray expedition.
Yesterday, February, 1, 2018 was the 75th anniversary of the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Japanese American unit that fought so bravely in Italy and France during World War II. They are the most decorated combat unit in the history of the Army. In earlier posts, I tell about some of their battles.
The unit was created by FDR.
Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race and ancestry.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, February 1, 1943.
What could be more magical than the quarterback hero of ‘Bama’s win over Georgia playing the uke. He is from Ewa Beach on the west side of Oahu, went to St. Louis high School in Honolulu and is a freshman at the University of Alabama.
Check it out here: https://youtu.be/Rc4vyj2eMNU
When 2017 began, I was still working at Texas A&M with one month before retirement. No mystery there unless you count the mysteries of retirement planning, health care, annuities, etc. I am pleased to report that retirement is going great.
Left Coast Crime—Honolulu Havoc, mid-March in Honolulu. This was my retirement trip, one we had planned on for years. Once my retirement date was set we built a six-week tour of Hawaii, beginning with the convention at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. For mystery lovers, Left Coast Crime is always a great treat. This was no exception. My hat goes off to Lucinda Surber and her team of organizers.
The convention began with a reader connection event. Mary Fran and I hosted six attendees for drinks and sunset at the House Without A Key in the Halekulani Hotel. Great evening, great conversation, and spectacular sunset. I participated in two panel discussions. One panel on writing Hawaiian, moderated by Terry Ambrose, and another panel on writing villains moderated by Ken Wishnia. Both panels had lively, intelligent speakers, as you can see in the pictures. On the writing hawaii panel, we had Leslie Karst, Laurie Hannan, and Katharine Nohr. The Villain panel had Laurie R. King, Terry Shames, and Matt Coyle.
Between panels, I had a chance to connect with friends, listen to great music, eat great food, and swim in the beautiful Pacific. I don’t think any convention can top LCC in Honolulu. Readers of this blog know some of the things we did after the convention, so I won’t go into that here. Stay turned for future posts because I haven’t finished recounting our adventures.
When 2017 began, I was working on the sixth draft of a novel, Day Of Infamy and getting editorial assistance from Dario Ciriello . I finished the seventh draft before heading to Honolulu. I also began querying agents about the book. I sent the first query on March 7. On November 9, I signed with Elizabeth Marshea of Ladderbird Literary Agency https://www.ladderbird.com. In all, I queried 80 agents. Ladderbird was number 75. Between March and November, Day Of Infamy went through three more drafts and changed title to Questions Of loyalty. I’m hoping for a sale in 2018.
Speaking of title changes, I changed the title of IFHC, a short story that had appeared in the Shamus Sampler II anthology, to Red Christmas, put a new cover on it, and published it on Kindle as a stand-alone. https://www.amazon.com/Red-Christmas-Ava-Rome-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B074PDSTXY/.
Closing out the year, I received notice that my short story, Shaft On Wheels, has been accepted for inclusion in a forthcoming anthology, The Eyes Of Texas, edited by Michael Bracken. It will be published next year to coincide with Bouchercon in Dallas. Shaft On Wheels introduces a new character, Colt Colton, a Texas private eye. Colt is a former Dallas PD officer and former bull rider who was injured by a bull and is now confined to a wheelchair. I’m planning on several more Colt stories.
The first book of the year (or perhaps the last book of 2016) was a Christmas gift. Impounded, by Linda Gordon and Gary Okihiro. Impounded is a set of essays and photos by Dorothea Lange of the Japanese concentration camps during World War II. Lange is best know for her photo essays of the Depression. She was commissioned by the War Department to photograph the camps in a propaganda effort to show that the internees were being well treated. Instead, she captured much of the emotion and unfairness of the experience. As a result, her photos were impounded and only allowed to be made public a few years ago.Since my book, Questions of Loyalty, deals with the same history, I found the book to be moving and enlightening.
A book which I acquired early In the year but have not read is The Cooperstown Symposium On Baseball And American Culture: 2013-2014. I purchased it on Kindle while doing research for Questions Of Loyalty. I wanted more information on baseball in the Japanese concentration camps and the book contains an essay on the topic. The essay might have more than I want to know. In looking at the index. I was able to determine that the author discusses baseball at Tule Lake, the camp that figures prominently in my story. Moreover, the author is named Osaki, which is the name of an important character in Questions Of Loyalty. I closed the ebook and changed my character’s name to Miyazaki because I don’t want to be telling Osaki’s story. I hope to read the essay when Questions of Loyalty is published.
A selection of books I read in 2017.
Rusty Puppy, Joe R. Lansdale
Honky Tonk Samurai, Joe R. Lansdale
Devil Red, Joe R. Lansdale
Coco Butternut, Joe R. Lansdale
Dead Aim, Joe R. Lansdale
Hyenas, Joe R. Lansdale
Hap and Leonard Ride Again, Joe R. Lansdale
(Note: since we had two long flight two and from Hawaii, and many more inter island flights, plus a lot of beach time, I downloaded all the Lansdale books I hadn’t read for the hawaii trip)
The Gods Of Guilt, Michael Connelly
The Wrong Side Of Goodbye, Michael Connelly
The Late Show, Michael Connelly
World Gone By, Dennis Lehane
The Promise, Robert Crais
Not A Drill, Lee Child
Night School, Lee Child
Small Wars, Lee Child
A Wanted Man, Lee Child
The Fever, Megan Abbott
Hawke’s Prey, Reavis Z. Wortham
Bucky F___ing Dent, David Duchovny
Dying For A Taste, Leslie Karst
Land Sharks, Katharine Nohr
Honolulu Hottie, Terry Ambrose
The Rainbow Connection, Laurie Hannan
The Lady From Zagreb, Phillip Kerr
Recently acquired, but not finished:
The Obama Inheritance, 15 stories of conspiracy edited by Gary Phillips
A Chant of Love and Lamentation, Brian Reeves
The Kona Shuffle, Tom Bradley, Jr.
I also have some non-fiction, which I won’t list here. Most are books to help with my research or my writing. Several of the books on writing are by James Scot Bell, whose books every fiction writer should have.
The mystery world is very saddened at the passing of Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone series. Ms. Grafton was a talented writer who created a revolution in literature and, especially the world of detective fiction, with the publication of A Is For Alibi. She, along with P. D. James, Sara Paretsky, and Marcia Muller created the modern, hard-boiled, female private eye and opened the way for many female and male writers. Prior to Grafton, James, Paretsky, and Muller, there were female private eyes, but they were written by men, and mostly continued male stereotypes of women. Grafton, along with the others, gave us realistically drawn women facing realistic challenges, and often having to overcome stereotypes and prejudice. She was also instrumental in the formation of Sisters In Crime, an international organization that worked to encourage women writers and to fight for equality in reviews and remuneration with male writers.I was fortunate to meet Sue Grafton several times at various Bouchercons. She was a delightful and gracious lady. We are all diminished by her death. Her latest book in the famous alphabet series was Y Is For Yesterday. Sue Grafton was adamant that her books not be translated into movies or television, and that the series not be ghost written. Kinsey Milhone’s 25th adventure was her last.
Hope 2018 is better.