Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

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.

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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

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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
PRIVATE MASATO NAKAE, UNITED STATES ARMY
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.

 

Kaena Point

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North Shore (left) meets Leeward Coast where the mountains end at Kaena Point

Just down the road from our cottage in Mokuleia is Kaena Point. It is the farthest point on Oahu, where the North Shore meets the Leeward Coast. It is a wild place with driving winds and crashing waves, In the old days, a railroad went through linking the North Shore sugar plantations with the Leeward side and beyond to Honolulu. Now, the only evidence of the railroad are the remains of bridges spanning a few gulches. There are no paved roads and only four-wheel drives with special permits are allowed. About three miles in, the unimproved road becomes impassable for all vehicles. It is not possible to go around the point except by foot.

The area has been designated as a nature preserve to provide a breeding area for protected species such as Laysan Albatrosses, Hawaiian monk seals, and other shore birds. In 2011, the state constructed a predator fence around a large section of the point to keep out dogs, cats, and mongooses, which threaten the nesting sites of shore birds.

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A Laysan Albatross calls to her chick at Kaena Point

Kaena Point is popular place for hiking, fishing, getting close looks at the endangered species. The hike is well worth it, but challenging. In Hawaiian, Kaena means “the heat.” Hikers need to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. In the 70s and 80s, before the point became a nature preserve, a foot-race, called the Oahu Perimeter Relay went through Kaena Point.

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Waves breaking on lava formations at Kaena Point

The race was run by teams of seven. Each team had two vehicles to transport the runners between legs. The total distance around Oahu is 140 miles. Each leg of the race was about 3 miles, with the longest leg being the one that went around Kaena Point, a distance of about 7 miles. Teams started at different times based on their estimates of when they would reach Kaena Point. The idea was to reach it at dawn because you did not want to run it in the dark. You could die. The two cars were needed because the team had to split at Waialua, with one vehicle and several runners going on to Kaena point and the other vehicle going over the mountains to the Leeward side to meet the runner coming around the point. I did the race three times and got to run the point once. It was a grueling, challenging race.

Go For Broke

From September 1943 to July, 1944, the 100th Infantry and the other units of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, saw some of the most intensive fighting in the Italian campaign. The 100th landed at Salerno with 1300 men. They fought through the Volturno River, Monte Cassino and the Gustav Line. From there they went to Anzio where they were joined by replacements from the 442nd and took part in intensive fighting that ended with the liberation of Rome. Sadly, the Nisei did not get to enter Rome with the other Fifth Army units. Instead, they were sent to Civitavecchia, northwest of Rome where the 100th was joined by the other units of the 442nd.

In July, 1944, the 2nd and 3rd battalions took the city of Pisa. During August of 1944, the Nisei held the area from Pisa to Florence. On September 1, the Allies crossed the Arno River. The 2nd and 3rd met heavy resistance and took many casualties, while the 100th crossed almost unopposed.

In the Naples to Rome campaign, waged primarily by the 100th, the Nisei suffered 584 casualties (139 killed, 442 wounded, and 3 missing). In the Rome to the Arno campaign waged by the 100th and 442nd, the Nisei suffered 1,272 casualties (239 killed, 1,016 wounded, and 17 missing.) After one year, the Nisei lost a total of 1,856 men.

Ted T. Tanouye was born near Torrance California. He enlisted in the US Army in February 1942, His parents and siblings were interned first in the Jerome War Relocation Center near Jerome, Arkansas. They were later moved to the Rohwer War Relocation Center near Rohwer, Arkansas.

Shortly after arriving in Italy with the 442nd, near Molino a Ventoabbto, he repeatedly advanced alone taking heavy fire from the Germans and despite being wounded by a grenade. He continued to fight until his platoon had taken the crest of Hill 140. He recovered from his wounds and returned to the front lines where he was wounded again, this time by a land mine near San Mauro Cilento, and died five days later.

Medal of Honor

Name: Tanouye, Ted T.
Born: November 14, 1919
Died: September 6, 1944
Rank: Technical Sergeant
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Medal of Honor Citation

Technical Sergeant Ted T. Tanouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 July 1944, near Molino A Ventoabbto, Italy. Technical Sergeant Tanouye led his platoon in an attack to capture the crest of a strategically important hill that afforded little cover. Observing an enemy machine gun crew placing its gun in position to his left front, Technical Sergeant Tanouye crept forward a few yards and opened fire on the position, killing or wounding three and causing two others to disperse. Immediately, an enemy [[machine pistol]] opened fire on him. He returned the fire and killed or wounded three more enemy soldiers. While advancing forward, Technical Sergeant Tanouye was subjected to grenade bursts, which severely wounded his left arm. Sighting an enemy-held trench, he raked the position with fire from his submachine gun and wounded several of the enemy. Running out of ammunition, he crawled 20 yards to obtain several clips from a comrade on his left flank. Next, sighting an enemy machine pistol that had pinned down his men, Technical Sergeant Tanouye crawled forward a few yards and threw a hand grenade into the position, silencing the pistol. He then located another enemy machine gun firing down the slope of the hill, opened fire on it, and silenced that position. Drawing fire from a machine pistol nest located above him, he opened fire on it and wounded three of its occupants. Finally taking his objective, Technical Sergeant Tanouye organized a defensive position on the reverse slope of the hill before accepting first aid treatment and evacuation. Technical Sergeant Tanouye’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

Poke (poh keh), the hamburger of Hawaii?

Poke has been called, by some, the hamburger of Hawaii. Go to any party, barbecue, or other gathering and someone will bring poke. Go to any supermarket deli, or corner convenience store and you will find poke. It’s served as an appetizer, a side dish, or sometimes a main dish. It was one of the uniquely Hawaiian dishes we were really looking forward to on our return to the Islands in March. What we were not prepared for was the incredible variety of poke that we found. When we lived there in the 80’s, there was only one kind of poke, prepared with essentially the same ingredients. Any variety came from the combination of those ingredients by different preparers. Our first visit to the deli counter in Times Supermarket in Kailua was a shock. There were over thirty varieties of poke.

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Poke Offerings, Times Supermarket, Kailua.

So what is poke? Poke is a Hawaiian word meaning to cut or chop. Fresh ahi tuna (yellow fin tuna) is what is cut, diced, into small cubes. Add some chopped sweet onions (Maui onions if in Hawaii, otherwise Vidalia onions). Mix the ahi and onions with sesame oil, soy sauce, and, if you have it, some limu—a kind of seaweed. Stir it and let it rest, but not too long. Poke should be eaten fresh-made.

That’s the basic kind. Frankly, it’s how I prefer it. However, we found it fun, even exciting to try all the different kinds and they are many. The species of fish is the main variation. Poke can be made of swordfish, salmon, mussels, octopus, fish roe, and even avocado. Then there are the different ingredients. Kimchi instead of onions, for example. Wasabi, sriracha, vinegar, or pepper-infused oils add different flavorings. Gotta say that the very best place we found for poke was at the Sack n Save on Farrington highway in Nanakuli.

So, for that next tailgate event, instead of slapping some ground meat patties on the grill, just poke up some fresh tuna and onions for an ono (delicious) treat.

This Weekend in Mystery

Houston Writers House hosts a crime and punishment weekend Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16 at the Crowne Plaza Houston Galleria. The event kicks off with a murder mystery dinner Friday evening. The keynote speaker Friday evening is Texas Ranger Lieutenant, Wende Wakeman.

Saturday features talks by forensic artist Lois Gibson and A&M forensic entomologist Dr. Adrienne Brundage in the morning. DNA specialist Priscilla A. Hill and developmental editor Monica Shaughnessy will speak in the afternoon, followed by a  panel of crime experts.

Charlie Chan Aphorism

Always harder to make murder secret than for egg to bounce on sidewalk.

 

Hardboiled Quote::

I don’t like your manner.

—crime reporter Adrienne Fromsett

I’m not selling it.

—private eye Philip Marlowe, Lady In The Lake, 1947

House Without A Key Kiawe Tree

last month I mentioned in a post that the venerable kiawe tree that forms the backdrop of the lanai stage of the Halekulani’s House Without A Key, had fallen. The hotel was making efforts to save it.  Now comes news from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, that the tree is showing new growth.
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Go For Broke

While the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 442nd were engaged in the fight for Hill 140, the 100th was preparing to attack the town of Castellina Marittima in the province of Pisa in Tuscany. On July 7, 1944, the day Hill 140 fell, they launched the attack. They took the high ground on the northwestern side of the town. At dawn, 2nd platoon C company entered the town. They met heavy resistance and fought back numerous German counterattacks. Private First Class, Kaoru Moto, single-handedly silenced two machine gun positions and captured a German soldier. Then, while severely wounded by a sniper, he wiped out another machine gun position. Company B moved north into the town and the town, also meeting heavy resistance. The 522nd artillery laid down a heavy barrage and forced the Germans to retreat. The 100th secured the town. Between July 18 to July 20, the 2nd and 3rd battalions took the town of Pisa on the Arno River.

Near the town of Pieve di Santa Luce in the Pisa district, Staff Sergeant Otani directed his platoon to safety after being pinned down by hostile fire. He killed one sniper and then, exposing himself to machine gun fire, he created a distraction which allowed his men to reach cover. He was killed by hostile fire while attempting to save a wounded member of his platoon. Otani had volunteered for the 442nd while he and his family were interned at the Gila River Was Relocation Center in Arizona.

By the time the Rome-Arno campaign ended, the 100th/442nd had lost 1,272 (17 missing, 239 killed, 1,016 wounded or injured) men while covering a distance of forty miles.

Medal of Honor

Kaoru Moto

Born: April 25, 1917, Makawao, Hawaii
Died: August 26, 1992, Makawao, Hawaii
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 100th Battalion

Medal of Honor citation

Private First Class Kaoru Moto distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. While serving as first scout, Private First Class Moto observed a machine gun nest that was hindering his platoon’s progress. On his own initiative, he made his way to a point ten paces from the hostile position, and killed the enemy machine gunner. Immediately, the enemy assistant gunner opened fire in the direction of Private First Class Moto. Crawling to the rear of the position, Private First Class Moto surprised the enemy soldier, who quickly surrendered. Taking his prisoner with him, Private First Class Moto took a position a few yards from a house to prevent the enemy from using the building as an observation post. While guarding the house and his prisoner, he observed an enemy machine gun team moving into position. He engaged them, and with deadly fire forced the enemy to withdraw. An enemy sniper located in another house fired at Private First Class Moto, severely wounding him. Applying first aid to his wound, he changed position to elude the sniper fire and to advance. Finally relieved of his position, he made his way to the rear for treatment. Crossing a road, he spotted an enemy machine gun nest. Opening fire, he wounded two of the three soldiers occupying the position. Not satisfied with this accomplishment, he then crawled forward to a better position and ordered the enemy soldier to surrender. Receiving no answer, Private First Class Moto fired at the position, and the soldiers surrendered. Private First Class Moto’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.

 

Kazuo Otani
Born: June 2, 1918, Visalia, California
Died: July 15, 1944 near Pieve di Santa Luce, Italy
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Medal of Honor citation

Staff Sergeant Kazuo Otani distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 15 July 1944, near Pieve Di S. Luce, Italy. Advancing to attack a hill objective, Staff Sergeant Otani’s platoon became pinned down in a wheat field by concentrated fire from enemy machine gun and sniper positions. Realizing the danger confronting his platoon, Staff Sergeant Otani left his cover and shot and killed a sniper who was firing with deadly effect upon the platoon. Followed by a steady stream of machine gun bullets, Staff Sergeant Otani then dashed across the open wheat field toward the foot of a cliff, and directed his men to crawl to the cover of the cliff. When the movement of the platoon drew heavy enemy fire, he dashed along the cliff toward the left flank, exposing himself to enemy fire. By attracting the attention of the enemy, he enabled the men closest to the cliff to reach cover. Organizing these men to guard against possible enemy counterattack, Staff Sergeant Otani again made his way across the open field, shouting instructions to the stranded men while continuing to draw enemy fire. Reaching the rear of the platoon position, he took partial cover in a shallow ditch and directed covering fire for the men who had begun to move forward. At this point, one of his men became seriously wounded. Ordering his men to remain under cover, Staff Sergeant Otani crawled to the wounded soldier who was lying on open ground in full view of the enemy. Dragging the wounded soldier to a shallow ditch, Staff Sergeant Otani proceeded to render first aid treatment, but was mortally wounded by machine gun fire. Staff Sergeant Otani’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.

 

Woman of Noir

Megan Abbott is one of the best contemporary noir writers. My introduction to her work was a short story, Policy, which appeared in an anthology of short stories, Damned Near Dead edited by Duane Swierczyinski. It appeared one year after her debut novel, Die A Little. Abbott expanded Policy into a novel, Queenpin.

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Queenpin by Megan Abbott

Queenpin is a story set in the world of Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, casinos, race tracks, betting parlors, and heists. The story is told by a nameless young woman who starts out as a book keeper at a seedy cocktail lounge, the Club Tee Hee. She meets Gloria Denton, an elegant mob luminary who is probably about 60, but looks 45 in the right light. The story opens with the lines:

I want the legs.
That’s the first thing I think. The legs are the legs of a 20-year-old Vegas showgirl, a hundred feet long and with just enough curve and give and promise.

Gloria takes the unnamed young bookkeeper under her wing. She teaches her how to act, how to dress, how to place bets so you don’t mess up the odds, but get a 70% return on your bets. Gloria is cunning and ruthless. Stories accumulate around her. How she carried a long-handled, bejeweled scissors with her when she collected money in the rough parts of town; How she gutted a stripper who had crossed her with a straight razor; How she worked a roomful of mobsters on her knees.

Gloria has one measure of success. When a woman calls her a whore, Gloria responds,

“I’m the best damn cocksucker in this burg, and I got the rocks to prove it. Your knees have rubbed plenty of carpets, you rotten bitch. Where are your diamonds?”

Under the guidance of her mentor, the young woman finds that the world is at her feet. The two of them are making money and acquiring power. But as their money and power grows, the young woman takes some dangerous risks, like falling for the wrong guy. Both Gloria and the young woman have to scramble to keep their operation going. Soon they are in competition with each other and scrambling to stay alive.

My bookmark is in . . .

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The Fever by Megan Abbott

The Fever, by Megan Abbott, 2014. Unlike Queenpin, which was set in the 1950’s, The Fever is contemporary. The story opens with a strange ritual performed by a group of high school girls. We aren’t given the details of the ritual. Perhaps they will be revealed before the book ends.

We meet Deenie Nash, a diligent student, her brother Eli, a high school hockey star, and her father Tom, a teacher at the high school. Tom is divorced and dating women. Eli and Deenie are experimenting with sex, Eli more so than Deenie. Deenie’s best friend suffers a convulsion during class, causing turmoil among the clique of girls Deenie hangs with, and causing consternation among the parents and school officials.

The LeRoy, New York mass hysteria case in 2012 inspired the book.

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