Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

Splintered Loyalty is the new Ava Rome mystery from Down and Out Books. It was published May 8, 2023. You can order it directly from the publisher or from Amazon. It is available in trade paperback or in several ebook formats. Here’s the cool thing. If you order the paperback from the publisher, you will get the ebooks with it.

When I arrived at the University of Hawai‘i in 1977, one of the first people I met was a fellow graduate student named Rosie Tatsuguchi. We had the same advisor, shared an office for a short time, and worked on several projects together. We became good friends. Rosie was about 10 or 12 years older than me. Her family were Buddhist missionaries. Her father and mother had immigrated to Hawai‘i to establish a Jodo Shinshu mission temple. Rosie’s older brother had taken it over at the time I met her. The temple, the Shinshu Kyokai Mission of Hawai‘i is located on Beretania Street in Honolulu. Mary Fran and I, and friends from graduate school, would take part in Bon Dances there during July at Rosie’s invitation. The temple still stands and, when I went by it in 2021, Roland Tatsuguchi, Rosie’s brother, was still listed on the door as the minister.

Shinshu Kyokai Mission, August 21,2021

One day Rosie told me this story.

Her father came home from the temple every evening at the same time. He expected, on his arrival, to see the food on the table and the family—Rosie, her mother, her older brothers, and her sister—in their places at the table. One day the expected time came and went and the reverend didn’t show. Everybody waited in their place. Nobody touched the food because, as head of the household, father got the first rice. The date was December 7, 1941. Rosie was five or six at the time. The family remained at the table through the night, not touching the food even though they were hungry. They slept in their places at the table. In the morning, they learned that the reverend had been arrested while helping clear rubble from a building that had been bombed. He was one of many Japanese community leaders who were rounded up and incarcerated that day. He was later sent to one of the War Relocation camps and the family did not see him again until after the war.

That image of the family dutifully waiting for their father stayed with me and it became the inspiration for Splintered Loyalty. In the prologue, we meet a young Japanese woman, Akiko, waiting for her husband, the Reverend Harry Miyazaki, to come home from the temple. Like Rosie’s family, she waits through the night. There are some differences between Akiko’s story and Rosie’s story. In the first place, there are no children in Akiko’s story. She and Harry are newly married and Akiko has been in the country for only a few months. Another difference is the date. Akiko’s story opens on February 20, 1942, the day after FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which called for the removal of all people of Japanese ancestry from the western United States and confinement in concentration camps in violation of their civil rights.

Rosie’s statement that, “As head of the household, father got the first rice,” conveys so much meaning about the family, the culture, and the era, that I remember it after all these years. In Akiko’s story, that sentence became, “As husband, Harry got the first rice.” Splintered Loyalty went through 18 drafts before publication. I think that sentence is probably the only sentence remaining intact from the first draft.

Pearl Harbor is a popular attraction for visitors to Honolulu, and rightly so, because the lives that were lost and others that were disrupted need to be remembered and honored. But there are other places in Honolulu that I call the hidden history of the attack. Such places as the Shinshu Kyokai mission which has a very poignant story behind it. If you visit Honolulu, by all means visit Pearl Harbor, but immerse yourself in the history and keep alert for other locations that carry other memories of that time.

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