Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

Go For Broke

This Veterans Day weekend, Go For Broke, the movie telling the origin story of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team premieres at the Hawaii International Film Festival. The premiere closes out the festival on Sunday, November 12. 

The Champagne Campaign

Following the fierce fighting in the forests of northeast France, the 442nd were sent south to the Maritime Alps and the Riviera. The unit needed rest and reinforcements. It was less than half its strength with close to 2,000 men in hospitals. Eventually about 1200 replacements arrived from the United States and about 250 men were released from hospitals to rejoin their units. The objective was to guard a stretch of the French-Italian border and to prevent the Germans from breaking through into southern France.

From mid-November, 1944, to mid March, 1945, the 442nd engaged in what became known as “the Chanpagne Campaign.” While there was fighting, which resulted in injuries and loss of life, the fighting was nothing like the Vosges campaign. The men were able to visit the beaches, the casinos, the nightclubs and restaurants of the region. They were able to bask in the hospitality of the French citizens.

It was a welcome respite from the intense fighting they had experienced and the fighting to come.

Medal Of Honor

Hayashi, Joe J.
Born: August 14, 1920, Salinas, California
Died: April 22, 1945, Tendola, Italy
Rank: Sergeant
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Hayashi was a mechanic before the war. He enlisted in the Army in May 1941. After war broke out, he volunteered for the 442nd. In April, 1945, the 442nd returned to Italy for combat. Near Tendola, Hayashi exposed himself to enemy fire to direct mortar fire on enemy positions. Two days later, he single-handedly silenced three enemy machine gun positions, but was killed in pursuit of enemy soldiers.

Medal Of Honor Citation

Private Joe Hayashi distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 20 and 22 April 1945, near Tendola, Italy. On 20 April 1945, ordered to attack a strongly defended hill that commanded all approaches to the village of Tendola, Private Hayashi skillfully led his men to a point within 75 yards of enemy positions before they were detected and fired upon. After dragging his wounded comrades to safety, he returned alone and exposed himself to small arms fire in order to direct and adjust mortar fire against hostile emplacements. Boldly attacking the hill with the remaining men of his squad, he attained his objective and discovered that the mortars had neutralized three machine guns, killed 27 men, and wounded many others. On 22 April 1945, attacking the village of Tendola, Private Hayashi maneuvered his squad up a steep, terraced hill to within 100 yards of the enemy. Crawling under intense fire to a hostile machine gun position, he threw a grenade, killing one enemy soldier and forcing the other members of the gun crew to surrender. Seeing four enemy machine guns delivering deadly fire upon other elements of his platoon, he threw another grenade, destroying a machine gun nest. He then crawled to the right flank of another machine gun position where he killed four enemy soldiers and forced the others to flee. Attempting to pursue the enemy, he was mortally wounded by a burst of machine pisto fire. The dauntless courage and exemplary leadership of Private Hayashi enabled his company to attain its objective. Private Hayashi’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.


After a hearty supper we waited until it was thoroughly dark and then started to the crater. The first glance in that direction revealed a scene of wild beauty. There was a heavy fog over the crater and it was splendidly illuminated by the glare from the fires below.”
—Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1866.


Kilauea Caldera

The Big Island of Hawai‘i is made up of three volcanoes. Mauna Loa is the world’s largest mountain. Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest.The third, Kilauea, has been in continuous eruption since October 1982, the month our son Michael was born.

Volcano House, on the rim of Kilauea Caldera, facing Haleuma’umu’a crater is the oldest hotel in Hawai’i, dating back to 1846. The hotel was already in its second reincarnation when Twain visited in 1866. The current structure was built in 1941 and remains the only public accommodation inside Hawai‘i Volcano National Park.

The hotel looks right into the glowing caldera. At night you can see the fountains of lava inside. You can wake up in the morning to a rainbow rising from the crater.


Pele by Herb Kawainui Kane

In Hawaiian mythology, Haleuma’umu’a is home to Pele, the goddess of fire and the shaper of all things. Read more about Pele here.


Between Hilo and Volcano National Park is the small town of Pahoa. It’s a small, rural community that has attracted a lot of people who just want to get away from urban life and live simply. In the 60’s and 70’s, we would have called them hippies. As a result, the town is full of quaint shops and restaurants. It was also the location of one of the KEEP (Kamehameha Early Education Program) dissemination schools in the 70’s. Pahoa Elementary housed grades K-3 of the KEEP program and my assignment at KEEP was to evaluate the dissemination programs. I made several trips to the school to collect data. It looks much the same as it did back then. Some of the subdivisions near Pahoa were buried by lava flows from Kilauea, but the town itself was spared.

Lehua and Ohia

743D58CB-0839-4AAB-92A7-CF3D5FA36C7AThe goddess Pele, she of the volcano, is the most powerful force on the the Big Island. Everywhere and everything has some connection to Pele mythology. One of the more charming myths is the legend of the Ohia tree and the Lehua flower. The Ohia grows on the lava fields. It is a pioneer, one of the first forms of vegetation to appear on the flow. It starts the process of breaking the lava into soil. Everywhere on the lava flows you can see an Ohia tree and its beautiful red flower, the Lehua.

The legend goes that Pele fell in love with a handsome warrior named Ohia, but Ohia had already pledged his love to Lehua. This so enraged Pele that she turned him into a 01CFD7FF-95F5-4484-9984-25AAE8D5C82Ctwisted tree. Lehua came looking for him. When she saw the tree, she immediately guessed what happened. Distraught and in tears, she appealed to the other gods to reverse the spell. The other gods were moved by Lehua, but feared angering Pele. Instead they changed Lehua into a flower on the tree so the two would be joined forever. Some people believe that plucking the Lehua flower will bring rain on that day, presumably Lehua’s tears.


Murder Plays A Ukulele, Master Detective, 1941.

Kevin Burton Smith of The Thrilling Detective posted this picture on Twitter and I felt it needed reposting. This is from The Master Detective, 1941. Unfortunately, I don’t have the story that goes with it. I would love to read it.

Oh, and by the way, The Thrilling Detective is celebrating twenty years of everything detective. Check it out.


I just learned that Go For Broke, the movie, which tells the origin of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, will premiere November 12, 2017 as the closing film of the Hawai‘i International Film Festival in Honolulu. You can check their website here for more information about the movie: https://www.goforbrokemovie.com.  If I could go, I would. The premiere is sold out. I’m hoping it will appear in theaters across the nation so we can all see it.

The 100th, which later became the 1st Battalion of the 442nd, began in the year following the Pearl Harbor atttack when University of Hawai‘i ROTC cadets organized themselves as the Varsity Volunteers for Victory and petitioned the military governor of Hawai‘i to let them serve in the armed forces. They had to contend with racism at home and Nazism abroad. They emerged as true heroes from the war and are still heroes for our times.

Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawai‘i

One of our favorite places on the Big Island is the Hamakua Coast, which goes from Hilo to Waipio Valley. It was once an area of sugar cane plantations, but with the end of sugar in Hawai‘i in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the area has become bedroom communities for Hilo, thriving on quaint retail and restaurants.

The coast is rugged with few good beaches, but spectacular views Also spectacular vegetation. Following are just a few of the sights.



Rainbow. Falls, Wailuku River, Hilo, Hawai‘I

Starting in Hilo, you can visit Rainbow Falls, a short distance from the city.

Honomu is one of the small towns that grew up around the sugar mill. As with many small towns in Hawai‘i, you can find a mix of ethnicity and religions. Here on the main street, a Japanese Hongwanji Buddhist temple stands next to a Catholic Church.


Hongwanji Temple, Honomu, Hawai‘I


Catholic Church, Honomu, Hawai‘I

Just past Honomu is Akaka Falls State Park, a verdant area whose main attraction is the 442 foot Akaka Falls.


Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawai‘I

Waipio Valley, once the permanent residence of Hawaiian kings, has a curving black sand beach, one of the best surfing beaches on the island, but difficult to get to. The valley floor is 2,000 feet below the surrounding terrain. The road to the valley is the steepest road in the United States and traversible only with a four-wheel drive. Much of the valley is owned by Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate and preserved for its cultural significance. The few residents in the valley tend the taro farms.


Waipio Valley, Big Island of Hawai‘I

Kahuluokalae, the Monk Seal

In previous posts I told you about Kaimana, the monk seal born on Kaimana Beach in Waikiki. Kaimana was one of four pups born on Oahu this year. The most recent birth occurred on the North Shore in July. It was unnamed until now. Meet Kahuluokalae. Read about him here. Kahuluoklae joins Kaimana (female), Aka (male), and Wailea (female). All are doing fine.

Go For Broke

The Vosges Mountains

After six days of fighting to liberate the lost battalion, a battle which has become one of the top battles in US Army history, the 442nd deserved a rest. They had taken many casualties with the dead and wounded outnumbering the living. K company had 17men remaining out of 186 and I company was down to 8 of 185. They had been in non-stop combat for 16 days. Rest was not to be, however. General Dahlquist ordered the Nisei to keep pushing. A lot of German units remained through the region.

For 17 more days, the 442nd fought to secure the remainder of the Vosges forest. The entire Vosges campaign lasted 34 days including the battles at Bruyeres, Biffontaine, liberating the lost battalion, and driving the Germans from the rest of the forest. The 442nd lost 216 men killed and 856 wounded.

General Dahlquist’s command has been questioned by many. Although he accomplished much in the campaign, his victories came at considerable cost to the men he commanded. The town of Biffontaine, where many men were wounded or killed, was sparsely populated and strategically insignificant. The lost battalion would not have needed to be rescued had they not been sent to an area so far from friendly forces and away from radio contact. Although the men of the 442nd went into combat without complaint, many of the officers were of the opinion that Dahlquist considered the Nisei expendable.

Dahlquist also appeared oblivious to the suffering of the men he commanded. On November 12, Dahlquist ordered the 442nd to a review and award ceremony. He is said to have been irritated that only 18 men of K company and 8 men of I company turned out. It fell to the commanding officer to explain that most of the men were in the hospital and could not attend.


442nd RCT, Vosges Mountains, The Lost Battalion Campaign

The bravery and sacrifices of the men of the 442nd in the Vosges Mountains has been recognized by many. A commissioned painting depicting the rescue of the lost battalion hangs in the Pentagon. The towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine have erected monuments to the men of the 442nd commemorating the liberation of their towns. The road to the monument in Bruyeres has been named “The Avenue of the 442nd Infantry Regiment.” The Bruyeres monument can be viewed here.


Medals Of Honor

James K. Okubo
Born: May 30, 1920, Anacortes, WA
Death: January 29, 1967, Detroit, MI
Rank: Technician Fifth Grade
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Okubo joined the Army in May, 1943. His family was interned at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California and late in the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. He was the only medic to receive the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor citation

Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 28 and 29 October and 4 November 1944, in the Foret Domaniale de Champ, near Biffontaine, eastern France. On 28 October, under strong enemy fire coming from behind mine fields and roadblocks, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo, a medic, crawled 150 yards to within 40 yards of the enemy lines. Two grenades were thrown at him while he left his last covered position to carry back wounded comrades. Under constant barrages of enemy small arms and machine gun fire, he treated 17 men on 28 October and 8 more men on 29 October. On 4 November, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo ran 75 yards under grazing machine gun fire and, while exposed to hostile fire directed at him, evacuated and treated a seriously wounded crewman from a burning tank, who otherwise would have died. Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo’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.


Joe M. Nishimoto
Born: February 21, 1919, Fresno, CA
Died: November 15, 1944, La Houssiere, France
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Nishimoto was interned at the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas. He enlisted in the Army in October, 1943.

Medal Of Honor Citation

Private First Class Joe M. Nishimoto distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 November 1944, near La Houssiere, France. After three days of unsuccessful attempts by his company to dislodge the enemy from a strongly defended ridge, Private First Class Nishimoto, as acting squad leader, boldly crawled forward through a heavily mined and booby-trapped area. Spotting a machine gun nest, he hurled a grenade and destroyed the emplacement. Then, circling to the rear of another machine gun position, he fired his submachine gun at point-blank range, killing one gunner and wounding another. Pursuing two enemy riflemen, Private First Class Nishimoto killed one, while the other hastily retreated. Continuing his determined assault, he drove another machine gun crew from its position. The enemy, with their key strong points taken, were forced to withdraw from this sector. Private First Class Nishimoto’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.



Reboot, Reboot, Reboot

We’ve seen reboots of Hawai‘i Five-O and McGyver. Now comes word that Magnum P.I. is up for a reboot. I was a little fearful about the Hawai‘i Five-O reboot, but I think it worked out well, so I’m looking forward to this one.

87A96CB8-C4F5-4C06-81F5-6F87C28182F6Magnum was just beginning its first season when we moved to Hawai‘i, so we followed it from the beginning all the way to the end. Magnum with his eyebrows, mustache, and awesome aloha shirts, Higgins, his uptight nemesis,  T.C. Calvin, the helicopter pilot, and Rick Wright, the manager of the Kamehameha Club. The Kamehameha Club, but the way, was actually the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki.

All of the characters are coming back, with one exception: the uptight Jonathan Higgins will be a (presumably) uptight Juliet Higgins, an ex-MI-6 agent. You read more about the reboot in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser here.

I don’t know how I feel about the Juliet Higgins thing. I was pleased when the Five—O reboot made Kono Kalakaua a woman. Kono was somewhat peripheral in the original one, but in the reboot, the change in gender really elevated the role. Grace Park turned Kono into a real kick-ass character,but also a sensitive one. I hate to see Kono go this season.

42E14F75-3A03-4CC2-B52B-BCDCEDF80F8AThe problem with the Higgins role is that it was already a central one. Moreover, I hope they don’t repeat Higgins’s stuffiness because I hate to see that in a female character. I’d rather see the T.C. role go to a woman. As with Kono, I think a woman could really elevate that role, especially a black actress.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to it. Now maybe someone will do a reboot of Hawaiian Eye.

Caribbean Cruise.

We were on a Caribbean cruise, Galveston to Roatan, to Costa Maya, to Cozumel, last week. That’s why there were no posts. the cruise was fun; the food was great; and the booze plentiful. We took a class in mixing martinis and another one in making salsa and margaritas.

How does this tie in with mysteries? The first night we signed up for a mystery dinner. A cast of actors from some of the other shows put on a clever play about an overweight mobster, his wife, his mistress, a rival gangster who wanted to make a deal to divide up the territory, an ambitious young button man, and a waitress who might or might not have been an undercover investigator. It was played for laughs with over the top acting, missed lines, and audience participation. Midway through the play, the overweight mobster was shot, off stage of course. The second act was all about the actors accusing each other and presenting their alibis. At the end, the audience guessed who the identity of the killer. I’ll say up front that I guessed wrong. It was all for laughs anyway. The story was weak. Almost any one of the characters could have plausibly committed the murder. The dinner, in Giovanni’s Table, an upscale Italian restaurant onboard, was fabulous. If you’re ever taking a Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean and you have an opportunity to do the mystery dinner, do it. You will have the time of your life.

Hawke’s Prey

I took Hawke’s Prey by Reavis Z. Wortham with me to read on the cruise. I’m big fan of Wortham and really looked forward to reading this one. This is the first in Ames series. The book came out in July 2017. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy from Wortham at Left Coast Crime in Honolulu in March. I hadn’t gotten around to reading it because i had shipped it home with other books from the con and forgot about them. You know how it is.

Hawkes Prey introduces Sonny Hawke, a Texas Ranger in the West Texas town of Ballard (which bears some resemblance to Marfa, Texas.) Sonnny is married to a schoolteacher named Kelly. He has twins, a boy and a girl in their early teens. His father still operates the family ranch. The story opens with an attack on s Border Patrol check point by some hardened criminals on their way to meet up with members of several other teams. All are widely diverse and deadly. Their target, the Ballard courthouse.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints—the bad guys, the victims, law enforcement, and Sonny, whose POV is first person. The story moves quickly with plenty of violence and West Texas color. Wortham an ear for speech and it comes off beautifully.

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.

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