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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview with Lono Waiwaiole, Part II

This is the second part of an interview with mystery writer Lono Waiwaiole. The first part appeared yesterday on Make Mine Mystery. If you missed it, you can catch it here. Lono's latest book, Dark Paradise, tells

I took part in a panel at Bouchercon where everybody but me said you couldn't have a hardboiled/noir novel set in Hawaii. It needed to be in a rust-belt setting, Is that possible or is Dark Paradise an aberration in that respect?

If your vision of Hawai`i can be reflected in tourist posters, I think you can advance the idea that noir fiction cannot be supported very well by the Hawaiian environment. The deeper your understanding of the place is, however, the better you can support the view you advanced on your panel. If you look at the major works of fiction that have come out of Hawai`i, you will see a lot of darkness--the place has the kind of dramatic tension below the surface which typically attracts novelists.

That's looking at the argument through the lens of society. If you look at it in terms of setting, I can say the same thing. A tropical paradise is brilliant color and lush flora on the surface, but the primary action one level down from that is decay and rot in which countless creepy creatures flourish.

You were right and the rest of your panel was wrong. Dark Paradise is an aberration so far, but only because not many writers have decided to mine those depths so far. There is most definitely a there there.

The most compelling characters in Dark Paradise are Geronimo, an adulterous cop with a gambling problem (he's the good guy) and a teenager named Nalani who becomes an effective player because of the abuse she's suffered from her father. The big question in this reader's mind is, "Will Nalani be all right?" Even at the end, we're not sure. What do you think? Can you say without giving the ending away?
The answer to that question is the same as the answer to this one: Will the Hawaiian Islands be all right? I hope so in both cases. Certainly both have the potential to go either way.

Sonnyboy, the drug dealer, is like a rock star to the locals. Is he based on anybody you know?

Yes and no. He's like a lot of smiling warriors I have met from Polynesia, essentially good-natured but quite capable of beating your brains out (and actually inclined to do so for entertainment from time to time). To totally beat down the Hawaiians, you have to go through all the Sonnys. I tried to suggest in this book that doing so would be difficult.

How did you develop your ear for Hawaiian pidgin and dialect living in Portland?
This is one of many reasons this book could not have been written before I moved to Hilo. I had been exposed to these sounds and rhythms by encountering some of the many Hawaiians living in the Portland area, but I didn't have it down until I was immersed in it for a couple of years. (Assuming I have it down now, of course.)

I did some word counts and found 1.4 variations of the f word per page, which works out to 434 instances. Comment?
My comment on this score is the same as the one above. The incidence of the f word reflects my reading of the language spoken by these characters. Some writers try to minimize the appearance of some words, but I let my characters speak however they speak. It costs me some readers, I know, but I prefer that to having my characters turn on me for unwarranted censorship.


  1. Kevin R. Tipple said...

    Good stuff, Mark. The language might scare off some readers, but if it does, so be it. It isn't intended to be a genial cozy. :))