Summer Books 2011 / Building a Mystery
Just released on May 3, Night on Fire, the second legal thriller by transplanted New York City defense attorney Douglas Corleone, is a quantum leap over this writer’s first novel, which was released nearly three years ago. In 2009, the Weekly gave One Man’s Paradise cautious praise, noting that its legal proceduralism was good reading. But it was also clear that this was writing in search of a consistent voice, and the formulaic plot seemed as if it were made from a detective-thriller kit purchasable at, say, Wal-Mart.
Now, bearing the cover rubric of “a Kevin Corvelli mystery,” Night on Fire seems the first in a possible franchise series. The intricate plot (with maybe one or two too many twists), the improved dialogue, the appealing cast of obvious regulars and the cunning use of topography all show the evolution of Corleone. This is a real book; it takes, however, about 100 pages before the 34l page tome kicks in–and then it keeps getting better.
Don’t misunderstand: On the scale of literary creation, this is not Grisham. It’s rather more low-end, often down and dirty. But it does work.
In a first-person narrated novel, defense attorney Kevin Corvelli has a consistent voice and a recognizable demeanor. That is, in this second book, he seems real. Corvelli is scarcely a moral paragon: he’s hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, amoral and promiscuous. He’ll do whatever he can to win his cases, including bedding his female clients. While Corvelli is in Hawaii, he’s not yet of Hawai’i–though the book does suggest he’s capable of characterological change. As a direction writer, Corleone might consider escaping certain clichés in the genre. His greatest strength right now is in courtoom scenes and procedural styles. His greatest weakness is in the use of lousy metaphors and forced attempts at humor.
The book opens with Corvelli really close to an arson/murder case; in fact, he nearly perishes in a hotel fire in which a (murdered) newlywed males burns, but he escapes and saves a four-year-old kid, who ultimately figures prominently in the trial of the dead-husband’s new bride. The case goes on to include such issues as self-mutilation, various infidelities, Mainland gangland inolvement and a corrupt state prosecutor.
If this is your kind of read, invest some time in Night On Fire, and welcome a promising crime-fiction writer to our shores. He–and Kevin Corvelli–just might be around for a while. —
Maureen Quemada is known as a folk art painter. She’s the author of such books and magazines as Skipping Stones, Vamanos Magazine, Babybug Magazine and Ladybug Magazine. Add now to the list, Merrie the Little Hula Dancer.
Merrie is lonely and dancing hula by herself. She makes a wish and eventually others join her. Vibrant, whimsical illustrations take us on a journey past stars and the arc of the moon’s bright beam. Over the sea Merrie becomes three. They fly toward the west and chant stories from their past and soon four becomes a halau of ten.
Quemada’s picture book teaches children numbers in Hawaiian language, and its prose offers a melody that will be remembered by adults.
For Those Who Climb Trees
Considering a realistic topic–like the preservation of the earth, rather than a “happily ever after”–is one of the things that makes The Little Greenies: Manu the Seabird particularly interesting. In a creative, mixed-media performance of environmental activism, author Petronella Evers combines non-fictional and fictional characters to give new life to an old topic.
Evers delivers a creative, political work of art about the earth and the responsibilities of caring for its wildlife. A tool that not only educates our children, but teaches them empathy, the Little Greenies show us the dangers of pollution, while entertaining us with their whimsical and endearing ways.
The story takes place in a forgotten garden where a family of fairy-esque creatures tip-toe toward the end of the garden, only to find a bird suffering from swallowing a plastic bag. The Greenies console the bird and eventually free it from a plastic demise.
Through a mixed media template, Evers delivers beautifully creative characters and an innovative strategy of youthful activism. Though I expected more on the level of creative writing, I can only hope that The Little Greenies becomes a series, where the author can develop her style and her cause.
Two to Come…
Wakako Yamauchi’s Rosebud and Other Stories is a collection of short narratives that examines the lives of Nisei characters–second generation Japanese Americans. The tales of love, marriage, motherhood and friendship among this particular group of people shouldn’t be unfamiliar for local readers, but count on Yamauchi (Songs My Mother Taught Me: Stories, Plays, and Memoir) to bring her elegance and trademark voice to the subject matter. She herself was sent to an internment camp during World War II, so we’re counting on her own experience to bring a certain authenticity to the proceedings. (To be reviewed in an upcoming issue.)
R. Zamora Linmark has finally written a sequel of sorts to her 1997 novel Rolling the R’s, and it’s everything we hoped for. Leche revisits Vince De Los Reyes and now we travel with him on his return to the Philippines after living in Hawaii for 13 years. The story examines culture-shock, modern-day gay life and the way things were in the early ’90s, all with Linmark’s sense of funny. Only this time, the narrative is in third person. Embedded within the book is a certain playfulness. Interspersed are “Tourist Tips” for Manila, as well as postcards with photos that Vince writes to his friends back home. In short, Leche is all we’ve anticipated from Linmark. We’ll get to the details later. (To be reviewed in an upcoming issue.)