I CAME TO WRITE THIS STORY:
Pocketful of Sand, by Albert Tucher (Needle,
1994 my brother, who was then a Coast Guard officer, had just been posted to
Hawaii. He and his wife knew no one in the islands at that point, and I decided
to spend Thanksgiving with them. I thought I was doing my family duty. I am not
a tropical kind of guy at all, and I expected one visit to last a lifetime.
years later I have returned a dozen times. I have visited the four main
islands, but my favorite is Hawaii, aka The Big Island. The range of experience
there takes includes active volcanoes, some of the world’s best beaches, the
rainforest, and high country that could pass for Wyoming or Montana.
one visit in the year 2000 I hiked down into the Waipi’o Valley in the
northeast of the island. The only access to the valley is a road so steep that
two-wheel-drive vehicles lose their grip and free fall hundreds of feet. It has
God said, let me tell you about green.” That’s how one of my characters
describes the valley. Green becomes a new experience, and so does the white of
brilliant waterfalls draping themselves over the rim.
not in Newark anymore.
to fifty residents try to get away from it all in the valley, which is big
enough to have supported a population of about three thousand in the days
before the Europeans arrived. Without wishing to give offense, I am forced to
say that a substantial percentage of the residents are misanthropic in the
extreme. I have heard that they also tend to feud among themselves, and that
the Hawaii County Police leave them to pursue their social lives without
all hazards are human. Wild pigs and horses roam the valley. I encountered a
stallion obstructing a trailhead and plainly daring anyone to challenge him. I
year 2000 was also when I began to write about my series character, prostitute
Diana Andrews. After sampling the intoxicating brew of beauty and menace in the
Waipi’o Valley, I knew I had to send Diana there. In one of my still
unpublished novels, called Tentacles, she tries to earn the biggest
payday of her career by backpacking into the valley with a client who neglects
to mention that some very nasty people are after him.
of the supporting characters in that novel is a Hawaii County Police detective
named Errol Coutinho, and it turns out that he can carry stories of his own. So
far, A Pocketful of Sand is the most
substantial Coutinho story to see publication. His territory is the Hilo side
of the island, and in particular the region known as Puna, in the southeast.
The population center of Puna, the small town of Pahoa, has been making the
news lately, as it waits to be overwhelmed by lava from the current eruption of
is the heart of the rainforest. Sparsely populated and lightly policed, it is
home to marijuana farmers, meth cookers, survivalists, fugitives, and Sixties
holdovers. Several notorious crimes in the region have stimulated my
imagination. Some names to Google: Dana Ireland, Ken and Yvonne Mathison,
Brittany Royal, Boaz Johnson.
far as I know, no writer of crime fiction has used this setting, which is a
natural for noir. If I’m right about that, I’m willing to go first.