Many of the characters and locations featured in Frank Chin‘s The Confessions of a Number One Son are based on the author’s experiences living on Maui over four decades ago. In 1969, Chin taught at San Francisco State, but decided to take a break from teaching and move to the island, where he worked as a carpenter with some old friends from Berkeley. Over time, Chin grew anxious to return to the mainland, but found that he couldn’t afford a plane ticket home.
As fate would have it, he learned of a playwriting contest sponsored by the East West Players, a showcase theater for Asian American actors in Los Angeles. The top prize was a thousand dollars. Over the course of several weeks, Chin wrote and submitted a play, and eventually found himself sharing the award with Momoko Iko—thereby earning half of the prize money, which was more than enough to buy a plane ticket back to California. That prize-winning play was The Chickencoop Chinaman and the rest, as they say, is history.
This August, forty-five years after Chin left Maui, editor Calvin McMillin decided to travel to the island to investigate the writer’s old haunts, especially those featured in the novel. He visited Wailuku, located at the mouth of ‘Iao Valley and near the landmarks of ‘Iao Needle and ‘Iao Stream (historically known as Wailuku stream). As Calvin reported after his trip, seeing the lush and beautiful natural environment in person added a new understanding of the novel’s Hawaiian backdrop.
After visiting the historic Iao Theater, Calvin followed in Frank Chin’s footsteps (and more recently, those of Anthony Bourdain) by eating at Tasty Crust, an old-fashioned local diner in Wailuku, and concluded that the startling similarities between Tasty Crust’s breakfast menu and the main character’s diet in The Confessions of a Number One Son was unlikely to be just a coincidence.
“I ate in restaurants. Spam and eggs, canned Vienna sausage and eggs, canned corned beef hash and Portuguese linguica and eggs, and canned ham and eggs out of a typical greasy spoon for breakfast. The mass eats of the white missionary culture and U.S. military now a part of island culture. The wonders of canned processed meat—a part of life every morning—sealed up hunger with grease.” (page 43)
Calvin also visited many of the beach locations featured in the novel and drove to Lahaina’s Wo Hing Museum, which offers information about Chinese immigration to Maui in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
NEW RELEASE | AUTHOR EVENTS (see updates below)
A Latitude 20 Book | August 2015 | 248 pages | 20 b&w illlus.
Paper | ISBN 978-0-8248-5164-4 | $18.99
(Also available as an ebook/Kindle)
“Sunny Skies, Shady Characters by James Dooley—Hawaii’s bravest investigative reporter—recounts the secret history of Hawaii that all of us have been waiting for: a book of shocking revelations, featuring a cast of thieves, heavies, enforcers, and yakuza thugs and sneaks who have so intimidated the islands that the truth of their villainy has been suppressed—until now. At last, we know where the bodies are buried, and who buried them.” —Paul Theroux
“The stories recounted here were once front-page news and they lose none of their timeliness in the translation into a book. For those who lived through those times, the book is an opportunity to recall the scandals and scoundrels that infested Hawai‘i, and for those too young to remember, it is a reminder of why a vigilant press is an essential ingredient to an informed public.” —Gerald Kato, associate professor of journalism, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Veteran investigative reporter James Dooley revisits highlights of his journalistic career in Sunny Skies, Shady Characters, revealing entertaining backstories on how he chased high-profile scandals of crime and corruption from the 1970s into the 2000s. In the process, he provides an insider’s look at the business of journalism and the craft of investigative reporting. For a glimpse at the people and cases he covers, take a look at the book’s index here.
Although warehouse stock has only just arrived in Hawai‘i, the book has already triggered memories and discussion due to early media attention, especially preview excerpts that appeared in the August issue of HONOLULU Magazine (released in late July). Civil Beat columnist Neal Milner wrote last week, “As Dooley shows, some of the corruption in Hawaii, like [Ronnie] Ching himself, was bloody and sinister, involving the Mob, Yakuza, and pitched battles between rival Teamster Union members. Other scandals like the Bishop Estate and Kukui Plaza affairs, may not have involved violence, but in their own way they were as outrageous, crude and blatant as a Mafia hit.” David Shapiro’s book review in Sunday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser stated, “his greatest hits were darned impressive, and it’ll likely be enough for Sunny Skies, Shady Characters to join the short list of books considered must-reads for those seeking to understand Hawaii.”
EVENTS (most recent listed at the bottom)
• Author James Dooley will give a Center for Biographical Research brown bag talk on Thursday, September 3, noon to 1:15 p.m., in UHM Henke Hall 325.
• Join us for HONOLULU Magazine‘s downtown pau hana talk and book signing on Wednesday, September 16, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Hukilau restaurant (1088 Bishop Street). Click here for the e-invite.
• On Saturday, October 3, starting at 12 noon, Dooley will sign at Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana Center, following an appearance at the Perry and Price Saturday Morning Show broadcast live from Jade Dynasty restaurant, also at Ala Moana Center.
• Head over to the windward side of O‘ahu on Saturday, October 10, noon to 1 p.m., for a signing at BookEnds in Kailua (Kailua Shopping Center, 600 Kailua Road).
• On Saturday, November 7, Jim Dooley will be one of a dozen authors signing at the Daughters of Hawai‘i’s annual Book Day at Queen Emma. (Another veteran journalist, Denby Fawcett, will be there to sign her book, Secrets of Diamond Head.)
• Dooley joins two other authors (Kusuma Cooray and Leslie Hayashi) at the UH Manoa Bookstore‘s Preview Night, Thursday, November 19, 5 to 7 p.m.
• UH Press is partnering with University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s Hamilton Library in hosting a new lecture series, Laha Mau Book Talks. Jim Dooley will present the second in the series on Thursday, December 9, starting at 4 p.m. in room 301.
For further details, please check back on this post or contact Carol Abe in the UH Press marketing department.
MEDIA (see also the above links)
• Political analyst Dan Boylan gives high praise to the book in his October 7 MidWeek column. See page 10 of the print replica edition.
• On Thursday, October 8, Jim Dooley was on HPR2’s “Town Square” guest-hosted by Neal Milner. The show aired live at 5 p.m. HST and is now archived for later listening.
• Click the highlighted text to listen to the interview by Chris Vandercook on the August 25 “The Conversation” show on HPR2 and the hourlong discussion on the August 23 Carroll Cox radio show.
Contact acquisitions editor Nadine Little, available August 5 for meetings: email@example.com
Edited by Jennifer Chirico and Gregory S. Farley
Cloth | 978-0-8248-4761-6 | $45.00
“Blending outstanding scholarship with practical application, this book presents a portfolio of innovative, creative, and tangible projects that integrate cultural, ecological, and economic approaches. Most importantly, it uses Hawaiian indigenous knowledge and history as the basis for ecological sustainability, incorporating the best practices of the past and present with a vision for the future. Every Hawaiʻi resident and visitor who is interested in a sustainable future should read this book. ”
—Mitchell Thomashow, author of The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus
C. Allan Jones and Robert V. Osgood
Cloth | 978-0-8248-4000-6 | $45.00
From King Cane to the Last Sugar Mill focuses on the technological and scientific advances that allowed Hawai`i’s sugar industry to become a world leader and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) to survive into the twenty-first century. The authors, both agricultural scientists, offer a detailed history of the industry and its contributions, balanced with discussion of the enormous societal and environmental changes due to its aggressive search for labor, land, and water.
Fred D. Rauch and Paul R. Weissich
Cloth | 978-0-8248-4005-1 | $55.00
In this extensive and lavishly illustrated guide to the selection of tropical landscape materials for xeriscape gardens, Rauch and Weissich provide landscape architects, garden designers, and home gardeners with the ultimate guide to the “less thirsty” landscape plant species that form the tropical xeriscape.