Monday, April 25, 2011
The beach read — it’s a genre unto itself. For me, such a book must be exotic, intriguing, and smart, with real dilemmas and high stakes. I prefer mysteries, especially those with elements of romance and humor, not madcap, just funny like life is funny, in that you-either-gotta-laugh-or-cry way. And I like characters that I can care about, people who are frustrating and decent in equal measure, people who try and want and fail and try again.
Bonus points if the book has an actual beach in it.
I am delighted to report that Douglas Corleone’s NIGHT ON FIRE qualifies on all counts. It’s the second in this series featuring defense attorney Kevin Corvelli, a former New Yorker who does what a lot of us dream about — he moves his practice to Hawaii. Of course he does it to escape a lot of unwanted attention and personal tragedy. Of course all the trouble follows him right into paradise.
In NIGHT ON FIRE, this particular trouble comes in the form of a dangerously seductive woman who might or might not be a murdering arsonist. Kevin knows better than to get involved . . . but I’m giving nothing away to let you know that he gets involved anyway, and not just professionally either. Soon he’s over his head — woman troubles, kid troubles, co-worker troubles, client troubles, somebody-trying-to-kill-him troubles. It’s hot in Hawaii, and getting hotter.
The plot ricochets from crime to crime and criminal to criminal (including one of the creepiest firebugs I’ve ever met — I’m getting the heebie-jeebies thinking about him). Arson, murder, theft, adultery — every flavor of vice, and every one of the seven deadly sins. It’s a roller coaster ride with fireworks and the ever-present possibility of a loose rail, so be warned. The atmosphere is flavored with a tourist’s dream of Hawaii, but leavened with a resident’s knowledge of its mundane realities from the weather patterns to the traffic annoyances. The supporting cast is strong — three dimensional and free from the annoying quirkiness that often substitutes for characterization in some crime fiction. Corleone doesn’t just assemble a bag of personality eccentricities and call it a character. His people are fully realized, not just plot points. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Turi, Corvelli’s happy-go-lucky small-time drug dealer client. The scenes with him in it felt like eavesdropping.
But the main reason I enjoyed this book so much is the main character, Kevin Corvelli. He’s the kind of guy I want really bad to dislike — bigheaded, reckless, a money-where-his-mouth-is hotshot — but because of his immense charm and often painful awareness of his own flaws, I can’t resist him. In this book we get to see his decent and caring side too (even if it’s a reluctant and grumpy decency). I’ve read in interviews that Corleone has woven a lot of himself in his fictional protagonist, supersizing his own qualities for the story’s sake. If that’s the case, then I hope Corleone’s life continues to give him inspiration for Kevin’s adventures. They make an excellent team.
Grab some sunscreen, mix up some mai tais, and pick up NIGHT ON FIRE. Plan on diving in and staying a while. It’s fast-paced, sharply plotted, smart but not smarty-pants, and there’s real heart at the center. I’m looking forward to my next outing in Kevin Corvelli’s Hawaii.
* * * * * * *
DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin's Minotaur. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Douglas Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.
Monday, April 18, 2011
These are the official minutes of the first official meeting of the official Mojito Literary Society, ascribed this day April 18, 2011. A Monday. Waning Moon in Virgo. Barometric pressure falling.
FRIDAY: Tina arrives at the official MLS Safe House -- The Casa de Sucre y Rum -- to perform the necessary ablutions and also some laundry. She also doublechecks to make sure that there is mint, sugar, sparkling water, and limes. Susanna arrives. There is much rejoicing and sharing of gifts, then much exclaiming over one another's exquisite taste and bounteous generosity. Tina doublechecks to make sure Susanna has rum.
Laura arrives. There is much exclaiming over her ethereal beauty and lovely dress. The traditional mutual admiration portion of the evening follows -- yes yes, we are all literary geniuses! Mwah! -- at which point Laura opens the white chocolate macadamia cookies. There is much rejoicing.
Nom nom nom.
The rights of copyright are established for a television reality series tentatively entitled "Stop Talking: You're Ill." You did not hear about this here. And then the principals retire for the evening to their respective abodes.
SATURDAY: Susanna and Tina prepare for Katrina's arrival. They sleep, then sleep some more. Then they drink champagne from the bottle whilst standing around in their nightwear and watching the neighbors' backyard wedding from the patio.
Correction: They did not drink champagne from the bottle. They made mimosas in pretty crystal stemware. Really they did. The former is an outrageous rumor perpetrated by a certain disgruntled wedding party. Except for the standing around in the nightwear part, which has documentary evidence. They cop to that part.
Katrina arrives. She brings tortilla chips with no soy, no wheat, no dairy,and no cucumbers. Also she brings poetry, and a petite watermelon. There is much rejoicing and name dropping and general acclaim as to her overall wonderfulness.
The MLS must divide and conquer at this juncture. Laura, Susanna, and Tina engage the services of a local spa facility. There is a steam room. No, we are not going to tell you what we talked about in the steam room. Katrina held down the fort at the Casa -- no fires, hurricanes, or tornadoes, nor did she feel the need to even leave the house. It was a judgment call on her part, but after careful discussion, the MLS quorum voted to approve her decision with full approbation.
The MLS regrouped at our marsh outpost -- Casa de Laura y Joel. Even though a kayak approach is often recommended, we chose to use the Truman and a stick-shift Saturn for this particular rendezvous. There was garlic cheese and other savory goodies, and of course, fine handmade watermelon mojitos crafted by Joel himself. Prosecco with raspberries and blackberries and strawberries to follow and fig-filled cookies. To which all the members went damn! And then fell upon the repast.
There was much more rejoicing. 'Cause, I mean. Damn.
Then there was much praising of Joel, whom all members agreed was extremely talented in all relevant areas and much gorgeous and smart to boot, and they immediately tendered an offer of MLS membership on the spot.
NOTED: Tina would like the record to reflect that the MLS members offered this praise freely, and would have done so even if Joel had not referred to us as "goddesses." But he did. Which Tina would also like duly noted.
Then there was the offering of the Monty Python dramatic tributes. Then we watched the moon come up. Big fat buttermilk moon. Following of course the smashing of the peppermint pink pig and reading of the proclamation of happiness, prosperity, and good fortune. Mazel tov!
SUNDAY: Sleeping, meditating, writing. And then more of the same. More name dropping ensued, some of which involved Twitter and Pablo Neruda and handsy celebrity poets of various stripes. And then plans were made for the next meeting, which will be in a villa in Cozumel. Or Mozatlan. You get the idea. Said meeting will be financed through means that we are not going to tell you about because you should have been paying attention, especially during the steampunk part (which a certified engineer proclaimed doable, really he did).
That is all.
We know. We wish you'd been there too.