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Interview with Robert B. McCaw

Robert McCaw’s third book in the Koa Kane Hawaiian Mysteries – Fire and Vengeance – is releasing on the 26th of May, 2020. Robert is a versatile and multi-talented author. Let’s hear what he has to say about himself and his latest book. 🙂

BobMcCaw_2019_Version_4 - Calli P. McCaw photographer

Hello Robert and welcome to my blog The Book Decoder. Tell me and my readers about yourself.

I like to reinvent myself. I began life as an Army brat, attending twelve schools in twelve grades. In college, I pursued a career in mathematics but decided I needed a more diverse path and became an officer in the military. One of my army commanders appointed me a prosecutor in a court-martial, which ultimately led me to law school. US Army airborne training and law school were the best educational experiences of my life. Following law school, I clerked for a justice of the Supreme Court of the US, and then joined a well-known law firm in Washington, DC. After becoming a partner, I then reinvented myself as a New York lawyer, involved in numerous headline-grabbing cases. Along the way, I chased hobbies in carpentry, archaeology, astronomy, and photography without ever losing my love of mysteries and thrillers. Now I write novels.

What is the inspiration behind the Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery series?

In 1986, while on a business trip, I fell in love with the Big Island of Hawaii, one of the most physically and culturally diverse places on earth. Although I’m not much of a mystic, I sensed magic in the geography of the Big Island. Standing atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island, watching the sunset behind Haleakala on Maui, is a breathtaking experience (and not just because the air is thin at 14,000 feet). I ultimately built a second home and lived part-time for over 20 years on Hawaii’s Kohala Coast, traveling the Islands, making friends, and studying Hawaiian history, culture, and language.

There are two Hawaii’s—the PR Hawaii constructed by the state and commercial interests to draw tourists, and the far more complex melting pot of cultures that make up what I know as the real Hawaii. The more I learned, the more I felt compelled to share my impressions of the authentic Hawaii, and my love of mysteries provided the perfect foil. In the earlier Koa Kāne books, Death of a Messenger and Off the Grid, and now in Fire and Vengeance, I’ve endeavored to make the Big Island a significant character in the stories.

The third book in the Koa Kane Hawaiian Mysteries – Fire and Vengeance – is releasing soon. Tell us about more it.

Fire and Vengeance starts with a bang. Literally. Extraordinary weather triggers an explosion in a volcanic vent beneath an elementary school on Hualalai Mountain on the west side of the Big Island. Fourteen children and four teachers die. This natural disaster becomes a criminal case when Chief Detective Koa Kāne discovers that the planners, architects, and builders knew about the geologic threat and deliberately hid its existence. Koa, who has his own secret criminal past, must learn why this group of influential people would knowingly risk the lives of school children. When he begins digging, people associated with the project start dying. The past holds the key, but is it too well hidden ever to see the light of day?

Simultaneously, Koa’s estranged, younger brother, Ikaika, in jail with a long rap sheet, collapses with a rare brain tumor that he’s had since childhood. Koa realizes that his brother’s criminality may have resulted from this brain injury. Despite the immense pressure of the school investigation, he embarks on seemingly quixotic efforts to find world-class medical help, rebuild his relationship with Ikaika, and win parole for his brother.

Koa’s fight for his brother ultimately collides with his pursuit of justice for the victims of the school tragedy, leading Koa into a seemingly insurmountable conflict. His job, his future, and justice for the school victims are at stake.

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What’s next for Koa Kane?

Koa’s secret criminal past presents a lava pit of risks. Is there anyone else still alive who knows the truth? Could the investigation of an old murder Koa had covered up by staging a suicide be reopened? As chief detective, no one knows better that past misdeeds can come back to haunt. Could Koa be forced to investigate his youthful sins? Could he stand idly by while the authorities prosecuted an innocent for Koa’s crime?

What are you currently working on?

I have two projects in the works—another Koa Kāne Hawaiian mystery and something entirely new. One of those is in an advanced state, and the other is incubating. But no spoilers!

How does a day in Robert McCaw’s life look like?

Koa puts people in prison, and COVID-19 has done much the same for me. Under lockdown, I appear to have an indeterminate sentence! It’s impossible to find much silver lining in COVID, but confinement does remove distractions and facilitate writing. And for me, writing fiction and reading my favorite authors offer a joyous escape.

I generally have a positive outlook on life and believe that, like all past pandemics (and there have been many starting at least as early as 430 BC in Athens during the Peloponnesian War), this one too shall pass. The trick is to stay alive and healthy until we have a vaccine or effective therapeutics. In the meantime, I try to invent new rituals, stay informed without obsessing, exercise through long daily walks (employing social distancing), and share a glass of wine and hors d ‘oeuvres with my wife at sunset. I send pictures of whatever to my daughter, FaceTime with family and friends, learn something new every day, share the housework, and explore Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Someday, I will once again dine at a restaurant, work out in a gym, go to a barbershop for a haircut, sit in a movie theater watching a blockbuster, and travel to wondrous places. For now, I’ll just dream of those adventures.


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