Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hardboiled Portland from Lono Waiwaiole

On Monday, I went to a presentation and reading by a Portland-local writer, Lono Waiwaiole. St. Martin's Minotaur dropped him after three books (the Wiley series), and his new novel, Dark Paradise, was picked up by Dennis McMillan Publications. (I first got to know Dennis McMillan more than a decade back when I was writing a biographical essay (for the Dictionary of Literary Biography) about Charles Willeford; and Dennis included a story of mine in his 20th anniversary collection, Measures of Poison.) Dark Paradise is set on the Big Island of Hawaii, and since I just got the book on Monday, I haven't read it yet. I'll post about it when I do.

Before going to the event, I read Waiwaiole's first novel, Wiley's Lament, which is set here in my home town of Portland, Oregon (with lots of accurate, local color). It is a fast-paced, ultra-violent "street" (to use McMillan's term) novel -- maybe akin to works by Donald Goines, but with better prose and more sentiment. Wiley, a card player (though that profession is just mentioned in passing) and criminal with a good heart, investigates the murder of his daughter. More to the point, he and friend/crime boss Leon blaze through leads, leaving broken bodies in their wake.

Early on, Waiwaiole alternates points of view between Wiley and the killer Fernando, a Mexican drug cartel man under corrupt DEA protection. The latter part of the book stays closer to Wiley, whose mood appropriately alternates between anguish and rage. The plotting and pace might strike some readers as over the top, but if you're willing to roll with it, the book is pretty fun.

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