Posted in Author Interviews

Author Interview: Robert McCaw

Robert McCaw has been a math major, Second Lieutenant in the Army, and a lawyer (for over 40 years). The common thread that motivated him through it all was a love of solving complex puzzles. When he first visited Hawai’i, he fell in love with the place. Repeated visits to Hawai’i allowed him to pursue another interest – astronomy. With a second home in Hawai’i and intrigued by the richness of the land and people, he studied the culture, history, and language of the region.

He was still actively pursuing his legal practice when he first began to write. His first novel was completed only after retirement though, when he was able to dedicate more time to it. And just like that, he found something else he loved to do. His first novel, Death of a Messenger, introduced Hawai’ian Chief Detective Koa Kāne, whose adventures continue in Off the Grid and Fire and Vengeance. The series is one of the most unique and interesting mystery ones out there.

The latest Koa Kāne mystery, Treachery Times Two, releases on 4 January 2022. You can check out the review of the book, which is one of the best in the series, here. Ahead of its release, we interviewed Robert McCaw and got his thoughts on writing, publishing, the home of Koa Kāne, and a preview of what to expect from the upcoming book.

Rishika S.: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Robert McCaw: As an army brat growing up around the world, I had opportunities early in life to experience cultures other than my own. As a young adult, I graduated from Georgetown University as a math major, served in the US Army as an artillery officer, and, upon leaving the military, decided upon a legal career, earning my law degree from the University of Virginia (UVA).  In retrospect, I’ve come to understand that the intensity and professionalism I experienced in the Army and at UVA Law became the foundation upon which I built a formidable legal career.  Coincident with my chosen profession, I had the opportunity to visit Hawai’i, where I became fascinated with the Islands’ geography, history, and culture.  Over the years, I went back time and time again before establishing a second home on the Big Island. For more than twenty years, I made it a point to travel Hawai’i’s back roads and absorb its unique topography ranging from lava moonscapes to snow-covered volcanic summits.  I “talked story” with real Hawaiians and generally fell in love with this complex Pacific “paradise.”  And, now, I pour all that fascinated me into the Koa Kāne series of mystery novels.

Rishika S.: You have written four books in the Koa Kāne series. Tell us a little bit about how this series came to be, especially the inspirations behind the setting and the character of Koa.

Robert McCaw: The more I learned about Hawaiʻi, the more I felt compelled to write about the “real Hawaiʻi,” far from the tourist haunts of West Maui and Waikiki. My law practice involved litigation and criminal law – with lots of factual investigation – and I have always loved mysteries. So, I decided to share my love of Hawaiʻi through detective stories and thus created the character of Koa Kāne, Chief Detective of the Hilo, Hawaiʻi police force. He is a pure native Hawaiian with his own personal criminal backstory. His backstory makes him unique, motivates his compulsion to hunt down killers, and explains his fear that a perp might outsmart him as he had once outwitted the police.

Rishika S.: You’ve got a new Koa Kāne book coming out soon – can you tell us a little bit about that?

Robert McCaw: Treachery Times Two (January 2022) weaves together two stories. In one, Koa Kāne’s criminal past comes back to haunt him. The other involves an effort to sabotage Deimos, an American military superweapon under development at the Pōhakuloa Army Training Area in the saddle lands between the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the Big Island. In the first story, events force Koa to revisit the circumstances of his own crime as, step-by-step, his carefully constructed cover-up unravels until another man is falsely accused. Koa must ultimately face the possibility that an innocent will go to prison for a crime that Koa committed. The second story throws Koa into the midst of an FBI espionage investigation. The deeper Koa digs, the more he realizes the possibility that the Feds are not telling all they know.

Rishika S.: What do you love the most about the Hawaiian culture?

Robert McCaw: I have a special affection for the spoken Hawaiian language, which is lyrical and quite beautiful. I think of it as a recovered gem. In 1896, after the US takeover of the Islands, the territorial government banned the use of native Hawaiian in schools and government offices, and many Hawaiian elders recall being punished for speaking their native language in these settings. According to the University of Hawaii Foundation, in 1985 – some 90 years after the government banned Hawaiian in schools – only 32 children in the Islands spoke Hawaiian. Fortunately, there’s been a renaissance in all things Hawaiian in recent years, and the Hawaiian state constitution now protects the study of this musical language. Today, people throughout the Islands speak their native language.

Rishika S.: Let’s talk a little about writing in general. What was the final push that made you decide that it was time to write that first novel? And what was the experience like?

Robert McCaw: The genesis and ultimate publication of Death of a Messenger, the first Koa Kāne novel, is somewhat complicated, beginning some twenty years ago. That’s when I first started writing fiction. Back then, I had an extremely active law practice and wrote only intermittently, grabbing a few hours a week while traveling or on vacation. Only when I hung up my shingle did I get serious about finishing and publishing the first story, which had incubated for more than twenty years. My mother and my wife Calli were instrumental in encouraging me to get over the finish line, and for that, I’m most grateful.

Rishika S.: Has the experience changed over time? In what way – good and bad? And what drives you to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) day after day?

Robert McCaw: Lots has changed over time. Foremost among those changes was my transformation from legal writing – where the author has little control over the facts – to novelist where I could make up the facts to fit the story I wanted to tell. Over time, my imaginary characters became ever more real, growing and evolving like real people. With experience, I began to “see” scenes like they were on a movie screen playing in my mind. Lastly, the writer’s tools have gotten better. The Scrivener software I now use allows me to reorder scenes effortlessly, and Grammarly goes far beyond early spell-checking programs. And, the “read aloud” feature of Word is a marvelous proofreading aid.

The book-selling process in today’s world brings both joy and pain. Publishers, large and small, expect authors to play a significant role in promoting their books. As a result, I meet fascinating people and am privileged to engage with readers, something I love to do. On the other hand, while necessary in our virtual age, social media is a royal pain.

Creativity drives me to the keyboard. There is something immensely satisfying about crafting a story that excites readers and hopefully leaves them with a better understanding of the setting’s people, geography, and history.

Rishika S.: Can you tell us a little about the ‘business behind the creativity’ regarding getting published, working with agents and publishers, and your thoughts on the practical stuff involved after the writing?

Robert McCaw: Getting published is easy. Anyone can self-publish an e-book on Amazon with little or no cost. The difficulty is in achieving quality publication and a system of distribution. Quality requires careful editing, formatting, proofreading, and cover and jacket design. Distribution beyond e-books requires a publisher, distributor, provision for shipment and returns, and lots of publicity. One can purchase these services but only at considerable expense.

Finding a publisher who will assume most or all of these costs and pay a royalty is tough. In this endeavor, an agent can be invaluable. But make no mistake, both finding an agent and securing a publisher are daunting, especially for new authors. I got lucky that Mel Parker, an experienced and highly qualified agent, Pat and Bob Gussin at Oceanview Publishing, a terrific specialty publisher, and Fauzia Burke of FSB Associates, one of the best literary social media publicity firms in the country, had faith in my work.

Rishika S.: What is the one thing you love and one thing you hate about being an author?

Robert McCaw: I love plot twists and hate proofreading.

Rishika S.: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Robert McCaw: Be authentic. Write what you know. Find a trusted editor to improve your work. And lastly, don’t give up.

Rishika S.: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?

Robert McCaw: I have long believed that to reach your highest potential, you must do something you love. That may be even more true for writers than in other fields of endeavor.

If you’d like to pre-order Treachery Times Two (and you definitely should if you like mysteries and thrillers), you can do so from many different stores here.

As always, thank you for stopping by The Book Review Station; we hope you enjoyed reading the amazing tips and insights from Robert McCaw.

Posted in All Book Reviews, Crime fiction, Mystery

Book Review: Treachery Times Two (By Robert McCaw)

A big thanks to the author, Robert McCaw, and Oceanview Publishing for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Treachery Times Two brings to the forefront one of the biggest ongoing arcs in the Koa Kāne series – Koa’s one mistake that made him who he is, but the revealing of which could take away everything that he’s earned. Does the book do the arc justice? Read on to find out.

Genre: 

Mystery

Length: 

361 pages

Blurb:

Numerous bodies are unearthed in an old, abandoned cemetery when a volcanic earthquake disrupts Hawai’i island. In them is the mutilated body of a woman, unrecognizable, and clearly buried only days ago. Chief Detective Koa Kāne’s investigation into the woman’s death leads him into the world of a politically connected defense contractor, an incredibly powerful and secret military weapon – Deimos, and an FBI espionage investigation. Forced to defy his Chief of Police in his search for justice for the victim, Kāne faces a new threat – that of his thirty-year-old secret being revealed. Years ago, Kāne had killed his father’s nemesis – the man who’d been responsible for Kāne’s father’s death – and covered up the murder. Now, the grandson of the dead man has arrived, and Koa is forced to investigate the homicide he had committed. Until another man is falsely accused of the murder. Can Koa stand by and watch an innocent man pay for his crime? Or will he accept his guilt before everyone, losing the chance to find justice for the mutilated, forgotten woman, and losing the woman he loves, the respect he’s earned, and everything he has ever held dear?

Overall Rating:

9 out of 10

Plot:

10 out of 10

Characterization:

10 out of 10

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

9 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book No. 4 in the Koa Kāne series. The books are connected and are best read in order, but can be enjoyed as standalone-s too. Check out the review for Book No. 1, Death of a Messenger, here, and Book No. 3, Fire and Vengeance, here.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Even better than its prequels, Treachery Times Two brings everything you’ve come to love about the Koa Kāne series – mystery, culture, and characterization – and ups the ante.

What I Liked:

There were three things that I liked the most in Treachery Times Two:

  1. It’s got the perfect mix of culture and story, with neither outshining the other.
  2. It showcases Koa Kāne in his rawest, most human form – flawed yet morally strong.
  3. It has multiple storylines and brings them all together perfectly.

What I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing I can say I actively disliked in the book. I found it to be even better than the earlier books in the series (except for Book No. 2, which I am yet to read), and feel that it’s set the bar higher for the series.

Who Should Read It:

If you like mysteries, especially those that have multi-layered plots, you’ll definitely enjoy Treachery Times Two and other Koa Kāne books.

Who Should Avoid:

I don’t think anyone would really dislike this book, unless you absolutely do not enjoy mysteries.

Read It For:

Koa Kāne’s ultimate test – professional and personal. And the always-enthralling representation of Hawaiian culture.

Treachery Times Two releases in January 2022 – pre-order it from most online bookstores or Amazon.

Got questions or something to share about Robert McCaw’s Koa Kāne series or Treachery Times Two? Drop a comment below! And as always, thanks for stopping by The Book Review Station and reading this review!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

A few drawbacks, but an interesting read: A Review of Death of a Messenger by Robert McCaw

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Death of a Messenger is not the first Robert McCaw book I’ve read, although it is the first in the Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery series. I had earlier read and reviewed Book #3 in the series – Fire and Vengeance. You can read its review here. The first two books were on my TBR, so I was quite excited when I received this book for a review. Read on to know more.

Genre: 

Mystery

Length:

352 pages 

Blurb:

Detective Koa Kāne is called in to investigate a murder when a body is discovered in a lava tube at Pohakuloa, the army’s live-fire training area. In his many years on the force, Koa has seen a lot of horrific sites, but the mutilated body with signs of a ritualistic killing is one of the worst. Koa is determined to find the person capable of such horror while forced to fight against an ineffective ME, hostility from both nativists and westerners, and personal demons born of his own past actions. With grave robbers, thieves, astronomers, and nativists falling into the suspect pool and everyone concerned to the case sharing more lies than truth, Koa needs to use every skill, intuition, and bit of experience to find out who the victim was, why he was murdered, and who is behind the heinous mutilation.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

9 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

5 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #1 in the Koa Kāne series, followed by Off the Grid and Fire and Vengeance.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The depth of information regarding traditional Hawaiian practices and traditions. Like other books in the series, Death of a Messenger stays true to showcasing the various facets, past and present, of the region in which it is set.

What I Liked:

Death of a Messenger is a classic whodunnit. Or, as Captain Holt of Brooklyn Nine-Nine says, a ‘who has done this’. A series of suspects, all of whom have motive, keeps the story moving and the reader, guessing.

What I Didn’t Like:

Maybe it’s because this is the first book in the series, but I noticed that it had a lot of “tell, not show” instead of it being vice versa. There were random mentions of back stories when, instead, the point being overly-repeated could have simply been shown in character development after a couple of mentions. I found the writing style in those segments really strange and off-putting, and think the story could have done a lot better without the excessive repetition. (Much like this paragraph, you may be thinking!)

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who likes mystery, learning about new places (Death of a Messenger does not stray far from reality in setting and history), and suspense will enjoy this Koa Kāne story. In spite of its few shortcomings, it is an interesting read.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone uncomfortable with gore or violence – while not over the top, there is some violence in Death of a Messenger that can be a bit too graphic for those who are uncomfortable with it.

Read It For:

Koa Kāne. The leading character in the series is a relatable, likable, and kind-hearted person, with enough shades of gray to make you want to follow his story.

Want to share something about the Koa Kāne series or my review? Leave a comment below 🙂

Coming up next is a review of The Alienist (the book, not the TV show). Stay tuned to find out if the historical suspense fiction meets expectations. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this review.

Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Some highs, some lows, but a hit overall: A Review of Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw. It was an interesting read, which had its highs and lows. Read on to know more!

Genre: 

Mystery, Thriller

Length: 

336 pages

Blurb:

A volcanic vent erupts in the town of Hilo, Hawai’i, killing children and teachers when it causes the explosion of the school that was built on the mountain. The chief architect and contractor of the school are murdered within hours of the event. Chief Detective Koa Kane is called in to investigate whether the explosion and deaths were the result of natural calamity or intentional negligence. As the case heats up, Koa receives news that his estranged and imprisoned brother collapsed in prison and has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Chief Detective Koa Kane’s personal and professional lives clash when he’s forced into attempting a risky plan to free his brother. His principles are compromised even as he begins to unravel the mystery behind the explosion, a mystery that goes back forty years. Can Koa save his brother and still pursue justice for the murder of innocent children? Or will his own demons bring about his downfall?

Overall Rating:

6 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

8 out of 10

Primary Element:

8 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:

6 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book 3 of the Koa Kane series. While I don’t know if it held spoilers for Books 1 and 2, I can say without a doubt that it was perfect as a standalone too. Book 1 in the series is titled Death of a Messenger and Book 2 is Off the GridBoth sound interesting and might make for great mystery reads.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Koa Kane himself. As a man who continues to deal with demons, personal and professional, that show him the worst of the world, he still fights to do what is right. Sometimes forced into feeling hopeless for his desire to remain ethical and moral in a world where those very qualities are taken advantage of, Koa comes across as a likable character that you can easily associate with and want to root for. That made every defeat and victory he faced personal to the reader.

What I Liked:

The book took some really unexpected turns, turning a story that could have been very one-dimensional into a much more intricate, woven tale of mystery and suspense.

The Hawaiian culture references were really interesting too. Not only did it set the stage for the story to unfold, but also added a lot of depth to the characters, what drives them, and how those nuances influence their reactions and actions.

What I Didn’t Like:

On multiple occasions, I found myself a little confused with the characters. There were a lot of them, and many shared similar names or were simply called by different names at various points, that made it a little tough to follow who was who.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who is interested in a good suspense and those who like to explore other cultures. Fire and Vengeance has a good helping of both.

Who Should Avoid:

I don’t think anyone would actively dislike Fire and Vengeance, unless of course, you absolutely hate msytery and suspense novels.

Read It For:

The Hawaiian culture references, a complex and very real protagonist, and an intricate plotline.

Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw released on 26 May 2020. You can get a copy on Amazon here. While I wouldn’t say that the book turned McCaw into an author I’d diligently follow, I will definitely be reading more of his work, given the chance, probably starting with Off the Grid.

Got something you’d like to share about Robert McCaw’s work, Fire and Vengeance, or some beloved thrillers and mysteries? Drop a comment below!

As always, thanks for dropping by and taking the time out to read this review.

– Rishika