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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

'Scandal' revisits Massie case through eyes of neighbor

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Book Editor

 •  Book club basics

Here's how to get involved in The Honolulu Advertiser Book Club.

Membership: There is no formal membership. Just read the book and participate in the virtual discussion by sending in your comments and questions.

Our book: "The Samurai's Garden" by Gail Tsukiyama; St. Martin's Press, paper, $11.95

Reading period: Through Dec. 27

Special event: Gail Tsukiyama appearance Dec. 10 booked; call for wait list, 955-8821

Virtual discussion: Jan. 5

To participate in the discussion: Write Wanda Adams, Books Editor, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802. Fax: 525-8055. E-mail.

Listen: To the "Sandwich Islands Literary Circle" at 9:30 tonight, KHPR 88.1 FM, KKUA 90.7 FM Maui, KANO 91.1 FM Hilo; or hear the program online, starting tomorrow at the URL below.

To experience the book club online, click here.

"HAWAII SCANDAL" by Cobey Black; distributed by Island Heritage, hardback, $22

Reporter and former "Hawai'i Five-O" publicist Cobey Black is making the bookstore rounds (see Lit Beat calendar) for "Hawaii Scandal," her painstaking revisiting of the controversial Massie Case — the 1930s Ho-nolulu affair involving rape, racism, murder and a trial that brought Clarence Darrow, then America's most famous trial lawyer, out of retirement. Black comes at the case by a circuitous route: The yard of the home where she lived as a child abutted the Washington, D.C., estate of Mrs. Granville Fortescue, the mother of Thalia Massie, the socialite whose accusation of rape started the whole thing; the year after the events in Honolulu, Thalia Massie was staying with her mother and the two had young Cobey in for tea. But the author's father sternly warned her to stay away from the Massies, as there was something dark in their past. Later, when Black moved here with her husband, the late Gen. E.F. Black, she began to research the notorious events, which are important because they left much of the Mainland with the impression that women weren't safe in Hawai'i, and probably helped delay statehood for the Islands. Black's style is as lush and overwrought as the journalistic reports of the day. But if you're interested in the case — and many still can't get enough of it, since questions remain unanswered to this day — this an impressively detailed account.

"SPICE: AN ISLAND INTRIGUE" by Dan O'Connor; Waterton Press, paperback, $14.95

Dan O'Connor, a lawyer-turned-writer who lives in Danville, Calif., but spends a lot of time in Koloa, Kaua'i, has released the second novel in a quartet, "Spice: An Island Intrigue," sequel to "Sugar: A Hawaiian Novel." The book tells the story of Lili "Sugar" Kaleo, who survives childhood abuse (as O'Connor himself has done), gets elected mayor of Kaua'i, faces charges of bribery and then — in "Spice" — travels to Barbados, Guatemala and back to Hawai'i in a quest for vindication, hooking up with Exactly the Wrong Man along the way. The novels are a bit improbable and suffer from annoying language lapses. Still, folks (especially women readers) who like dramatic reads about resilient women just eat them up like, well, sugar.

"HAWAIIAN LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIAN SPIRITS" by Caren Loebel-Fried; Latitude 20/UH Press, hardback, $16.95

Caren Loebel-Fried is an artist and writer whose show at the Volcano Art Center in 2000, "Legends of the Guardian Spirits," has now been turned into a book, with a foreword by Nona Beamer. The well-made volume consists of nine illustrated retellings of Hawaiian mo'olelo (legends) about protective gods, divided into five chapters, one for each theme ('ulu/breadfruit, kolea/plover, mano/shark, ipu/gourd, pueo/owl). Her medium is block prints, very stylized, clean and appealing, and the stories are told in a very readable Western style (Chronologically, with the spaces filled in, in contrast to older retellings, which assumed much cultural knowledge). Loebel-Fried divides her time between Volcano and New Jersey.

"HULA I KA LA: DANCE IN SUN" by Kim Taylor Reece; O&M Communications, hardback, $55

Kim Taylor Reece of La'ie has released a third in a series of immense, gorgeous, coffee-table photography books, called, "Hula i Ka La: Dance in the Sun," featuring lots of bare breasts, flying hair and sculpted dancers on the beach. Steven Goldsberry contributes an introduction.