Excerpt from Honolulu by Alan Brennert, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Honolulu

By Alan Brennert

Honolulu
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2009,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2010,
    464 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Print Excerpt


But this was, as I say, the off season, and the beachboys at Waikïkï today were here to surf, spearfish, or just enjoy a good time with their friends— among whom Harry and I were quickly counted. Soon two more came ashore: the genial “Steamboat Bill” and a tall, handsome figure of bronze who Tarball introduced as “my brother Paoa, the world traveler, finally home for a few minutes.”

I gratefully invited Panama and the others to join our picnic, where we offered them cold noodles, rice, and fire beef, and in return Steamboat offered us 'okolehao - distilled tï-root liquor. “Guaranteed,” he promised, “to knock you on your 'okole - and how!”

Jade Moon, fresh from chasing down two of her roving children, was quick to accept the challenge.

“We shall see about that,” she said, quickly downing a shot of “Hawaiian moonshine,” then requesting another.

“Whoa, I think I’m in love,” Steamboat announced.

“I am a married woman,” Jade Moon demurred. “But this one is single.”

And she mischievously pointed out Beauty, standing shyly nearby.

Beauty blushed in mortification and tried to hide behind me, but Panama’s eyes lit up. “Now, now, don’t go hiding your bushel under a tisket,” which made even Beauty, who didn’t even fully grasp the absurdity of what he’d said, giggle.

The one named Paoa seemed quiet and unassuming, but now I noticed that although his brother called him Paoa, the other beachboys referred to him as “Duke.” This was also not lost on Wise Pearl’s ten-year-old son John, who approached him and asked in a hushed tone, “Are you the Duke?”

“Well,” Tarball’s brother said, “my father was also named Duke. He’ll always be ‘the’ Duke to me. That’s why my brothers started calling me Paoa, to distinguish me from my dad.”

“But you’re the one went to the Olympics, right?”

Duke nodded modestly. Jae-sun and I looked at each other with surprise.

That Duke?

“Are your medals really made of gold?” John asked in awe.

“Sure thing. But let me show you something.” The great Duke Kahanamoku—Olympic medalist, world champion swimmer, legendary surfer—took in the dazzling sweep of the ocean and told John, “This is worth your weight in gold. And it’s all ours.”

For the next few hours we all ate and joked and talked as if we were old friends. Steamboat strummed a ‘ukulele and Panama showed Beauty’s daughter Mary how to make a coconut hat. “Why do they call you Panama?” Mary asked.

He pointed to the big gap between his front teeth. “You heard of the Panama Canal? Looks kine like this.” He took a big gulp of drinking water, then blew it out through the toothless gap in a torrent. Mary squealed in delight; Beauty laughed, too. Panama may not have been the handsomest of the beachboys, but Beauty was instantly smitten.

Tarball, whose real name was Bill, took Harry out for another ride on his board and Duke offered to do the same for Grace—who backed away in horror at the idea. I explained Grace’s fear of the water and Duke just nodded thoughtfully, then excused himself and headed back down the beach to the Moana Hotel.

When he returned a few minutes later, it was with one of the glass boxes that guests of the Moana used to view reef fish—the precursor to today’s snorkeling masks. He asked Grace, “Have you ever seen how people throw coins off the big cruise ships when they come into the harbor?”

Excerpted from Honolulu by Alan Brennert, Copyright © 2009 by Alan Brennert. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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