Mystery set in Pago up for major book award
Author and former American Samoa resident, John Enright recently learned his first novel has been nominated for a prestigious Barry Award for best paperback original. The award was established by the staff of Deadly Pleasures mystery magazine, a fan oriented ‘zine that points its readers to the best in current crime fiction.
Since moving six years ago from Tutuila and relocating as he says, “to another small island,” Conanicut, off the coast of Rhode Island, Thomas & Mercer the mystery publishing arm of online bookseller Amazon has published two books in Enright’s three-book mystery series set in American Samoa.
His first novel and the one that is up for the award, “Pago Pago Tango,” was published last year as the first in the Jungle Beat series and introduces fictional detective Apelu Soifua, The second novel in the series, “Fire Knife Dancing,” was published earlier this year and the third is planned for publication in March 2014.
Enright’s lead character in all three books has been described as a Samoan Columbo by some reviewers and appears to be entirely fictional (bearing no resemblance to anyone in the territory either living or dead).
Not so his supporting characters, and that makes the books a lot of fun for local readers who play “let’s guess who this really is.” Pago Pago Tango oozes with south seas characters I’ve known and some of the words coming out of their mouths are catch phrases of old friends.
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t recognize your friends or yourself on first read, because you might well recognize one of your favorite haunts or even your own house reset as a scene in the action — as did governor’s legal counsel Steve Watson who wrote the following on the Amazon website in a review of the second book, Fireknife Dancing:
“The characters are well developed — often composites of real people. The pace of life, and the variance between traditional Samoan village and modern Western culture, are well documented.
“The author's real strength lies in his descriptions of the moods of the islands. Stormy and squally weather, sunny tradewind days, the sounds and smells of the forests, and of the reefs and ocean, are all vividly described. Sometimes you can practically taste the place.
“A good read for those who like a little mystery and want to learn a bit around another part of the world.”
Steve signed it, “The Guy Who Lives in the Shack in da' Back,” and you’ll have to read Fireknife Dancing to find out why.
Link to the Jungle Beat servies here to read other reviews and purchase the books or the Kindle versions on Amazon. A good buy or gift for people living off island wanting a hit of Pago.
But I digress. I started this piece as an intro to a link at the bottom of this story where John is interviewed by a Rhode Island newspaper reporter about what it’s like to be an Amazon author.
One thing it’s like is “an all-expenses-paid trip to Seattle to attend a writers conference for authors who specialize in mysteries and thrillers.” The cast of characters was about 50 Thomas & Mercer authors the company had published this year.
According to Enright in the Jamestown Press interview by Ken Shane, the conference took place because Amazon.com prides itself on going in new directions and thinking long term. It also helps that the company is flush with cash and enjoys being flamboyant, he says.
According to Enright, the publisher’s staff is young and competitive. “One senior editor told me that at Amazon.com, they throw you in the deep end,” Enright said. “If you don’t drown, you can hang around.”
The event included a variety of panel discussions, seminars, and a flurry of cocktail and dinner parties preceded by a ‘make-over’ where each author had a stylist and photographer ensuring their publicity shots have a ‘glamour’ element.
Enright said genre writers over the years have learned not to expect much from publishers, so there was a certain amount of apprehension among the group at the outset. No one was quite sure of Amazon.com’s motives in bringing them all together and showing them such a grand time.
“A lot of them were quite suspicious about all of this,” Enright told Shane. “For them it was quite bizarre. They weren’t used to being treated like this. I think they were wondering if they would have to do the dishes later.”
Link to the full Jamestown Press interview and stand by for news of the Barry Award winner. It will be presented at a conference of mystery writers in Albany, N.Y., on Sept. 19.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Hey John's a friend of mine, what can I say? I get autographed copies of his books.
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