Friday, June 9, 2023

Q&A with Robert McCaw




Robert McCaw is the author of the new novel Retribution, the fifth in his Koa Kāne series. A retired attorney, he lives in New York City.


Q: What inspired this latest book in your Koa Kāne series?


A: The relationship between Koa, the cop with a secret criminal past, and his brother Ikaika, a career criminal, has always fascinated and inspired me. Retribution allowed me to explore that relationship more deeply.


As always in the Koa Kāne novels, Hawai'i itself is also a character. Retribution is no exception. In writing this newest story, I set out to explore two parts of the Big Island that were not featured in earlier books. 


Mauna Loa volcano, which only recently erupted for the first time since 1964, is one of those places. The other is one of my favorite spots on the Big Island, but I'd spoil the fun if I said too much more.


Q: Without giving anything away about the plot, did you learn anything new about your character in Retribution?


A: Retribution explores loyalty on multiple levels. The story tests the family loyalty Koa has for his brother as well as the loving relationship he shares with Nālani. We also see how Koa inspires loyalty among his colleagues, especially those in his core team—Detectives Makanui and Piki and crime specialist Georgina Pau.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: We find ourselves increasingly in an era of fractured institutions, often at the hands of those they were supposed to help. Sadly, law enforcement communities are no exception. While they sometimes fail to live up to our expectations, they are our safeguard against chaos. Attacks against them are often motivated by revenge for real or perceived grievances. 


So, I thought Retribution would be a fitting title for a novel about coordinated assaults on police and judicial officials. The title is also a teaser for the ending. But, once again, no spoilers!


Q: Did you need to do much research for this novel, and if so, did you learn anything especially intriguing?


A: Each Koa Kāne book reflects considerable research, augmenting my first-hand knowledge of various Hawaiian places where scenes occur. 


In Retribution, as in earlier books in the series, my research rewarded me with fun facts which I incorporated into the story.


For example, I delved into the history of the Wailoa River State Park, the details of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes's 1840 expedition to the summit of Mauna Loa, and the endangered species at the Punalu'u black sand beach.


Weapons research always plays a part in writing the Koa Kāne mysteries, and Retribution was no exception. A Russian Dragunuv rifle and a US Army M-79 grenade launcher play pivotal roles in Retribution. Getting the details right required a fair amount of research.


However, the most unusual research I had to do concerned fingerprints or, more specifically, the science behind fake fingerprints. It's a topic that gets little attention because fingerprints are so well-established and widely used, but you'd be surprised at what you can find when you dig into the literature.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: With a new family of characters in a vastly different setting, I am working on a novel about spies within the top ranks of the US government. It's a bit of a change for me, but drawing upon my legal training and the years I spent practicing law in Washington, D.C., it’s one I hope my readers will enjoy.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: As with all the Koa Kāne novels, Retribution tries to paint a picture of the real Hawai'i, one far beyond Waikiki's beaches, palm trees, and hula dancers. The characters I write about assume the qualities of real people, people I've met in actual situations on the Big Island or elsewhere. 


And unlike in the tourist Hawai'i, these characters are imbued with all the stresses and foibles of ordinary people living in one of the world's most extraordinary places.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Robert McCaw.

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