Monday, March 16, 2009

Say Aloha to Murder

by Michael Dymmoch

Left Coast Crime was held in Hawaii this year, at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. It wasn’t Adventures in Paradise—no drama. No trauma. Hawaii is pretty laid back. And beautiful (duh!). And expensive. But the conference was organized by Bill and Toby Gottfried, who’ve hosted a number of terrific cons. It almost couldn’t disappoint. People came from all over—the States, Europe, Scandinavia, even Australia to attend. The hotel restaurant/bar was open-air and visited by an assortment of local birds and one feral cat the staff called Morris. LCC had the usual mixed bag of free books (and a book exchange for those you didn’t want), panels, book sellers, shipping arrangements. It also provided snorkeling, fishing, swimming (pool or ocean), boat excursions, volcano tours, and the world’s greatest astronomical observatory (from which 93% of the stars visible from anywhere on the planet’s surface may be seen).

The conference opened with a series of lectures to acquaint attendees with the island. The first was about dead white guys (haole missionaries, who established churches in the area), followed by lectures on the natural history of the islands, and water safety (how to avoid being drowned or eaten); the opening ceremonies, including a Hawaiian prayer; and a luau. As usual, most of the panels I attended were panels I was on. But Thomas Holland, PhD, the head of the DOD Central Identification Lab gave a terrific talk on the perils and difficulties of finding and identifying US war casualties. And John Madinger, a 34-year veteran of the US Treasury Department, dished the dirt on money laundering. I bought books from both of them.

I ducked out on the last day to take the Circle Island Tour, a day-long bus trip that zips past lava fields and ranches, and makes brief stops at a macadamia nut candy factory (free samples—yum!); a waterfall; Mt. Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano; a nature trail that snakes through a lava tube; a black sand beach; and the visitor’s center of a coffee factory (more free samples and a mini museum). The tour was almost worth the trip to Hawaii, because our guide Harvey was a living encyclopedia of Hawaii, expounding on plants, animals, history, volcanoes and mythology. And he told a number of amusing personal stories about his own adventures hunting and fishing on the Big Island

Everything that went right while I was in Hawaii, which was almost everything, suggested something that could go wrong—from the shuttle drivers who took us efficiently and safely where we were going, to the hotel staff who greeted us with “Aloha.” Local writers stressed that they love Hawaii for its ideal weather, incredible scenery and serene appearance. And for its seamy underbelly. I’m looking forward to returning, perhaps in the pages of my own book.

1 comment:

Barbara D'Amato said...

Michael, I now really wish I'd been there. I thought it was too far, too expensive, too much time, but you make me feel it was well worth it.