For a Song

Paperback: $19.99
ISBN-13: 9780824858827
Published: September 2016

Additional Information

504 pages
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  • About the Book
  • Set in Honolulu during the late spring of 2007, Rodney Morales’s For a Song melds actual events into an edgy detective novel that evokes contemporary Hawai`i as a place where the hauntingly beautiful and the hauntingly tragic too often intersect. Against a backdrop of political scandal and police corruption, the richly complex plot is driven by true-to-life characters and crisp dialogue.

    David “Kawika” Apana is a reporter turned private detective who has hit rock bottom. Divorced and broke, his career is revived when he hits it big in a game of high stakes poker and trades in his winnings for a boat, which becomes his new home and office. His first client is a vivacious middle-aged blonde, Minerva Alter, who hires him to find her missing daughter, Caroline “Kay” Johnson, an activist and budding filmmaker. Apana is startled to learn that Minerva was once married to Lino Johnson, a petty criminal brazenly gunned down in Honolulu’s Chinatown eighteen years earlier—an unsolved murder he had covered during his reporter days.

    In his investigation, Apana encounters a curious mix of cops, Federal agents, politicians, union officials, ragtag criminals, whistleblowers, stage actors, screen directors, triathletes, as well as Kay’s also-missing boyfriend, lawyer turned lifeguard Matthew Serrano. Apana’s pursuit of leads takes him all over O`ahu: from the metro downtown area, to the Windward and Leeward coasts, to the fabled North Shore, and to places far beyond. It also takes him back in years as he revisits the Lino Johnson murder and discovers how much he had missed the first time around.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Rodney Morales, Author

      Rodney Morales is a creative writing professor at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. He is the author of When the Shark Bites and The Speed of Darkness, and also edited Ho`i Ho`i Hou: A Tribute to George Helm and Kimo Mitchell.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Morales overlays a far-reaching plot upon a small geographical area. Hawaii locals will nod knowingly at his portrayal of day-to-day island life shadowed by violence and intrigue. The places and characters will seem familiar, even if the situations and occurrences do not. . . . The mystery and a growing concern for the characters will keep readers turning the pages.
      —Christopher Alm, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
    • Rodney Morales's new novel, For a Song, represents a significant development in his already varied oeuvre . . . . [This] foray into the noir genre is an effort to bring the genealogy of Chang Apana (the historical figure who was the basis for the fictional and Hollywood film character Charlie Chan) into a decolonizing, de-orientalizing, and thoroughly contemporary frame through the protagonist Kawika Apana. . . . Morales does not shy away from creating complex and strong female characters. . . . The final dramatic scenes of the novel are painful to read, but they also bring to the fore the cleansing, sardonic wit of Morales's early youthful protagonists. For a Song is definitely worth reading, as it marks, at least for this reader, a major turning point in Morales's work.
      —Susan Najita, The Contemporary Pacific, 30:1 (2018)
    • For a Song depicts the destructive work of corporate predation and investigates dangers that befall those fighting against human trafficking and cultural rip-off. Rodney Morales’s detective, David Apana, illuminates how cultural and political powers collude, collide, and combine. While shadows cast by working class and activist consciousness revolve at his characters’ feet, readers triangulate the source of the light. Morales brilliantly and subtly situates resistance and healing as the stuff of our everyday lives.
      Ed Pavlić, author of Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno
    • Morales brings Noir freshly alive in the streets of Honolulu. His lightness of touch beautifully renders a tough, corrupt underworld and the heartbreak that goes with it. This is a riveting novel.
      Anne Kennedy, author of The Last Days of the National Costume
    • Rodney Morales is a modern-day Raymond Chandler, and Hawai`i is his muse. From Chinatown’s dank bars to Waikiki’s bright beaches, from the Ala Wai Boat Harbor to Lanikai’s mansions, Morales makes O`ahu into an indelible character and—like Chandler—tinges his real locales with mystery, melancholy, and hard-edged beauty. For a Song mixes classic crime noir—femme fatales, corrupt cops, and a cigarette-smoking Private Eye—with Shakespearean drama, where the sins of the fathers are visited on their children, and real discussions of race, history, colonialism, and power thrum beneath a plot with as many twists as Tantalus. For those of us who always wished Philip Marlowe visited the islands, Morales delivers his avatar—a wise-cracking, bruised-romantic PI named David “Kawika” Apana—and the best modern noir novel on either side of the Pacific.
      Kristiana Kahakauwila, author of This Is Paradise