I’ve always been fascinated by puzzles. As a math major at Georgetown University, finding solutions to complex mathematical problems was a big high. But the mostly self-contained career aspects of a mathematician left much to be desired, so I looked elsewhere. After college, inspired by my dad who was a career JAG officer with the US Army, I entered the Army as a Second Lieutenant. After basic training, the Army ordered me to Camp Page in Chuncheon, South Korea. One day the camp commandant summoned me to his office, handed me the Army courts-martial manual, and appointed me the prosecutor in a case against a misbehaving soldier. Back then, the rules for such cases required only that the defense counsel have at least as much legal training as the prosecutor—a rule easily met since I had none!
I proceeded to try the case against a fully qualified member of the Pennsylvania bar, making what I now know were the cringe-worthy mistakes of a newbie. Although the pro won all the motions, some of which went over my head, I won the case, and the guilty solder got the maximum sentence. Having tried and won my first case – solving a real-life puzzle – I was hooked.
I knew from that day on that I wanted to be a lawyer, and so began a legal career I pursued and loved for 40-years. Along the way I graduated from the University of Virginia Law School, had the honor to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, and rose to partnership in a major U.S. law firm, ultimately opening its New York office..
Adding balance to my life, I had the good fortune to visit and fall in love with Hawaii. I took a star-gazing tour atop the Mauna Kea volcano, the tallest mountain on the Big Island of Hawaii capped with many of the world’s finest observatories. Again, I was hooked. A friendship with a member of the astronomy program in college had exposed me to the science of the cosmos and although astronomy was the career I didn’t pursue, it still captivated me years later. On repeated vacation trips to Hawaii, I toted a portable telescope up the slopes of Mauna Kea before ultimately choosing to build a second home – complete with a small observatory – on the Big Island.
In my scant free time, I studied Hawaiian history, language, and culture becoming intrigued by the richness of the land and people that served as hosts for the many astronomers in Hawaii. While still pursuing an active legal practice, I began to write, choosing the mystery genre to share what I had learned about the ancient Polynesians and their Hawaiian descendants. I intertwined Hawaiian history and archeology with the search for answers to the murder mysteries I conjured up. Many friends and acquaintances from Hawaii shared their insights and experiences with me for which I am most grateful. My first novel languished over the years and between vacations, put aside countless times under the constraints of my intense legal career. When I retired, things were different and I finally dedicated myself to finishing my first novel. Again, I was hooked! And so it continues . . .
As a trial lawyer, one is mostly confined to a set of provable facts. Stray too far from the evidentiary record, and you lose credibility with the judge or jury. Not so as a novelist. If the facts don’t paint the desired picture, fiction writers are free to set the stage and write the history of characters as they see fit. It’s wonderfully liberating, but not without its challenges. Stray too far from the believable and you lose credibility with your readers. But, again, those are puzzles to be solved . . .