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Rodney Morales

Born and raised on the island of O‘ahu, Rodney Morales received his BA and MA from the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, where he currently works as an English professor. His areas of interest include: contemporary fiction, the detective novel, film noir, the literatures of Hawai‘i and the Pacific, creative non-fiction and songwriting. He is the author of a short story collection, The Speed of Darkness (1998), and two novels, When A Shark Bites (2002) and most recently, For a Song (2016).  

For A Song
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.


“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