From a leading screenwriter and the author of Moist, a comic mystery set in Hawaii in the tradition of Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard
How to Host a Delicious Luau
Wear your best aloha shirt.
Build an imu (underground oven).
If you don't have a pu'a kalua, substitue two haoles (guys from the mainland).
Don't forget the poi.
Welcome to sunny Hawaii, where the palm trees sway, the tropical breezes blow, and a gangland-style turf war is erupting. Joseph is one of the best chefs in Honolulu, but these daysthe opakapaka and ono aren't the only things heating up. When a TV producer flies to the islands to film a pilot, a fight-to-the-finish breaks out over who will cater the shoot. Will it be Joseph and his hotheaded Samoan uncle, who have held a monopoly on the catering business for years? Or Big Jack Lacey, a trash-talking, lap dance-addicted stroke survivor from Las Vegas and his milquetoast son, a young man who wants to be a missionary but doesn't know the position. As far as Joseph's family is concerned, this is an invasion on par with Captain Cook, only this time the mainlanders have to be stopped before paradise is lost.
With the Teamsters unwilling to take sides and the Sin City boys enlisting the services of an ecstasy-popping ex-Marine hitman, hope comes in the form of Francis, a gay TV-movie producer on a drug-crazed bender after a bad breakup.
With the lines drawn and both sides preparing for battle, Joseph enlists the help of his bodybuilder cousin, Wilson, and Lono, a sweet-natured pimp. Ultimately their survival depends on the one thing Joseph's good at: cooking. That's when things go horribly wrong--or, depending on how you look at it, just right.
Fast-paced and ribald, this uproarious and delectably dark comic thriller is a side of paradise that definitely hasn't been endorsed by the tourist bureau.
Set in a seedy, sun-baked Hawaii that most tourists don't know exists, Smith's frenetic second novel (after Moist) begins with a flash-forward to a Greek tragedy of a luau. Roasting human flesh was not on the agenda for Joseph when he set out to become a professional chef, but a battle to keep the family catering business from being ruined by a greedy rival gradually drives him to desperation. The battle begins when a gay TV producer flies to the islands for a film shoot, sparking a contest over who will provide food for the set. Joseph, his uncle Sid and dimwitted cousin Wilson have been the only game in town, but a nasty, horny, recovering stroke victim with Mafia connections has come to Honolulu from Las Vegas to take over the film-catering industry. Sid is not about to let his paradise dream be wrecked, but then hit men are brought in. Meanwhile, Joseph must decide whether to follow his culinary dreams to New York City, support his uncle's war against the outsiders or indulge a gay suitor to save the family business - all of which leads to that luau from hell. At once sexy and repulsive, the novel manages to plant sharp moral and cultural barbs in its gorge-feast of a plot.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 09, 2006
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Excerpt from Delicious by Mark Haskell Smith
"I'm gonna dig an imu."
He couldn't think of any other way. So the night before, Joseph went out and gathered as many large rocks and hunks of lava as he thought he'd need. He'd spent the morning collecting banana stalks and chunks of koa wood from a farm near Waiahole, filling the bed of his pickup truck with as much of the stuff as he could, all the while telling the farmer that, yes, he was making kalua pig but, no, he wasn't having a luau. It wasn't a party for family and friends. It was a business thing.
He drove the long way around, past Kahuku and Waialee, past Sunset Beach, and the Banzai Pipeline with its horde of roughly glamorous surfers, their bodies bronzed and articulated like Roman statues, their long hair curling from hours of salt and sun, attended by young girls with tight bodies in tighter bikinis.
Joseph had often wondered what it was like to ride the big waves on the North Shore. To feel the ocean swell and build underneath you until it rose up, three stories high, rumbling and pushing with a primeval force, beginning to reach out over you, cutting off the sun and sky, wrapping around you in a seething roil of heavy foam. Joseph had seen it, all that pressure building inside a tunnel of water until it suddenly collapsed, like a building falling down, the air pressure exploding like a cannon, shooting a surfer out of the tube in a blast of salt spray at fifty miles an hour. He had heard it was an unbelievable rush. Better than sex, better than any drug. But he couldn't do it. Leave it to the crazies from Brazil or the rad Cali dudes to risk getting shredded on the coral just beneath the waves.
Joseph didn't like to go out into the water. He didn't surf in it. He didn't swim in it. He didn't even like to ride in a boat. Whenever he was in the water the hair on the back of his neck would stand up. The fear of joining the food chain. A distinctly sharky vibe.
He liked the beach. Liked to kick back, drink a beer, watch the girls, feel his skin go from brown to really brown. As long as he didn't have to enter the water, the beach was fine.
Joseph stopped for gas and an energy bar in Haleiwa before turning inland, driving past the sagging homes and rotting little farmhouses that dotted a desolate countryside filled with scrub grass and clumps of wild sugarcane.
Most of the land was owned by Dole or some other agribiz that zealously guarded its pineapple fields, putting up gates and patrolling the rutted roads in pickup trucks. But that didn't bother Joseph. He knew where to go.
He turned off the pavement and onto a dirt road, the red soil rising up in a cloud behind his truck like a brush fire. He jounced down the road for a few miles, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and then stopped, the truck disappearing for a moment in a thick swirling cloud of dirt.
Joseph let the dust settle and then backed the pickup down a deeply rutted and pockmarked trail through a dense thicket of sugarcane near an abandoned sugar mill. He drove slowly, careful not to bottom out the springs on his truck, the rocks and firewood clunking and lurching in the back.
The main house and crushing mills stood faded and falling apart, ruins from another time, left over from the days of C & H, Claus Sprekels, and the sugar boom, when hundreds of Japanese and Filipinos, wearing heavy clothes to keep from getting lacerated, had hacked down cane in the fields to sweeten cakes, cookies, and coffee on the mainland. It had been a big business on the island until the company found a cheaper place to grow and harvest sugar. Now it was a wasteland, the sharp canes growing wild, like a forest of green razors, waving in the breeze.
Joseph rolled his window up; he didn't want to get cut.
He reached the edge of the thicket, a small clearing by a decaying outbuilding, and pulled to a stop. He climbed out and looked around. He could turn his head in any direction, and all he could see was tall green sugarcane bobbing in the breeze.
It was hot, so Joseph took off his T-shirt, revealing a lean body with taut muscles and light brown skin. He looked Hawaiian but, like most people on the island, his lineage was a mixed bag. His father was half Samoan, half Hawaiian, his mother a slender blend of Thai and Danish. He looked like everyone else in Honolulu, brown skin, Asiatic eyes, and dark hair, but with a kind of beautiful mash of a face, his Thai and Northern European DNA fighting it out on a handsome Hawaiian canvas.
He had a Samoan last name, Tanumafili, but he was never mistaken for a Samoan. When asked what race he was, he always referred to himself as chop suey: a crazy mix of leftovers jumbled up and thrown together. Chop suey. Fill that in on the census form.
Joseph dropped the gate on the truck and began chucking hunks of wood into a pile.