Bill Fernandez’s book 10: ‘Terrorism in Paradise’

  • Judy Fernandez / Special to The Garden Island

    Kapaa’s Bill Fernandez with his most recent book, “Terrorism in Paradise,” is his 10th.

“Terrorism in Paradise” is the latest and 10th book by Kauai’s Bill Fernandez.

So, where does this one rank?

“The last book I write is always my best,” he said, laughing.

At 88 years old, Fernandez refuses to slow down as he writes about Hawaii’s history and mixes in fiction “to make things interesting, because history is not very interesting, quite often.”

But, he’s quick to add, his work is well-researched, as he wants to share, accurately, what happened that made Hawaii what it is today.

He tells a story of Don Ho, Hawaii’s famous singer and a Fernandez classmate at Kamehameha Schools, who often closed his evening shows by saying “So many people come to Hawaii and then leave, they know nothing about us.”

That concerns Fernandez — so he’s doing something about it.

“So if you want to learn about Hawaii, about Hawaiians, about history, my books are all about that,” he said.

People have noticed.

Judy Fernandez tells of recently meeting a kupuna who, as they talked, realized Bill Fernandez was her husband.

“He said, ‘I’ve read all his books. Tell him to keep writing about Hawaiians. He gets it. He knows about Hawaiians. Tell him to keep writing,’” Judy said.

So Fernandez does.

His three memoirs are “Rainbows Over Kapaa,” “Kauai Kids in Peace and War,” and “Hawaii in War and Peace.”

His novels include “John Tana: An Adventure Tale of Old Hawaii,” the “Cult of Ku: A Hawaiian Murder Mystery,” the book “Crime & Punishment in Hawaii,” the book “Hawaiian Rebellions,” and “Gods, Ghosts, and Kahuna on Kauai.”

“Conquest” is scheduled to come out later this year.

As a judge and attorney during his career, Fernandez wrote often, but in a legal, technical and precise style. As an author today, he’s free to be creative, imaginative, have fun, and set compelling scenes for his colorful characters.

But it’s a passion for sharing the history of Hawaii, its people, places and events, that drives him.

“Terrorism in Paradise” is the third Grant Kingsley historical novel by Fernandez.

It is described by the author and his wife like this:

“When striking Filipino plantation workers tried to get better pay and working conditions in 1924, they were met with bullets. Known as The Hanapepe Massacre, it has been in the news recently as people searched for the mass graves of the victims. The novel combines the real with fiction, and opens with an explosion that kills Grant’s father. More explosions follow. As he rushes to find the killer before more are killed, Grant wonders: ‘Who are the real terrorists?’”

The subject of this book has gained national attention lately.

Filmmaster Stephanie J. Castillo is working on a documentary about what happened on Sept. 9, 1924, when Visayan striking workers battled local police and deputized hunters in what’s been called the Hanapepe War.

Sixteen workers and four police deputies were killed, and more than a hundred other workers were jailed.

Book signing Friday

Bill Fernandez will be signing copies of his latest book, “Terrorism in Paradise,” at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe.

“I’m just amazed that 95 years after this massacre, people are still asking who was killed,” Castillo said.

Fernandez lived on the Mainland for years for his career before returning home.

“I really felt as Do Ho said, people come here and they know nothing about us and, also, young people don’t know anything about what happened. So why not tell a story? It’s people and it’s history.”

Tragic massacres such as the one in 1924 in Hanapepe produce change, Fernandez said.

“People don’t realize it, but in the 1920s revolutions were going across the country,” he said, citing China, Russia, Turkey and Germany. “The 1920s was a period of a lot of turmoil across the world.”

It’s a reason he likes “Terrorism in Paradise.”

“You’re looking not only at Hawaii turmoil through the massacre, you’re looking at world turmoil. That’s why, to me, it’s a very interesting book,” he said.

The way the plantation operated in Hawaii back then, he said, was divide and rule. If one was causing labor trouble, another was brought in as a strike-breaker.

It was a time of profits over people.

“So divide and rule was a custom of the plantations,” Fernandez said. “What the workers had to do instead was to be united, and they did that through the unions.”

“Terrorism in Paradise” explains why Hawaii is a strong union state and a strong Democrat state.

“There were really bad consequences back in the days when the unions were not strong and the worker was considered expendable. That’s the reason I wrote the book,” Fernandez said. “When people read the book, I hope they can understand what repression, what putting people down to the ground, can result in.”

“Terrorism in Paradise” is available for $20 at Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe, the Kauai Museum and at amazon.com.

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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