30 May 2021

The Road to Hana

“The Road to Hana” is one of those stories that took several years from concept to to conclusion and underwent many transformations during the journey. I started out with the right murder weapon in mind and had the correct setting for the story to play out. I just needed to figure out the proper characters for protagonist, antagonist and secondary players.

The setting is an exotic location, a paradise where murder is out of place. It is also a location I am familiar with, having gone back to it many times over the decades.

If you look at the Hawaiian island of Maui as a figure 8, the airport would be located at the waist of the figure. Driving clockwise from the airport on the lower half of the 8 takes you 52 miles to the small villages of Hana on the windy side of the island. Most of this 52 miles of highway clings to volcanic rock cliffs and parallels  the coast. It has 56 bridges and 620 curves with dense jungle on both the uphill and the downhill sides of the road. Most of the bridges are one-way at a time, built of crumbling cement date stamped in the 1920s. The view is beautiful, but don't take your eyes off the road for long. This side of the island is not the side where all the nice, sandy beaches are located, nor the large, fancy resorts. It's where you go on a one-day trip to see what's left of old Hawaii or else to get away from everything.

Wkipedia map

That's setting. So, who would make a good protagonist? How about a big city homicide detective recovering from a bullet wound in the line of duty. He wants someplace warm, quiet and laid back to rest up for a few days. To that end, he rents a tourist bungalow outside Hana and settles in to see a few local sites, find a good restaurant and have a tourist drink or two.

In the beginning, he does not suspect that another visitor's death may actually be a homicide, nor that the antagonist may consider a second murder to cover up the first.

With the above information in place, the antagonist and bit players wrote themselves into the story. Now, I'm not sure what took me so long from start to finish. "The Road to Hana" appears in the AHMM May/Jun 2021 issue. That makes four stories in four straight issues. A good run, but now it will be a long dry spell before any others of mine get published.

Aerial View Hana Highway © Wikipedia

Originally, I wrote this one as a standalone, however I I usually try to keep in mind what it would take for one of my standalones to become a series. In this case, the detective could only make so many trips back to the islands before the concept gets worn out and he needs to retire and move to the islands before he can stumble over more bodies and make it seem credible. Otherwise, the Tourist Board would surly ban him from setting foot in the islands.

If you ever get the chance, I recommend taking a trip to Maui and driving over to the Hana side to enjoy the scenery, if nothing else.  We swam in the Seven Pools, hiked up through bamboo forests on the old volcano to a 100 foot water fall splashing down to a small pool and ate ripe guava off of trees along the way. Also found coconuts on some of the small beaches. Never did make it to aviator Charles Lindbergh's grave in a cemetery behind an old church. Maybe on the next trip.


  1. So that's how you did it. Pretty cool. Love a good setting.

  2. I loved the story. Never been to Hawaii, but I've always heard wonderful things about Maui. BTW, some stories take longer than others. I've learned to just let the cooker in the back of the brain alone, and sooner or later, something (almost) always bubbles up.

  3. R.T., you had me at the title, because I was too chicken to drive the road to Hana, even though I was dying to go there. My husband, a New York City native, didn’t drive at all back then, and we wouldn’t have gotten there if some friends from home hadn’t arrived in Lahaina with a rented car. The husband is a car nut, so he took the wheel and drove those hairpin bends and one-lane-both-way bridges with the precipitous drop on one side laughing all the way. Fortunately, it was a nice day, so the waterfalls didn’t actually flood down onto the road begging drivers to skid over the edge. As you say, a remote and gorgeous place.

  4. RT, I love stories with setting like this. I've been to Hawaii but not to Maui, and I heard years ago about the Road to Hana. Fascinating!

  5. Friends secretly got married there. For some inexplicable reason, they didn't invite me along.

    So what's this I hear about a magazine called RTMM?

  6. Any trip to Hana by road is pretty much an all-day deal for round trip. However, you can follow the road all the way around the island and come out upcountry at a winery (With a tasting room and photos of Old Hawaii), a general store and a cattle ranch. We've done it twice. The problem is the road deteriorates to crushed volcanic rock, plus the rental car map states that rental cars should not go on that portion of the road, something to do with insurance coverage. But, the scenery is beautiful and there is a church over a century old along the coast.

  7. I have a T-shirt that says "I survived the road to Hanna" after driving my family along it. I still get woozy when I recall the drive (especially coming back down), and I've toyed with writing a short story in which the designer of the road is murdered.


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