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Crime in Chinatown Circa 1953

"Kona Winds" by Scott Kikkawa
Bamboo Ridge Press
"Kona Winds" by Scott Kikkawa

Scott Kikkawa is a writer and federal law enforcement officer for Homeland Security. He writes about crime for The Hawai’i Review of Books.

Kikkawa has been researching Hawaiʻi history, including criminal history, for a series of novels set in the 1950s. His first book, "Kona Winds," is a detective noir set in a very flavorful Honolulu.

Scott Kikkawa interviewing with HPR's Noe Tanigawa
Noe Tanigawa
Scott Kikkawa interviewing with HPR's Noe Tanigawa

"So in '53, you're seeing kind of the last gasp for the unraveling of the old power structure, which is the old Big Five plantation-owning sugar and shipping domination of the local economy here," Kikkawa said.

His next book, "Red Dirt," with a backdrop of the "Hawaiʻi Seven trials" will be out this fall — both books on Bamboo Ridge Press.

"I always like to look at criminal culture as being kind of a dark reflection of legitimate culture. Here in Hawaiʻi especially," he said.

Kikkawa also researches the social and criminal history of Chinatown.

"There's also a cultural aspect to it. In many Asian cultures, gambling is not considered to be immoral. Although it is illegal in many places, it is not considered to be immoral," Kikkawa said. "Prostitution, the sex trade, the line blurs. A lot of it is not what we call a quid pro quo/sex for money exchange which is how prostitution statutes are written."

He points out that prostitution was allowed in Chinatown during World War II and prior when Hawaiʻi was a Kingdom and Territory.

Click the "Listen" button to hear this interview from The Aloha Friday Conversation on Aug. 27, 2021.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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