Hello Space Cadets! I’m doing well, with some big news coming down the pike. I’ll share more when I get the okay from some publishers, but until then I found another veteran I’d love to spotlight. You guys know that I’ve got a sweet spot for my fellow veterans, it’s why I run these series of interviews, despite a lack of genre congruence. While I don’t write this genre, I do read them so when I was asked to conduct this interview, I jumped to say yes!
So let’s get to it! I want to introduce you to another author from my WARRIOR WEEKEND INTERVIEW SERIES. Robert McCaw is the author of the new book, Off the Grid. He grew up in a military family traveling the world, and after graduating from Georgetown University, he served as a lieutenant in the US Army before earning his law degree from the University of Virginia. Thereafter he practiced as a partner in a major international law firm in Washington, DC, and New York City—and maintained a home on the Big Island of Hawai’i. McCaw brings a unique authenticity to his Koa Kāne Hawaiian mystery novels in both his law enforcement expertise and his ability to portray the richness of Hawai’i’s history, culture, and people. McCaw lives in New York City and La Jolla, California, with his wife, Calli.
Without further ado, let’s get this interview cranking!
- Tell me a little about your military service?
I grew up in a military family and absorbed a lot of military lore before entering an ROTC program in college and joining the Army as an artillery second lieutenant after graduation. I attended artillery basic training at Fort Sill, OK and jump school at Fort Benning, GA and was then assigned to the 1st Battalion, 42nd Artillery (Honest John Rocket Unit) at Camp Page, Chuncheon, South Korea. After thirteen months and two days in South Korea, I completed my active duty service at Fort Knox, KY.
- How do you feel that your military service has influenced your writing?
First off, my military service led me to go to law school which has had a dramatic effect on both the style and substance of my novels, including my latest, titled Off The Grid (Oceanview Publishing July 2, 2019). While stationed in South Korea in the mid-1960s, I was assigned as the prosecutor in a court martial case. At the time, the rules for a special courts martial required only that the defense counsel have at least as much legal training as the prosecutor, which meant that both could be legal novices. Despite my neophyte status, I prepared charges and prosecuted an AWOL, resisting arrest, and assault case. Although the accused was represented by a real lawyer, who won all the motions, I succeeded in proving the perp guilty. He got the maximum and I went to law school.
Second, my protagonist, the fictional chief detective of the Hilo, HI police, has a military background with memories of various assignments, as well as the dedication and tenacity that so often results from time spent in the military. I saw my military service as character building, and my fictional chief detective found himself and his direction in life through his military service. In addition, one of my favorite secondary characters is the fictional head of the real-life military police detachment at the Pohakaloa Training Area (PTA) on the Big Island of Hawaii.
- Do you think your military service, and more specifically your training, adds to the realism in your books? If so, how?
My military service and training are the cornerstone of the realism in some of my characters. As noted above, key characters in this series have military experiences, often based on what I observed or was taught while in the service. My exposure to field exercises, leadership roles, chain of command, combat training, including marksmanship, descriptions of military activities and vehicles, and barracks and mess hall life all infuse particular scenes or creep into the backstory for key characters, adding a sense of realism.
- When did you start pursuing your writing more seriously?
I first visited Hawaii in 1986 and started my first novel set in on the Big Island shortly thereafter. Because I was then pursuing an active legal career, it took me more than twenty years to finish the first draft. It was only after I “retired” to pursue a second career in writing that I was able to get that first book published. I’m now working on a fourth book in that same series.
- Of all your work, which was your favorite to write?
That’s a really tough question for me because, although every book in the series has some of the same characters, each story is unique and was a joy to write and edit. If you force me to choose, though, I would pick Off The Grid because there is a distinctive military event at the heart of its mystery. Enough said! No spoilers!
- How many of your characters were inspired by your military service?
Several fictional characters in each of my published books owe their conception to my military service. I’ve already mentioned my protagonist Koa Kāne and my chief MP who are in both books. The PTA commander, a character in my first book, Death of a Messenger, is a composite figure reflecting a series of such officers I encountered during my own service. In Off The Grid, both the mayor of Hilo and a candidate for Hawaii governor are in part inspired by commanders with whom I dealt. Off The Grid also features a former Delta Force operative who reminds me of soldiers I knew who had seen serious combat.
- How many of the specific scenes you wrote were inspired from your service?
A great many scenes from Death of a Messenger take place on the PTA, the largest US military installation in the Pacific. Off The Grid contains numerous references to a major military campaign, which have no connection to a particular military facility. In my third novel, Fire and Vengeance (Oceanview Publishing July 2020), a critical scene takes place in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific inside the Punchbowl in Honolulu, HI, and draws upon funeral details that I commanded.
- Do you feel like your writing has served any therapeutic value for you? Has it helped you process your military experiences?
Writing for me is a delight and like all joyous experiences is therapeutic, but I don’t know that it helps me process my military experiences. While I lost dear friends in the Vietnam War and suffered my share of the normal hardships of service, I was lucky and emerged from the Army stronger, more resourceful, more confident, and much more mature than when I joined. As noted above, the military also launched me on a wonderful career as a lawyer.
- If you could serve with any of your characters, who would it be and why?
I would serve with my fictional chief of detectives, Koa Kāne. He’s smart, resourceful, and based on his military experiences, takes a dim view of politicians! Although he harbors a dark secret from his youth, he has devoted himself to the pursuit of justice and allows nothing to stand in his way. He’s also forged a great relationship with a strong, beautiful woman. And truth be told, there’s a bit of me in the fiction I’ve created.
- If you would want to avoid serving with any of your characters, who would it be and why?
I’d least like to serve with my fictional Hilo coroner, Shizuo Hori. He is spectacularly and humorously incompetent, obnoxiously arrogant, and a notorious ass-kisser, having won his appointment by losing regularly in Thursday night poker games with the Hilo mayor and his cronies. He thus represents the underbelly of petty political corruption.
- If you could serve in any of the worlds you created, which one would it be, and why?
In college, one of my best friends was an astronomer, and astronomy, the career I didn’t pursue, has been a lifelong avocation. In Death of a Messenger, I created a fictional crisis at one of the telescopes atop Mauna Kea volcano—one in which the military contributes to the solution. It’s a world I would have loved to have experienced.
- Can you tell us how all of that has lent itself to your most recent release?
Off The Grid pulls together many of the characters discussed above in a semi-fictional recreation of one of the most bizarre military misadventures in contemporary times. It involves soldiers, spies, and politicians, an especially explosive mixture. It all starts with the deaths of two loners living off the grid in rural Hawaii and explodes on the national stage at the highest levels of government. It is truth or fiction? Probably the latter, but who knows given the strange alliances and weird happenings in our crazy world today.
- And since you’ve finished that novel, what are you currently working on and when do you expect it to be ready for publication? I mean, you don’t need sleep right?
I’ve finished a third novel in this series—Fire and Vengeance—which Oceanview Publishing has contracted to release next year. I’ll be spending time getting it ready and on publicity. Still, I find it hard to put my laptop aside and am fast at work on a fourth Koa Kāne mystery. No title or publication date has yet been set.
If this convinced you to find out more, look up Robert McCaw. I hope you all had a great time getting to know about Robert. Don’t be afraid to say hello here or on his website, https://robertbmccaw.com/.
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
->As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.