Jess Waid’s six books feature the exploits of Mike Montego, a conscientious Los Angeles police officer assigned to Hollywood Division in the early 1960s. Each book stands on its own; of course it is best to read them in chronological order, beginning with Shades of Blue, 459 – Framed in Red, The Purple Hand, He Blew Blue Jazz, and Circle of Yellow with a domestic violence theme; finally, Kona Gold. It takes place after Mike makes detective grade. Because of a certain domestic problem, he takes a one-month respite in Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands where he gets entangled with a narcotics-dealing killer.
When I thought I could stand no more, a presence stepped from the shadows, an old and terrifying friend, smiling grimly, taking charge, ending the laughter and with it, the madness. But peace came with a price. The good Doctor forced me to watch, in fascinated horror, every grisly detail as it unfolded. Then he took me by the hand, whispering that more is better, more is essential if the laughter is to ever stop, this time forever.
The sun was high in the cerulean southern California sky. The lightly sweating runner was high, too. Following the well-paved, winding roadway along the mountain ridge, deep-breathing Mike Montego reached his turnaround point on Mulholland, just west of Outpost Drive. He bent forward, hands on bare knees, catching his breath as he paused to look down on the sprawling city that was rapidly filling the coastal basin below. Although a bright day, smog partially shrouded City Hall, at 434 feet the tallest building in L.A., but up here atop the Hollywood Hills, the faintly eucalyptus-scented air he gulped tasted fresh as a young starlet’s lips.
A jowly night-duty detective sat behind a scarred wooden desk close to the entryway, a filtered cigarette hanging from his puffy lips, white shirtsleeves rolled half way up his thick, hairy forearms. He thumbed through the day’s crime reports. A dog-eared Argosy magazine and a half-full pack of Raleigh cigarettes completed the desktop picture. Puffy Lips, his graying head canted toward Montego, eyes squinted to avoid the up-streaming tobacco smoke, grunted “Hello…”
Circle of Yellow Brenda is afraid! Her husband, Coyle, has changed and she doesn’t know what to do. She has four children and needs to protect them, but at what cost? Mike Montego is now married and wants children, but does his wife? Mike’s cases all seem to involve some kind of abuse, including his own mother. Are there any happy marriages? When abuse leads to murder, can Mike help the innocent?Kona Gold Opening: The corner of my eye catches a light-blond boy’s head slowly rising above the tall seat-back in front of me. Soon, big brown eyes appear, and a moment later a tiny toy soldier in combat gear holding a rifle is marching across the top of the “ridge line.” It has my complete attention.I hear a throaty drawn-out sound. Suddenly, GI Joe tumbles and falls, bouncing against my huarache-covered feet before it lies still. Then, I realize the throaty sound must have been “boy-made” machine-gun fire.Amused, I unclasp my seat belt and retrieve the wounded soldier. While doing so, I briefly recall the army of toy soldiers I’d once had, except mine were of World War II vintage, made of lead, not plastic, and they were bivouacked amongst dirt clods in a field across the street from to my foster home in the east San Fernando Valley and not aboard a new Boeing 707.I replace GI Joe atop the seat-back and wait for the towheaded boy who had ducked out of sight to reach up and grasp it. I guess the tyke to be about three years old. I continue holding the toy over the edge where I’m sure the boy can see it. A few seconds pass before small fingers curl over the top like tiny crab legs; they don’t move for a long moment, and then suddenly they snatch the soldier from my grasp. Instantly, a slight thrill courses through me. It brings a slight smile as I refasten my seat belt and return my gaze out the port side window. I’m sitting just in front of a silver swept-back wing. Soon I’m reflecting on my own childhood as a foster kid, and my years living alone with the Lehman family in the Valley, North Hollywood to be exact. I brush the thin scar on my neck, courtesy of Paco, a Mexican bully with a switchblade who didn’t like the fact that I spoke no Spanish and had the last name of Montego; and later, being confronted with his switchblade, when, in a rash move, I disarmed and cut him with his own knife. That incident had a lot to do with my leaving the Valley at the end of my grammar school year and moving to another foster home in Torrance to live with a Japanese family, the Konos—actually two families, as the son and his wife lived with his parents. While in their care, I learned kenpo, an Okinawan fighting style. Aside from attending public school, it became a large part of my life. Learning the oriental martial art, and sparring with the just-turned teen son, Kenji “Kenny” Kono, whom I considered to be my older brother, gave me self-confidence that carries through to this day.Occasional clouds interfere with my view of the rippled sea below; but it doesn’t matter because my mind is working at sorting out my life. I recently married a gorgeous gal, and I should be happy and looking to the future with my beautiful bride. But here I am, 32,000 feet up in the azure sky flying over the Pacific to Honolulu, seeking space; needing time to think, to evaluate the major step I took by marrying Julie Preston in such haste.The tall strawberry blonde swept me off my feet; taking me to some very erotic places during our intense two years of lovemaking. Admittedly, discovering her many bedroom talents shocked me at first, but soon they enraptured me. Now, however, I believe her sexual prowess has trapped me. Admittedly, I enjoy the sex, but eventually I want a family. She doesn’t. That ill feeling is why I’m taking a month-long break in Hawaii; but mixed in with my woeful feeling is a pang of guilt.I tell myself this respite is necessary, that I’m not running away…. Okay, maybe I am.