Friday, August 24, 2012

Fish Out of Water, guest Doug Corleone

I welcome Doug Corleone to my blog once again. His topic is an apt one, since I'm a huge fan of the Guppies, that Sisters in Crime group that has done so much for me that I volunteered to be president last year.

Doug has valuable things to say about fish and writing today. Read on!

Fish Out of Water – Douglas Corleone

One common theme in crime fiction is the “fish out of water.”  This is the small town cop who finds herself involved in a high-profile murder case in the big city.  The big city private investigator who lands himself in a small town after having his big city ticket taken away by his state’s licensing agency.  This is the American in Paris.  The Parisian in New Zealand.  The New Zealander in Tokyo.  Well, you get the idea…

The “fish out of water” theme provides the storyteller with several terrific devices.  First, the storyteller is afforded the opportunity to show a world through fresh eyes.  Second, the theme allows the storyteller to demonstrate contrast between the protagonist’s place of origin and his current setting.  And, finally, the “fish out of water” theme leaves the storyteller with plenty of room for conflict. 

One of my most recent reads was Michael Connelly’s Nine Dragons.  If you are familiar with Michael Connelly, you most likely know and love his tough Los Angeles detective, Harry Bosch.  Of course, we are used to watching Harry Bosch run through familiar territory in his hometown of LA.  But in Nine Dragons, the kidnapping of Bosch’s own teenage daughter leads him to a city very unlike Los Angeles – namely Hong Kong. 

In Nine Dragons, Michael Connelly takes advantage of all three of the devices mentioned above.  Connelly’s Harry Bosch has been to Hong Kong several times before to visit with his daughter, who lives there with his ex-wife Eleanor.  But Bosch has never worked a case in Hong Kong before – and that makes all the difference.  Bosch is seeing the seedier side of Hong Kong for the first time, and Connelly describes it every bit as well as he describes the seedy side of Los Angeles.

During his mission to find his daughter, Bosch makes constant comparisons to LA.  The air in Hong Kong is hot and beyond humid.  The smells are different, some nauseating to his unaccustomed nose.  And worse of all, Bosch is in a city where he doesn’t have any authority.  Unlike in LA, Bosch is the one breaking the law by carrying a gun.  And the gun laws in Hong Kong are harsh. 

Finally, Bosch is faced with conflict at every turn.  Accompanying Bosch on his search for his daughter is Sun Yee, his ex-wife’s current love interest.  Bosch has plenty of reason not to like Sun Yee.  But the question is: can he trust him?  Neither Bosch nor the reader knows the answer to this all-important question until Bosch nears his objective and the bullets begin flying.  The one thing we can be sure of is that Harry Bosch wants to get out of Hong Kong and back home to Los Angeles as fast as possible. 

What’s your favorite “fish out of water” story?

BIO: DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime novels set in Honolulu.  His debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.  Doug’s third novel LAST LAWYER STANDING will be released on August 21, 2012.

A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Doug now resides on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, where he is currently at work on his next novel.

Visit him at his webpage: and catch his blog at:


  1. Added to TBR list. Good interview. Thanks

  2. Michael Connelly’s Nine Dragons novel presents a good example of a fish out of water. Doug's Kevin Corvelli is also one of those fish, moving from NYC to HNL and exchanging wingtips for "slippahs".
    Yes, Kaye, I would say Doug tailored his comments to the Guppies. Thanks, Doug. Aloha.

  3. I'm reading The Five O'Clock Follies by Theasa Tuohy. The protagonist leaves her life and goes to Viet Nam in the '60s to become a journalist. She right in the middle of the war and the other seasoned journalists. A very new world for her.

    It's interesting to see this new world through her eyes.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Jake.

    Clever fellow, eh, Gail?

    Thanks for the example, Helen--good one!

    I don't think I've consciously used this device, but I've used it nevertheless.

  5. Hi Doug, I read your post and then got to the bio and saw that your novel is set in Honolulu and that you were from NYC. So, you are yourself a fish out of water!
    In fact, my novel, Photo Finish, is also set in Honolulu and its protag is, in a sense, a fish out of water, having come from LA.
    How lucky for you that you're living in Honolulu! I'll try to contact you through FB!

  6. Do that, Terry! Doug is at

    I know he has a child with a problem today, but he'll probably be here soon.

  7. Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments... and your patience and understanding. Had a rough 48 hours with my toddler -- but he's doing great. Hard to remember how resilient we are at that age.

    Jake, thank you! Hope you enjoy the books!

    Gail, Helen: Always wonderful to see your avatars -- thanks for reading my post!

    Terry, definitely send me a friend request on FB!

    Kaye, thanks so much for hosting me again! You're the best.

  8. Hi, Doug! Hope the li'l feller is all right! They scare us to bits, don't they?

    My mother got me hooked on the Agatha Raisin books by M. C. Beaton. Agatha is a big-deal London executive who retires to a village in the Cotswolds and never (so far) entirely adjusts to village life. Sometimes Beaton brings in a chum from London, just to keep Agatha and the reader off-balance.

    I'm looking forward to reading your series!

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  9. Good example, Marian! I like the Hamish MacBeth series by the same author a little better, but he's not a fish out of water. Thanks for coming by.