Reviewer Don Messerschmidt (Nepal 1963-65) is an anthropologist, writer and magazine editor. Besides numerous articles in the academic and popular press, he has published five books including two biographies, Against the Current: The Life of Lain Singh Bangdel-Writer, Painter and Art Historian of Nepal (Orchid Press 2004), and Moran of Kathmandu: Priest, Educator and Ham Radio ‘Voice of the Himalayas’ (Orchid Press, 1997; rev. ed. in press, 2010). His next book, Discovering the Big Dogs of Tibet and the Himalayas (in press, 2010), combines memoir and essay. An anthology of his creative nonfiction is also forthcoming. Don writes from his home in Vancouver, Washington (near Portland, Oregon), when he’s not off trekking in the Himalayas.

south-pacific-survivor-140South Pacific Survivor in Samoa
by Kevin Daley (Samoa 198689)
Boston: Novels Plus
$16.95
435 pages
January 2010

Reviewed by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal 1963-65)

If you like intricately plotted political thrillers, in exotic cultural settings, this book is for you. The author, Kevin Daley, was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa (1986-89); he practices law; and he has studied both writing and the martial arts. In this book, he has successfully brought all of that experience and knowledge together to create an interesting and richly complex story. The action (lots of it) takes place in modern Samoa. There, we find a covey of secret agents (Samoan, American and Chinese), diplomats from several countries (most prominently the USA and New Zealand), a hapless and rather over-the-top warrior-assassin, all wrapped around a heavy dose of Samoan royalty and culture. Much of the story revolves around fictitious historic-political difficulties between American Samoa and the independent nation of Samoa. And part of the plot focuses creatively on a missing book by Robert Louis Stevenson (1859–94), the Scottish novelist who made Samoa his home. There’s also a love plot to spice things up a bit, and buried treasure to be found.

Complicated — yes, but not hokey, though at times it is hard to keep all the threads in the story-line sorted out. In the end, you’ll come away knowing a something about what drives some individuals who thrive on solving secret political and literary intrigues. And you’ll also achieve insights into Samoan history, politics and culture. There’s no question that Daley knows his subject well.

South Pacific Survivor is a fast-paced, multi-faceted tale that will keep you entertained from start to finish, though I admit to getting bogged down a few times in the maze of plots and sub-plots. But be careful. As you read the book keep your eyes wide open and your head on. Enough heads roll to the assassin in this story to justify the warning, for some of the characters in this dark tale of intrigue are bound to lose theirs.