ONCE THERE WAS A FIRE by Stephen Shender (Liberia)


Hawai‘i Island (the Big Island).
North Kohala.

A child is born in a grass house. Outside, a raging storm muffles his first cries. Soldiers hunt for him amid the gale. Their king has ordered his death because a priest has prophesied that the infant will become a “slayer of chiefs.” But he is spirited away to a remote valley before the soldiers can find him. He will become Hawaii’s greatest warrior.

When strange, pale visitors come from beyond the horizon, and other Hawaiians mistake their leader for one of their gods — returned to them in fulfillment of a prophecy — he’ll recognize these newcomers are men. He’ll use their guns and steel to defeat a succession of rivals for rule of the Big Island, and then the rest of the island chain, ending centuries of fratricidal warfare, and founding the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Today, Hawaiians remember him as Kamehameha the Great. This is his story—the story of Hawaii James Michener never told.


Stephen Shender (Liberia 1969-70)

A former journalist, political and corporate speechwriter, and marketing communications writer, Stephen Shender wrote professionally for nearly 30 years before he turned to novel writing in 2004. Once There Was Fire, published in 2016, is his first novel.

A frequent visitor to Hawaii, Mr. Shender lives with his wife, cat, and blue and gold macaw on California’s Central Coast. He is presently at work on sequel to Once There Was Fire. A native of Chicago’s North Side (or as true Chicagoans call it, the “Norside”), he is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.


Once There Was A Fire: An Novel of Old Hawaii
Stephen  Shender (Liberia 1969-70)
Pai’ea Press
December 2016; revised edition published June, 2023
546 pages
$23.00 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle), $32.00 (hardbound)

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