The Last Paradise

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE LAST PARADISE chronicles the life of Travis Doyle, an insurance claims adjuster sent to Hawaii to investigate the cause of a fire at a geothermal drill site. Locals who oppose the project claim the fire is the result of an angry goddess, Pele, while the construction company is convinced that environmental radicals are the culprits.

As Doyle sifts through clues and conducts interviews, he encounters a rich cast of characters—Ian Prince, a wealthy investor who lives forever in his rapacious father’s shadow and has destructive secrets of his own; Dan Clemson, a displaced Oklahoman, who wants only to do his job and leave the negotiating to others— and John Brockman, the self-appointed conscience of the island and resident eco-terrorist. Houston is masterful at creating a collection of highly individualistic personalities who propel the narrative and weave themselves in each others’ lives.

Doyle’s trip to the islands is also a journey into his past— when he was a teenager visiting Pearl Harbor with his family and when he laid over after his tour of duty in Vietnam. He becomes reacquainted with Angel Sakai, his adolescent love, and they renew a relationship each thought was far behind them. The further Doyle proceeds with his investigation, the deeper he travels into his past, and he is haunted by a collection of ghosts who demand he put them to rest. To know them he must know himself, and the novel ends lyrically with a sense of private peace that he makes with his family and world.

Author James D. Houston has continually explored the legacy of California and the West. THE LAST PARADISE represents a further extension of that abiding interest, and as in all his works, Houston explores the ineradicable pull that landscape has on human lives. THE LAST PARADISE is a lyrical, large-hearted paean to place and human adaptability.