John Enright was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1945. After serving stints in semi-pro baseball and the Lackawanna steel mills, he earned his degree from City College of New York while working full-time at Fortune, Time, and Newsweek magazines. He later completed a master’s degree in folklore at UC-Berkeley, before devoting the 1970s to the publishing industry in New York, San Francisco, and Hong Kong. In 1981, he left the United States to teach at the American Samoa Community College. He spent the next twenty-six years living on the islands of the South Pacific, working for environmental, cultural, and historical resource preservation. Over the past four decades, his essays, articles, short stories, and poems have appeared in more than ninety books, anthologies, journals, periodicals, and online magazines. His collection of poems from Samoa, 14 Degrees South, won the University of the South Pacific Press’s inaugural International Literature Competition. Today, he and his wife, ceramicist Connie Payne, live in Jamestown, Rhode Island.
Pago Pago Tango review, The Providence Journal (1/6/13), by Sam Coale:
"Apelu sometimes thought of the interplay between the Samoan and palangi [whites] worlds he moved through as a dance -strange partners, mixed music, yes, but a dance nonetheless, with him trying not to step on anyone else's toes."
Such is the Samoan world of Detective Sergeant Apelu Soifua in this intricate and suspenseful yarn by John Enright, whose biography would make its own great tale and who, after spending 26 years on the islands of the South Pacific, now lives in Jamestown. We get murders, mysterious video tapes with porn and strange lists, a burglary, inside jobs, a Colt Python .357, and an incredible climax at sea.
Through it all Enright meticulously interweaves the experience and landscapes of Samoa's mountains, rain forests and jungles that he knows so well; whites in gated communities on the Tafuna Plain where prejudices breed unhindered, the local club scene where handsome T.J. murders another guy in self-defense (or was it?), inter-village rivalries among testosterone-driven young men, lots of rain, the SeaKing Tuna processing plant, which isn't all it seems; extravagant funerals, churches and prisons, Soifua's wife, Sina, and their passel of kids, Spike Tusisami of the local DEA, beautiful lagoons, terrifying cliffs, fleets decorated for Christmas, village chiefs, and the daily grunt work of cops like Soifua, caught between two very different cultures.
I hope this is the beginning of a series. Apelu is laid-back but watchful, perceptive. Danger threatens such a false paradise. Enright plants his clues carefully and builds suspense as the noose tightens. All seem mysteriously connected, but how, exactly? Who murdered whom? Why?
And one of my favorite lines: "He remembered an old joke about the 'missionary position,' that the natives called it that because they had never before seen people do it in that boring way."
“In 14 Degrees South John Enright sings the lyrical song of Samoa in ways unmatched by anyone, anytime in the history of those islands, and it has been crafted by the hand of a master. This collection stands tall in the first rank of Pacific literature and for many years will set the standard for books of its kind. An absolute must read for those seeking the island soul.”
Joseph Kennedy, author of The Tropical Frontier: America’s South Seas Colony