Set in the 60's in one of the most beautiful and dangerous areas of the South Pacific, Devil-Devil launches an exciting new series.
Devil-Devil owes its inception to the last words of a dying man almost half a century ago. I was working as a Schools Broadcasting Officer in the remote and beautiful Solomon Islands in the South Pacific in the 1960s. For eight years I travelled hundreds of miles, usually by small boat and then on foot or by canoe, sleeping in the thatched single classrooms by night before going on to the next island and the next school. I was always greeted with the greatest friendship and hospitality by all the villagers I met. They would provide me with food, usually fish, taro and coconuts, and help me on the next stage of my journey through crocodile- and shark-infested waters and over the mountainous, thickly forested interiors.
On one occasion I visited a small village surrounded by palm trees in the Marovo Lagoon in the Western Solomons. I was told that an old man was dying and had heard that a white man had arrived; he wanted to see me urgently. I entered his small hut and the old man told his grieving relations to leave.
The old man spoke only one sentence: ‘Once I killed a white man!’ Presumably he had wanted to ease his conscience to the first visitor from the outside world that he had encountered. The old man said no more. He died several days later and was buried among the palm trees of his lagoon island. When I returned to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, I took up the matter with the authorities only to discover that there were no unsolved murders involving an expatriate on record.
Intrigued, I spent many months looking into the matter during my travels. Eventually I came across one story which could be linked to the old islander’s confession. In 1942, the Japanese had invaded Guadalcanal, one of the islands of the Solomons. Most expatriates, including government officials, left the island, and law and order broke down completely. One white prospector had been camping out on a mountain known as Gold Ridge. He had caught a fever and died, only a few days before the Japanese troops arrived in force on the mountain.
However, when I investigated this story, I discovered that there were persistent rumors that the sick man had been murdered by islanders, then been buried in an unmarked grave by villagers who were afraid the invading Japanese would punish them for harboring the enemy.
No one would ever confirm or deny this report, and the inhabitants of Gold Ridge would not even discuss what had happened. It may not even have happened at all. For many years afterwards I could not help wondering if the dying man had killed the gold miner, and why.