Howard Kim has been a jack-of-many trades — a school teacher, newspaper reporter, social worker, musician, common laborer — until late in life, when he came to fiction writing.
Raised in a scruffy working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, he attended the fabled High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan for a while till he was inauspiciously asked to leave when the faculty discovered he had no musical talent. “I was an accomplished listener but a lousy performer,” he says. (He did fill a seat in English class for one semester next to violin prodigy Pinchas Zukerman.)
A stint in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War brought Kim to Los Angeles where he eventually married and launched into his myriad adventures in the working world. “I was never sure what I was looking for back then.”
After retiring from the classroom in 2018, Kim published his first novel Paradiseland the following year. The book, written on and off for more than two decades, is an honest look at the grim, problem-plagued world of public education.
“Teaching left me with an abiding respect for the men and women who bravely get up each morning and try against all odds to better the lives of many disadvantaged kids.”
Hotel Street, Kim’s second novel, is a detective tale inspired by the history of Honolulu’s once-notorious Chinatown and its red-light district.
“I realized that stories about World War II in Hawaii centered almost exclusively on the events leading up to Pearl Harbor. ‘From Here to Eternity’ always comes to mind. But there was a wholly different life lived by the civilian population during the war,” he notes. “I wanted to delve into that side of it with a good, old-fashioned crime noir.”
For Kim, writing has yielded the greatest professional satisfaction of his life. “I’ve never strayed too far from pen and paper, no matter where I’ve been or what I’ve done.”
Today, he lives with his wife Maria and their pup Maxie, a Schipperke-Pomeranian mix (he’s actually eight years old but looks like a pup).
Kim’s currently at work on a third novel, “Lincoln Heights,” a crime noir set during the terror-filled days of the Hillside Strangler in Los Angeles.
Looking back on his relatively late arrival to fiction writing, Kim can’t help but reflect. “It’s been said that ‘the two most important days in a person’s life is the day you’re born and the day you discover why.’ Life in its totality is a process of self-discovery. Every step ultimately leads you to self-awareness.
“For me, that self-awareness came relatively late. But it did come after all, and I can only say with joyful satisfaction, it’s been a fruitful journey.”