From the Bookshelf to the Big Screen

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Naomi Hirahara poses for a photo with her latest work in the Mas Arai mystery series, “Sayonara Slam,” during an author reading and discussion at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena on May 2. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

Naomi Hirahara poses for a photo with her latest work in the Mas Arai mystery series, “Sayonara Slam,” during an author reading and discussion at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena on May 2. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Arts & Entertainment Editor

PASADENA — The crowds at author Naomi Hirahara’s promotional readings have grown steadily over the years, and May 2 was no exception at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.

Hirahara has gained a solidly loyal following for her Mas Arai mystery series, and she was on hand for a discussion of the latest episode, “Sayonara Slam.”

This event differed from those in the past because of an announcement that has her fans more than a bit excited: There are plans in the works for a Mas Arai movie.

Hirahara disclosed that the first of her mystery novels, “Summer of the Big Bachi,” has been optioned for development into an independent feature film.

Oliver Ike of First Pond is the producer, while Derek Shimoda, who was in attendance at the book launch, was introduced as the director. She said the screenplay is being written by Mark Tasaka.

“It won’t be an exact adaptation,” Hirahara said on her Facebook page. “It will take place in the 1960s, so Mas will only be in his mid-thirties and his wife will still be alive. But the principals are committed, talented and have a personal connection with both gardeners and atomic-bomb survivors.”

Hirahara also referenced the recent issues over the lack of diversity in film and television.

“I think that besides placing pressure on the movie studios to include Asian Americans in roles (especially Asian American ones!), we need to create our own projects that fully represent the full diversity of the American experience. This will be one such project,” she wrote.

Hirahara has become a bona fide star in the mystery world for her thrillers about the exploits of atomic bomb survivor-turned-gardener-turned-amateur sleuth Mas Arai.

In “Sayonara Slam,” the sixth work in the series, Arai finds himself at Dodger Stadium for a World Baseball Classic game between Japan and South Korea. Inevitably, there is a murder at the game, and Arai must peel back the layers of intrigue to solve the crime.

Hirahara will make an appearance in support of her online book “Loma Alta: Tales of Desegregation” next Saturday, May 14, at the Allendale Branch of the Pasadena Public Library, 1130 S. Marengo Ave. The free event begins at 2 p.m.

She will discuss and read from “Sayonara Slam” on Saturday, May 21, at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo, and on Tuesday, May 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Nibei Foundation, 11570 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. For more upcoming events, visit www.naomihirahara.com.

A Kickstarter campaign to raise production funds for the film, working under the title “The Big Bachi,” will get under way this summer. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/thebigbachi.

Naomi HIrahara with "Big Bachi" director Derek Shimoda.

Naomi HIrahara with “Big Bachi” director Derek Shimoda.

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