Last evening, we enjoyed a delightful dinner with co-workers and friends. The surprise of the evening was talk about Florida authors.
In “the olden days,” the foremost Florida novelist was John D. MacDonald. He lived in Sarasota and completed many of his titles while living on a sailboat. It was there he invented his celebrated character, Travis McGee.
MacDonald was a prolific writer of crime stories and mysteries. His signature touch on his novels was his inclusion of a color in the title. In chronological order, the first four titles with which he began his Travis McGee series included The Deep Blue Good-by, Nightmare in Pink , A Purple Place for Dying, and Quick Red Fox.
MacDonald has a loyal following of modern-day writers who give him credit for starting them on the path of writing novels set in or about Florida. Many acknowledge MacDonald as being the first to write about the real Florida.
One of the modern writers of Florida includes Randy Wayne White. He developed a character named Doc Ford. Marion “Doc” Ford is a legitimate marine biologist who happens to be a retired National Security Agency operative. Occasionally, Doc must revert to his NSA skills to handle “a situation.” White balances the Ford character with that of Ford’s best friend, Tomlinson, a hippie leftover who lives aboard his sailboat, No Mas.
White, who worked as a fishing guide based out of Sanibel Island for 13 years, writes plausible spy stories combined with real-life Florida fishing information. His Doc Ford series has now reached 18 in number. Some of the first titles in the series include Sanibel Flats, Sanibel Flats , Captiva, and North of Havana.
Peter Matthiessen is another writer–expert in the Everglades and South Florida. Killing Mister Watson is a fictional tale based in history that tells of the start of sugar industry in Florida, as well as depicting rural life in the early part of the 1900s. Well researched and set in the area between Miami and Naples, Matthiessen highlights the frailty of the Everglades ecosystem.
Carl Hiaassen is another writer perpetually associated with Florida. He served as a reporter for the Miami Herald and is a graduate of the University of Florida. Born and raised in Florida, he remains a lifelong resident of the Sunshine State with his family.
He is singularly responsible for the start of the irreverent titles written about the land of Florida. His novels include titles such as Tourist Season, Skin Tight, Double Whammy, and the non-fiction Team Rodent. His children’s book, Hoot, won the Newbery Honor and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for two years.
Another, very irreverent author which can only be described as the consummate expert on all things Floridian is Tim Dorsey. Dorsey is a former Tampa Tribune reporter who graduated from Auburn. He resigned from the Tribune in 1999 to turn his creative efforts full time to novel writing with his first book, Florida Roadkill.
Florida Roadkill introduced his newly created character, Serge A. Storms to the public, along with Serge’s compatriot, Coleman. Dorsey weaves Florida history, fact, and trivia into his stories in a highly entertaining and humorous way. Dorsey followed up Florida Roadkill with Hammerhead Ranch Motel, Orange Crush, and Triggerfish Twist.
It is now the start of the summer season in the land Ponce de Leon first called La Florida, for the Land of Flowers. For those of us who have lived here a while, it means it is the start of the summer reading season. Enjoy one of the titles above.
Guaranteed to make you fall in love with Florida…
© 2011 J. Clark