As I write this, snow is predicted for tonight. Temperatures have been in the teens and below but hovering during the day in the 20s. I walk my dog outside in this weather. I’m ready for Florida.
I once lived on a boat, sailed into Fort Lauderdale and stayed there for 15 years. I didn’t live at the Bahia Mar Marina like John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, but rather up the north fork of Fort Lauderdale’s New River. That’s when I began a love affair with books, especially mysteries, set in Florida.
What is more raucous and hilarious than a mystery by Carl Hiaasen. His characters, like the roadkill-eating ex-governor, are weird, but no weirder than many of the people I actually met in South Florida. The settings, whether Miami , the Keys, or the Everglades, reek of South Florida craziness. Then he throws in a man-eating alligator or a bass tournament. He nails South Florida. His books make me homesick.
Once in a while, I pick up one of my favorite books of short stories, the Crunch & Des fishing tales from the 30s and 40s. Written by Philip Wylie, another Miami author, they reflect an old Miami that no longer exists. Crunch is a charter boat captain and Des is his first mate. The stories reflect the ups and downs of sports fishing in enjoyable stories originally published in the Saturday Evening Post.
Lately, I’ve come across Judith McNaught and just read her suspenseful mystery, Night Whispers. The story begins in a small Florida community where Sloan Reynolds is a police officer in a small Florida town. Her father, a cold, heartless man, left her to grow up in poverty with her mother while he took her sister with him to San Francisco and rejoins his wealthy family.
She receives a sudden invitation to visit her father and sister in Palm Beach. They are total strangers to Sloan and have never tried to contact her. Sloan refuses but when an FBI agent tells her that her father and his associates are suspected of fraud, conspiracy, and murder, Sloan agrees to accept her father’s invitation to spy on him for the FBI while hiding her true profession.
Against her own instincts, she becomes powerfully attracted to Noah Maitland, a wealthy corporate player who lives near her father’s home. As she becomes enmeshed in the glamorous social world of Palm Beach, a shocking murder occurs. Now Sloan must maneuver through a maze of deceit and power to decipher the truth about her family and her lover.
If you prefer the west coast of Florida, there’s Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford mysteries set on Sanibel Island. Or you can go to Amazon and search for Florida mysteries and thrillers. You’ll find a slew of them there. I’m a mystery reader. That’s why you don’t find Hemingway or Marjorie Rawlings or the many other fine authors who lived in Florida mentioned here.