Monday, May 08, 2006

Tampa noir?

Is there such a thing as Florida noir fiction?

Well, not exactly, although several popular crime/mystery writers, including fellow former Tampa Tribune reporters Tim Dorsey and Ace Atkins, and the likes of Carl Hiaasen (see below), Randy Wayne White and Elmore Leonard use Florida as a backdrop. Heck, Ernest Hemingway's 1937 novel To Have and Have Not, is set in Key West.

Atkins' latest novel, White Shadow, just published, sounds like a twist of Tampa noir.

Here's how St. Petersburg Times reporter Colette Bancroft describes the set-up in her review: "The year is 1955. A once-powerful gangster lies murdered. Tough cops sweat their suspects, then soothe their nerves at smoky bars. Dangerous women take bloody revenge, and reporters scramble for scraps of truth."

Yep, this is a fictionalized -- but inspired by truth -- account of the life of Tampa mafia honcho Charlie Wall, who ruled Ybor City crime operations in the '20s and '30s and ended his life as the victim of a still-unsolved murder. It's the old-school dark underbelly of our country's Next Great City, an era and milieu also explored recently in Scott M. Deitche's Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld.

Atkins' novel, his first venture away from his blues-tinted Nick Travers series, sounds intriguing. Here's hoping I find the time to read it. With any luck, I'll get a chance to stop by Ace's book signing on Wednesday night at King Corona Cigars in Ybor -- yes, the heart of the area that serves as the novel's setting.

I wonder if Ace made it back to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. I recall bumping into him at the fest's book tent in 2001. At the time, I was also hanging out with longtime Tampa Trib staffer Mike Dunn, and my musician buddies Lenny Hollister (guitar/mandolin) and Joe Teston (saxophones).

Dorsey's latest, by the way, published on April 1, is The Big Bamboo, another twisted, bloody adventure starring goofball serial killer and Floridiana fanatic Serge Storms and his dimwitted perennially stoned sidekick, Coleman. It's the eighth novel -- how does he do it? -- from the author, who lives a hop and a jump or two away from my house in South Tampa. Of course, I only tend to bump into Tim at book signings and writers conferences; the guy stays on the road, promoting his brand.

Nice to see a couple of Tampa-connected guys notch success in the book-publishing world.


Doc said...

Have you seen the book _Crime Fiction and Film in the Sunshine State: Florida Noir_ by Steve Glassman and Maurice O'Sullivan?

I saw Tim Dorsey at a book signing Sunday afternoon. Seemed like a nice guy. You're right-- he does a good job of "promoting his brand"; he had books, hats, flasks. As Philip Marlowe said in Chandler's _The Big Sleep_, "I don’t like it. [. . .] But what the hell am I to do? [. . .] I’m selling what I have to sell to make a living."

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for the recommendation, and nope, I haven't seen that. I'll have to see if it's available at my local library.

Yeah, Tim is a nice guy, and very down to earth. He told me a long time ago that his plan of attack, in addition to cranking out some great yarns, was to get people ready and willing to go for anything associated with his name.

He makes a point of going around the country to many book signings/readings, shaking hands with fans and also getting to know the booksellers.

It all adds up.