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Author: Randy Wayne White

If you like mysteries that are more of the invesigative sort without any really possibility of "solving" them, AND you like local color, this is the kind of book for you. White does for Southwest Florida what McDoncald did in the 60s, 70s, and 80s for Fort Lauderdale. I don't know if John D. MacDonald's books are still in print, but I suspect that if they are they will breathe a certain air of nostalgia that might be a bit musty. Travis McGee was a product of his time with all the "love child" of the sixties certainty of "sexual healing." White's detective is mercifully bereft of such illusions and has grown up with the idea of an endless bounty of sexual possibilities. Fortunately, while this current is understood it isn't tremendously emphasized and one can finish the book relatively unscathed by modern sexual morality.

Our hero and investigator, Doc Ford, runs a marine biological supply company out of his two story tin shack built on a whart out in a bay of Sanibel Island. For those who don't know, Sanibel and Captiva comprise and odd east-west oriented barrier island off the south-west coast of Florida. We tend to hear a great deal about the Southeast part of Florida (Miami and Ft. Lauderdale) but the Southwest coast mercifully remains a bastion of old Florida. Attitudes there are changing gradually and with the increase in the size and complexity of Naples, Fort Meyers, and other cities, we can expect the swamp-ridden Southwest to join the Southeast in what passes for fame in this world. For the moment, however, we have the southwest preserved in this book. You will meet Florida Crackers--in some cases not the most pleasant of personalities, and other people who inhabit the southwest coast. In addition, by the time you are through, you'll have a pretty fair understanding of a small section of the Florida coastline.

The story? Well now, that's really hard to say without saying everything. Let's leave it with a bomb goes off near the boats of a group of Sanibel Island Fishermen. It is thought to be part of an endless roiling controversy about net fishing that is threatening to destroy a large portion of the fishing population of the region. As it is so close to home Doc Ford helps with the investigation.

The book jogs along nicely and doesn't introduce too much nonsense to hurt your brain. You will learn some things about the schooling habits of tarpon and other tidbits of the natural life of Florida--but don't expect either great literature or anything that will weigh you down too much.

With this start I plan to read about three other White books before my vacation to Southwest Florida. He has books titled Sanibel Flats (again set on Sanibel), Ten Thousand Islands referring to an area south of Naples that consists of a estuarine enviroment with large stands of salt tolerant mangrove that make up tiny islands, and Everglades (don't suppose that reference needs any clarification.) Anyway, if the quality continues White may ascend to a place just below James Lee Burke in my estimation of modern mystery writers.


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I picked up Sanibel Flats over the weekend. Plan to read it on the beach in South Carolina - not Florida, but close enough for a midwesterner.


On your recommendation, I too, picked up a copy of Sanibel Flats over the weekend. I was interested because that is the first book in his Doc Ford series. Haven't gotten too far yet, but will let you know how it goes.


I read "Ten Thousand Islands" a few years ago after hearing Randy White on the radio... it's a very interesting story based loosely on a real event (the finding of a golden amulet in the shell pyramids of the original natives in the area). Excellent read. Thanks for the tip on his new books.

Your comment on John D. MacDonald caught my attention. It's been a few years since I read a Travis McGee, but I'm confident it won't be musty when I get around to picking up one again. Travis' loose morals were part of his charm, and MacDonald was a master -- writing like that doesn't age.

Just my 2 cents.

Dear Frank,

You know, I hope you're right. The non McGee things hold up very, very well indeed. Cape Fear is still magnificent.

And I'm pleased to say that I was wrong about him being out of print (If I even said it). Went to the bookstore this weekend that there was nearly the complete series--that's good news because McGee is for me an old friend as well.

And, when I get back to them, I will be very happy to discover myself wrong in my prediction.

Thanks for writing.



I "second" the recommendation.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 10, 2005 7:09 AM.

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