I am in Delray Beach, Florida after Bouchercon in St. Petersberg. Jan was with me in St. Pete and now she is driving from Achorage to Whittier to catch a boat and crawl into her berth then snooze until she arrives at her study sites, hopefully. She was on a red eye all the way across country last night from Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle to Anchorage. She is tough.
Here people are talking about the hurricane that is making shore with a hundred and fifty mile an hour winds up in the Carolinas tonight. Here in Florida the clouds are stacked up and the air is about eighty five degrees and 90% humidity. I’m gradually getting used to it. I’m beginning to feel like a character in a southern novel or a Tennessee Williams play. I walked about a mile to a breakfast place today and my shirt was sweat through by the time I got there, and the nice thing is no one seems to mind. I stopped by a news stand and bought a paper and a bag of Cuban cigars and enjoyed them on a bench by an abandoned building in this lovely holiday town: Cuban style architecture with bright colors, two story mostly with balconies and arches, pastel walls and sometimes bright red and yellow paint thrown in, Caribbean music and salsa music wafting through. Even in the grassy parks there is sand coming up through the grass. Palm trees, and grackles, minah bird looking black birds. Raucous, all of them. Beautiful black women with a lilt to their accent. Fans in the outside cafes keeping the air moving. Here I think, the frequent hurricanes are both a boon to the local economy and keep the buildings with fresh coats of paint.
I had a wonderful time at Bouchercon. The highpoint was meeting all the great Soho authors, and spending time with my publisher. I learned a tremendous amount. I suppose the most important thing I learned is that I have spent most of my time trying to subvert the traditional forms. I messed with the form of the traditional Private Investigator mystery. I always knew I was doing that. I never really cared about catching the bad guy. This is what frustrates many readers. I care about the moral code of the rest of the community that my detective is a part of, I care about where his feet are placed and what difference that makes to his character. Now, I am subverting the form of the thriller in my next book. I want to create tension but not by preventing the crime, but by putting all my characters in some kind of philosophical bind. How do they confront time? The time they have left in their life? This is the crisis that befalls us all. We will see…. I hope it is compelling. I hope its a fun and humorous ride. It’s just not normal. Time will tell. Why do I do it this way? It’s just more fun for me. It really is. I hope that’s okay, and the readers will find it fun too.
Jan and I had a blast in the Everglades. She is a wonder. We stayed in a great hotel upon the recommendation of Paul Oliver from Soho. He grew up in Florida and turned us onto Ivy’s in Everglade City. It’s a wide spot in the glades that looks as if has been scoured by numerous storms. The hotel is funky but clean and very environmentally aware. Good breakfast and great tours. We would have loved to have stayed a couple of days but Jan had a plane to catch and I have an event. I washed clothes while Jan walked to a café. I read a sequel to Gone With The Wind while my clothes washed in the laundry: warm and swampy, Scarlett, fighting for her pride after Mellie’s death and Mammie’s death and always scheaming to get Brett back, still strong and morally ambiguous, sexy but hard working and her fires banked down in service of some greater good. The great pot boiler heroine. It made me think about the other thing I keep learning at gatherings of crime writing. The great theme of crime writing now is the liberation of the reader from constraints of abusive power. Moral rectitude. Now… in our current political times there is almost a frantic quest, a radical edge to this hunt for justice. Look on the horizon for the radical thriller and righteously militant private eye, maybe a return to James M. Cain coal mining novels and Hammet’s The Glass Key where radical labor politics came more sharply into focus. Not to mention a two fisted lesbian feminist ass kicking PI to break into the NYT best seller list. (If one hasn’t already and I just missed her)
Jan found a great airboat tour about an hour down the road and the next morning we were skimming across the great living and breathing river that are the Everglades. We had a wonderful guide who would stop and explain the plant life and animals. He was raised in Florida to Cuban Parents. He had a degree in environmental science and he clearly loved his work. He chuckled or laughed out loud all the time. He was smart but not a show off. Confident I guess. He seemed to know the animals personally along his route. He showed concern for the plant life being sure not to tread to heavily anywhere but mindful to show us as much as he could. He showed us the native people’s practices and referred to them as natural parts of this place. He neither condescended to their wisdom or tried to make them magical. He showed genuine respect. We saw herons, and egrets, grackles, turtles, baby crocodiles, huge crickets, and marvelous flowers growing on the Lilly pads. We cooled off while running along the surface, and rested in the silence of the high sedges. Beautiful trip. Well worth doing. Jan found this outfitter on line and all the reviews were five star and were recommended by the Park Service.
I admit I am having far too much fun. I will be busy for a few days. Tonight I’m going to Murder On The Beach and will talk with David Gillstrap, who is a bestselling Thriller writer. That is tonight at seven. Then early tomorrow I will fly to Portland and tomorrow night I will read at Powell’s in Beaverton. Then on Friday, I read at Third Place Books in Ravenna, then it’s off to Book People in Moscow Idaho on Monday night. All of which will be great fun, and a chance to see family and friends in the Pacific Northwest.
But I’m afraid I will not feel like Brick in A Cat On Hot Tin Roof anymore.
Was that a Gecko,
on the hot, sandy concrete?
Somewhere waves roll in.