FLORIDA ROADKILL

9 March 2010

[Picture of Tim Dorsey's Florida Roadkill book cover, 1999]A client of mine loaned me a Tim Dorsey novel – “Florida Roadkill“, and I read it in just a few days; it was a ripping yarn indeed.

It all began when I spotted him carrying a copy of a Dashiel Hammet novel, and talk ranged from there, through Raymond Chandler to Robert Altman. Then he handed me “Florida Roadkill”.

One thing I will say about this book is that you get educated.  By the end of it you know a considerable amount more about The Sunshine State than you did when you started.  It references Miami Vice, Humphrey Bogart movies, Baseball, American Football, NASA space launches, Hemingway, the Everglades and loads more.

Doresey’s 1999 debut starts with the 1997 World series baseball, and works backwards in chunks, so the various stories unfold and intertwine in reverse.

You learn weird things too — for example, the novel mentions a 17 year old girl sucking on a dummy tit because ecstasy made her grind her teeth.  Now I have seen teenagers using dummy tits, and just thought they were being teenagery, now I know better!

The first murder was by a Rube Goldberg contraption, a knock-up that we Brits would probably call Heath Robinson. It depended upon the vibration of a rocket launch.

There was also a murder by  Shrink-fit denims in a bathtub, an ottoman-surfing accident, inhaling tyre inflation and filler, drinking crop spray, and being filled with alcohol using a funnel inserted in the victim’s rectum.

The humour is black. Obviously.  It has a couple of central characters that resemble Lenny and George from Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”: the simple Seymour Coleman with his chubby, too-big head and small sunken eyes, and the tall thin, grey haired Serge A. Storms.

Another strand has Black Irish Sean Breen, (wife Karen and two kids — Christopher, 4, and Erin at 3 months) and school chum and fellow wrestling fan David Klein.  These two plan annual, unsuccessful fishing trips in Breen’s skiff, and got caught up in the story line when ill-gotten gains are stashed in their car.

There is a strong world-weary cynical streak throughout the novel, from the corruption and manipulation of the life assurance company, the crop spraying, the lies of Blaine Crease, television reporter and “Holy Moly” Mo Grenadine Radio shock radio jock, and the double-crossing of the developer and of Sharon, to the property developer aiming at the old and infirm.  There is also a sadness that Florida’s landmarks are uncared-for, not well enough known, not understood, and that sexual harassment is alive and kicking in the police force.

There is black humour and irony in abundance, from the Running of the Hemmingways to The ” Three Latin men” turning out to be Russian Mafia!

Dorsey packs a lot into the page, and the book whips by at a fair pace.  There are few moments of calm, and if there was one criticism I would make, it would be that there are a lot of characters to keep track of, and right from the outset.  This is therefore not a book to read in bits and bobs over a long period of time!

Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to move onto his next book, “Triggerfish Twist” (also loaned to me by my client — thanks Dave).

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2 Responses to “FLORIDA ROADKILL”

  1. Colin Says:

    Dave, if you like Dorsey, you will love John D. MacDonald’s Florida set crime novels. MacDonald started the Florida Crime genre that Dorsey, Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen have continued.

    Stephen King wrote that John D. MacDonald’s “The End of The Night” ranked alongside “Death of a salesman” and “An American Tragedy” as one of the great novels of the 20th Century.

    MacDonald’s “The Executioners” because the movie “Cape Fear”, you must check him out!

    • davedevine Says:

      Thanks Colin! I liked the Cape Fear movies, and if Stephen King rates him than who am I to disagree. I will try to get “The End of The Night” at the end of the day, and I’ll get back to you.
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