Professors O’Sullivan (Rollins College) and Glassman (Embry-Riddle Univ.), co-editors of Crime Fiction and Film in the Sunshine State (1998), make a compelling case for ranking Florida right up there behind New York and California as America’s leading fictional crime venue. In a lengthy, comprehensive introduction, they trace the state’s dalliance with crime fiction from the pulp magazines of the ’30s through the hard-edged, “bizarrely dark comedy” of contemporaries Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen. The collection itself features five excerpts from books by Carroll John Daly (Race Williams tackles the sickly-sweet smell of chloroform), John Latimer (a boozy trio schmoozes in a Miami bar), Brett Halliday (Mike Shayne’s first appearance as Florida’s first series detective), John D. MacDonald (real-estate shenanigans in the days before Travis McGee), and Stephen Ransome (a pair of brothers and wayward banking). The opening chapters of a discarded novel by the late Charles Willeford take a satirical swipe at Survivor-esque entertainment, and a complete novel by Don Tracy examines southern racism with a tale culled from a real-life episode. Only one woman, Mary Roberts Rinehart, makes the grade (writing about tarpon fishing, nabobs, and the military). The centerpiece here, “A Trip to Czardis,” by the little-remembered Edwin Granberry, presents an emotionally lacerating last visit of two sons with their father.
Vintage noir, with lowlifes and heroes sweating out their fates under the palmettos.