The Pope of Palm Beach

For almost 20 years, former Tampa Tribune reporter Tim Dorsey (Coconut Cowboy) has been popping out comic crime novels at the rate of about one a year. They star the obsessive, morally indignant Serge Storms and his wingman, Coleman, with his "marijuana tar pit of [a] brainpan." Together they drive hoopties across the backroads and mangroves of the Sunshine State, searching out historical curiosities and wreaking vengeance on scoundrels with creative Rube Goldberg violence. In The Pope of Palm Beach, Dorsey reins in the craziness a bit as the two buddies take their 1969 seafoam-green Chevy Nova on a literary tour of South Florida--from Hemingway and McGuane's Keys to Willeford and Leonard's Riviera Beach. The latter is the place where Coleman and Serge grew up in the 1960s, and strip mall businesses now "conducted an industry of going out of business."

Interjected between Serge and Coleman's childhoods and their literary pilgrimage are righteous punishments of a Big Pharma price abuser, an unlicensed toxic waste dumper and drunken youngsters messing with loggerhead turtles. At the heart of the novel is the primo longboard surfer Darby Pope, loved by all and a mentor to the young surfer Kenny. With Darby's encouragement, Kenny becomes an aspiring fiction writer. In the subplot of Kenny's eventual writing success, Dorsey tones down his usual shenanigans to share his thoughts on the craft of writing: read good writing--a lot of it--write every day and rewrite endlessly. Darby critiques Kenny's first-draft novel: "It's bad.... I feel like I'm reading writing. Just have a conversation with the reader." There's no better place for a good conversation than a Tim Dorsey novel. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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