CLOSE

8 Crime Fiction Characters From Florida

When someone thinks noir or hardboiled fiction, cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles typically come to mind immediately. But great crime stories aren’t limited to those locales. In fact, there’s a plethora of great pulp fiction in the Sunshine State. From PIs to nosy journalists, Florida’s a hotbed of not only killer crime stories, but really compelling protagonists. Maybe I’m biased, being a Miami native and the author of my own South Florida crime series. But who isn’t? Here’s a list of tropical true detective beach reads that’ll get you through the spring, summer, and beyond.

1. John D. MacDonald’s "Travis McGee"

Neither a cop nor a PI, Travis McGee makes a living recovering lost stuff for clients for a sizable fee. McGee, a Florida Keys native, lives on The Busted Flush, a boat he won in a poker game and that he keeps docked in a Fort Lauderdale marina. The somewhat jaded McGee isn’t a young buck, but he’s no slouch either. An ex-military man with t’ai chi martial arts skills and a sharp mind, the self-proclaimed “salvage consultant” stars in 21 novels and is considered by many to be the first of the great Florida crime novel heroes.

The first book in the Travis McGee series is 1964’s The Deep Blue Good-by.

2. James W. Hall’s "Thorn"

James W. Hall, author of 19 novels, winner of the Edgar and Shamus Awards, and founder of Florida International University’s highly-regarded creative writing program, is probably best known for his Thorn novels, which star the Florida Keys-based private detective with no first name. Hall’s haunted protagonist stars in 14 exotic adventures—from the must-read Under Cover of Daylight, which features Thorn hunting down the murderer of his foster mother to the most recent, The Big Finish—that explore every dark and sunlit corner of the detective’s Key Largo home and beyond. The series owes a lot to the McGee books while also covering new ground, and the off-the-grid Thorn makes for an unforgettable hero.

3. Charles Willeford’s "Hoke Moseley"

Broke, depressed, and perpetually down on his luck: that’s a quick and easy way to describe Hoke Moseley, the rule-breaking Miami cop who stars in Charles Willeford’s masterful, unsentimental series of four novels that kick off with the classic Miami Blues. Willeford has a daunting and acclaimed body of work, but many point to his Moseley books as some of his best output, which showcase the deadly, strange, and surprising characters that litter the Miami map.

4. Edna Buchanan’s "Britt Montero"

Edna Buchanan is a legendary Miami journalist who spent decades on the crime beat for The Miami Herald, culminating in the true crime classic The Corpse Had A Familiar Face. Her fiction packs as much punch as her reportage, especially the series that makes up the bulk of her novels, starring Miami reporter Britt Montero. Like the writer who created her, Montero lives and breathes her beat—fueled by an insatiable curiosity that puts her in precarious situations all over Miami. Police corruption, serial killers, hurricanes, and crimes of passion are just some of the things that Montero faces off against in her quest to get to the bottom of the story. Her diligence and nose for the truth make her adventures impossible to put down.

The first book in the Britt Montero series is 1992’s Contents Under Pressure.

5. Vicki Hendricks’s "Sherry Parlay"

Oh, Sherry Parlay. What more can be said about Vicki Hendricks’s neo-noir classic, Miami Purity? No novel expresses the sweat-soaked, tense, and sultry vibe of the city more than this one, and it owes a lot of its acclaim and success to Parlay—an on-the-run stripper-turned-laundry worker. An inverted, feminist take on James M. Cain’s pulp classic The Postman Always Rings Twice, Miami Purity sees Parlay trying to make the best of her life after a series of bad turns, only to stumble into a dangerous relationship at her new job. Sexy, smart, sharp-tongued, and unfiltered, Parlay stands out as one of the most memorable characters in modern crime fiction.

6. Elmore Leonard’s "Jackie Burke"

Crime fiction fans know that before Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, there was Jackie Burke. Unlike the movie adaptation, the book, Rum Punch, takes place in West Palm Beach, Florida—but the character of Burke remains as (if not more) vibrant and savvy as Pam Grier’s stellar screen turn. Burke is a money-smuggling flight attendant who finds herself cornered on all sides—by her bosses, the FBI, and a local bail bondsman. Burke uses her smarts and double-cross skills to survive, and in typical Elmore Leonard style, it’s an absolute joy to read.

Jackie Burke appeared in 1992’s Rum Punch.

7. Les Standiford’s "John Deal"

John Deal doesn’t want any trouble. But for whatever reason, it seems to find him. A reluctant detective, Les Standiford’s series star is actually a Miami building contractor by day, but finds himself ensnared by the city’s tentacles on a regular basis. Whether it’s murder, backroom deals, or a political kidnapping, Deal has done it all in his eight-book series, and his unforgettable adventures prove to be fast-paced and engaging.

The first book in the John Deal series is 2002’s Done Deal.

8. Carolina Garcia-Aguilera’s "Lupe Solano"

Private eye Lupe Solano is a self-proclaimed “Cuban-American princess” from a wealthy and prominent Miami family. But don’t let the princess tag fool you—Solano is a tough investigator who is unafraid to wander the seedier side of Miami. The Solano mysteries not only give readers an educational crash course in Miami and Cuban culture, but also present the work of Solano from an informed perspective, as Carolina Garcia-Aguilera is a private eye herself. Gritty, spicy, sexy, and devoted to her friends and family, Solano thrives as a character and gives readers a tour of the vivid Miami landscape in a way only Garcia-Aguilera can describe.

The first book in the Lupe Solano series is 1996’s Bloody Waters.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
fun
Build Your Own Harry Potter Characters With LEGO's New BrickHeadz Set

Harry Potter is looking pretty square these days. In a testament to the enduring appeal of the boy—and the franchise—who lived, LEGO has launched a line of Harry Potter BrickHeadz.

The gang’s all here in this latest collection, which was recently revealed during the toymaker’s Fall 2018 preview in New York City. Other highlights of that show included LEGO renderings of characters from Star Wars, Incredibles 2, and several Disney films, according to Inside The Magic.

The Harry Potter BrickHeadz collection will be released in July and includes figurines of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and even Hedwig. Some will be sold individually, while others come as a set.

A Ron Weasley figurine
LEGO

A Hermione figurine
LEGO

A Dumbledore figurine
LEGO

Harry Potter fans can also look forward to a four-story, 878-piece LEGO model of the Hogwarts Great Hall, which will be available for purchase August 1. Sets depicting the Whomping Willow, Hogwarts Express, and a quidditch match will hit shelves that same day.

[h/t Inside The Magic]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
gutenberg.org
arrow
literature
10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
gutenberg.org
gutenberg.org

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios