The Florida Hero

THE FLORIDA HERO

We do things differently here in Florida. We live in the shadow of
the Big Mouse, we can’t get our ballots counted properly and we have our own brand of fictional hero. Reading Florida-based crime fiction, it’s interesting how many of the heroes are seriously maladjusted or even insane. Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford is a scientist hiding a dark past, doing shady things for the government. James W. Hall’s hero Thorn is an anti-social hermit who becomes more physically dysfunctional with each tale. Thorn is just about the only fictional hero I can think of who carries the scars of past injury from one tale to another. One of the few to who also shows the wear and tear of his outsider lifestyle is Skink, the ex-governor of Florida turned eco-terrorist, who keeps popping up in Carl Hiassen’s books. Skink has lost an eye and at least part of his mind. He is the swamp-dwelling yin to the urban yang of Serge Storms, the certifiably insane hero of Tim Dorsey’s novels. When Serge is off his meds, he’s a hyperactive spree killer and all around nice guy. Like I said, we do things differently here in Florida.

We met Serge in Dorsey’s first novel, Florida Road Kill. We learned
then that Serg is a loyal friend, brilliant repository of Florida lore and quite insane when he’s off his meds. Dorsey leaves his readers breathless trying to keep up with Serg’s raging road trips. Serge always makes stopping at a decaying roadside attraction or checking out a historic landmark take precedence over whatever criminal mischief he’s up to. While Storms is a hugely inventive serial killer, his victims are always deserving of their fate. At several points along the way, he’s actually saved people from certain death. Over the course of Dorsey’s first three novels, Serge has been refined from a gentleman thug to a psychopath operating at the highest levels imaginable. By the end of Orange Crush, Serge had almost become too respectable. Maybe that’s why Dorsey chose to take a step back with his new novel, Triggersfish Twist, which is set before the events in Florida Road Kill.

Triggerfish Twist is the most sedentary of Dorsey’s adventures. The events unfold in and around Tampa, particularly the neighborhoods around Ybor City and South Tampa. Several key scenes take place at a gas station near my apartment. The action kicks off with a good family man named Jim Davenport being transferred to Florida by the consulting firm he works for. Jim likes his job because he actually makes things better at the companies he evaluates. Jim gets himself into a new mortgage and another set of car payments and then the bad things start. A larger consulting firm buys out Jim’s company. His job is no longer about making things better, it’s about
justifying whatever CEOs want to do. Thing begin to spiral out of control when Jim loses his job and ends up on graveyard shift at Wal-Mart.

Jim must also contend with an amoral used car dealer, a carjacking, and a sleazy real estate speculator who wants his house. To encourage him to sell, the speculator rents nearby properties to USF students, Rastafarian computer programmers, bikers and Serg Storms.

Jim’s stoic perseverance is an inspiration to his neighbor, Serge Storms. Serge is living down the block in a rented house with his partner in crime, the perpetually stoned Coleman, and Sharon the coke whore. Part of Triggerfish Twist revolves around Serge’s attempts to mold his dysfunctional family unit to fit with his new role model, Jim Davenport.

The story builds to a climactic 4th of July shootout. Along the way, we encounter a substitute teacher driven to madness, a floating pawn shop on Crack Street, the bingo playing, early bird special-loving E-Team, a fake millionaire and more than one bungled kidnapping. While all this madness builds to a head, the eternal battle between good and evil plays as homeless men believing themselves to be Christ and the Anti-Christ fight it out on the streets of Tampa. The scary thing is, most of the really bizarre events in his books are merely exaggerations of real events. It makes me wonder if that slightly hyper-looking guy buying the extra large coffee at the 7-11 might actually be Serge Storms.

UPDATE:

The last edition of Target or Flag focused on filmaker and author Michael Moore. Michael made the news recently when he won the Special 55th Anniversary Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The film honored is called “Bowling for Columbine.” Hopefully, we’ll be able to see this in the local multiplex later this year.

Michael didn’t announce plans to run for President in 2004, but INK19 reader Michelle Walsh thinks he should too. Michelle started an online petition drive to convince Michael to throw his Tigers ballcap into the race. If you think it would be fun to have Michael Moore campaigning in the next Presidential election, sign the petition at www.PetitionOnline.com/mmoore/petition.html.

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