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September 22, 2011

Me and John D.

Elaine Viets                    Deep Blue Good by


Some 70 years before Travis McGee’s houseboat, the Busted Flush, dropped anchor at the Bahia Mar Marina, Florida already had a rich legacy of fictional detectives.

It still does. I’m proud to be part of it.

My mysteries are in a museum exhibition, along with John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard and a slew of other Florida mystery writers.

It’s called "Sun, Sand & Suspense: Mystery and Crime Fiction in Florida 1895-2011" and it’s at the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in Fort Lauderdale. The exhibition features 116 years of Florida crime fiction.

The first Florida mystery was probably "On the Suwanee River," by Opie Read. This 1895 novel has a surprisingly modern plot involving Florida real estate and a young woman falsely accused of a crime. Sunshine State mystery writers have been working variations on that plot ever since.

"Place is as important as character in Florida mysteries," Lillian Perricone said, "and Florida is quite a character." Ms. Perricone, Bienes Museum cataloger and reference librarian, curated the exhibition. She’s not afraid to show off some of Florida’s colorful crime fiction.

The titles range from literary to lurid, including "What a Body!" by Alan Green, a Dell paperback with a lightly-clad lady on the cover.

"Murder shouldn’t be fun," the jacket says, "but Sandra was luscious enough to eat, and Hugo’s ideas about what to do with her were rather different."

Nothing subtle about that mystery.

    What a body

Murder was prettily portrayed in pulp fiction. "Blood on Biscayne Bay" has a cover with the head of blond bombshell wearing full makeup and a Betty Grable hairdo. Not a hair is out of place. The mystery has a handy crime map on the back cover.

Blood on Biscayne Bay 

You’ll see John D. MacDonald’s mysteries, including his first Travis McGee novel, "The Deep Blue Good-by," and the poker hand that won McGee the Busted Flush.

Charles Willeford’s leisure-suited cop, Hoke Mosely, is there. Willeford had a knack for catchy titles, including "Kiss Your Ass Good-Bye" and "New Hope for the Dead."

Kiss your ass goodbye 
A boatload of books by your favorite modern Florida authors include Edna Buchanan’s reporter-detective Britt Montero; Lupe Solano, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera’s Cuban-American private eye, and Randy Wayne White’s marine biologist, Doc Ford. Our own Nancy Pickard has found a home in the Florida mystery world with her "Truth" series. If you haven’t read it, give yourself a treat.

Nancy Pickard
My Dead-End Job mysteries are there, too. So is a hand-edited manuscript of my first novel in the series, "Shop Till You Drop."

Nowadays, most publishing houses use computerized editing programs. A manuscript marked by real pencils has become a museum piece.


"Sun, Sand & Suspense" runs through Nov. 18 at the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in the Broward County Main Library, Fort Lauderdale.

Can’t make it to Florida? See the exhibition at www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgMmJ5gJAOY

Don’t miss the amazing covers at digilab.browardlibrary.org/sunsand/ 






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Conveniently, my daughter gets married in Miami on the 18th. Hmm.

Plotting now.

So cool that you are included in such an exhibit, Elaine! And Nancy!

They just don't do subtle like they used to. Of course, I refer to What a Body!

Elaine, what an honor for you....:) Congratulations!

I grew up reading Mike Shayne and Travis McGee, still have most of the books priced at .60. When the cover prices rose to .75, it was quite traumatic at the time.

How cool! I'll actually be in Florida the first week in November, but we're going to be near Tampa. Not sure I can convince the husband to go to the other side of the state. If only my M-I-L still lived in Boca!

This looks like such fun. Thanks for sharing with us, Elaine. I'm so glad you and Nancy are represented in the exhibition.

They don't do covers like they used to - do they?

Elaine, how wonderful! And that poster is beyond fabulous. It does--being a bit sappy here--remind you of the legacy, you know?

Very cool poster! Congratulations, it looks like a great exhibit.

Excellent - you guys are in good company!

They don't do covers like they used to. Those old potboiler covers would be too sexist to sell now. Guess we need a little distance from the good old days to enjoy them.

William, you don't want to know what those 75 cent paperbacks sell for now.

Looks like a really fun exhibit. How wonderful it is to have you and Nancy included! Too bad I won't be back in south FL until next July so I guess the video will have to suffice.

What great company you keep.

Way kewl ladies!

I do love those "pin-up" covers. I picked up a few original Perry Mason paperbacks at a used book sale, they had "those" kind of covers. Funny, none of that made it to the TV versions.

Congratulations, Elaine.
This is so great for you!!

I read all of the Travis McGee books many years ago and just loved them. I find the Florida surroundings so interesting - I guess because I have always lived in the North East. In fact, one of my favorite TV shows is CSI Miami - I think I watch it as much for the scenery as the plot! You are so lucky to be in a warm climate.

What a nice surprise to find today, Elaine! Thank you for showing my cover! I love that poster. Do you know if there are copies for sale?

Elaine, were you at the memorial "service" for John D. MacDonald when they christened the houseboat at Bahia Mar? (Is it still there? The houseboat?) If you were, little did we know we were both there and would meet over mysteries years later. I went with Trish MacGregor.

When my husband and I first sailed into Ft Lauderdale coming down the Intracoastal Waterway, I insisted on tying up at Bahia Mar. Imagine my surprise to find a boat slip dedicated to The Busted Flush, with a plaque honoring Travis McGee.

"... sets out on a wild journey through the wreckage of a woman's soul." Wow! Nothing like that comes out of the twelve-year olds who write cover copy these days.

Thanks for the head's up, Elaine. Will be sure to visit the exhibit when I'm down in FL for the NinC conference!

The Bahia Mar slip is in danger: The hotel badly needs updating and is in the middle of a development fight. The new developers want to put in a giant building that would block water view for residents and overwhelm A1A with traffic. The wrangle has been going on for months.
John D. would have loved the controversy.

I would imagine we're going to be hearing from Carl Hiassen about that Bahia Mar wrangle, no?

I love it that a museum is exhibiting BOOKS! This tickles me like you wouldn't believe. Now you can say that your art was showcased in a juried exhibition (or something equally pretentious). :-)

A "curated" exhibition, Lisa. I hope it doesn't mean that books are museum pieces.

--re your comment: "I hope it doesn't mean that books are museum pieces"
I wholeheartedly agree with you! When I was a telemarketer of books, I could understand why people might not want to buy books at a particular time, but the excuse I HATED was "I don't need no books; I got me a computer." (No comment!)
And Congratulations to you Elaine, and to you, too, Nancy! I wish I could get to Fort Lauderdale to see the exhibit. Along with others who commented on it, I love that poster. Any chance that copies are available for sale through the museum?

I am wondering if the Alan Green that you mentioned is the same Alan Green whose mysteries I purchased many years ago at either Salvation Army or Goodwill - I can't remember which - in Westport CT. They were hardcovers but the dustjackets had been removed. I thought it rather sad that the books, which were signed by the author himself, and were inscribed "To Mom and Dad", ended up in that kind of store. I bought all of them because I felt that I had to "rescue" them, although up until that point I'd never heard of him.

Jeez, Deb, I was a telemarketer, too. I sold septic tank cleaner.
About Alan Green. There may be more of his books in this display - or at least the dates on "What a Body!" that could help you.digilab.browardlibrary.org/sunsand/

Maybe his Mom and Dad had died and someone cleared out their estate.

Yeah, Elaine, I think that Alan Green's books were probably included in his mom's and dad's estate. Being an overly sentimental person (although I don't often own up to it!), I got kind of weepy when I saw the inscriptions in the books. I'm sure that all his other relatives also had their own copies. I'm going to check out that link that you mentioned.

I forgot to thank you earlier for giving me some authors to check out! (I will probably be crushed to death by a mountain of books!)

You know what's embarrassing, Deb? When you sign a book to "My Good Friend X -- I'll never forget your help" or something equally mushy, and it winds up in a resale shop. I've found a few of those.
Always glad to help readers find new writers.

What an interesting exhibit -- the fishing cover reinforces my unease at fishing. Libraries have come so far from the quiet hush of yesteryear.
I wonder if they'll include some of Blaize Clement's cat-sitter mysteries. I enjoy them, and the reference to Dixie's brother-in-love, and I'm glad her son John will continue the series.

Love the poster! Wow! Congratulations to you and Nancy!

I'm glad Blaize's series will continue, too, Mary. She was quite a woman.

Curated just means it's professionally organised nd managed - selected, displayed, taken care of . . . all that. It's a huge deal. But you were probably joking, nd my asperginess is showing again?

No, I was serious, Reine. It was curated by Lillian Perricone, the rare book expert.

Friends of mine have an extensive collection of signed MacDonald books.

Oh how I covet.

I love the Travis McGee series. Hmm. I'm going off the rock next weekend for the FRW meeting. Maybe I can squeeze in a side trip to the museum!

Very impressive. I used to have a student job identifying items for repatriation at the Peabody Museum. Curating a special exhibit was recognition of expertise (nothing I could ever aspire to, certainly). Exhibits that bring the past forward with displays of the current attract many visitors to museums. The motorcycle exhibit at the Gugenheim was incredibly popular and attracted many new attendees and probably sponsors. Museums are very creative now in their mission to educate and facilitate community. They must appeal to real people.

WHAT A BODY! was Green's first novel and it won an Edgar for Best First Novel. As far as I know, Green only wrote one othermystery under his own name, the equally amusing THEY DIED LAUGHING (1952). He wrote four earlier books in collaboration (one with his wife and three with Julian Paul Brodie) under joint pen names. He published a final novel under his own name in 1974 and died the following year.

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