Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Tribute to writer Randy Wayne White

Abandoned fish house.
I just finished reading Randy Wayne White's latest novel, Night Moves, twentieth in his Doc Ford series. I think it is his best. What is the plot of this one? I am writing a short tribute, not a bloody book review. But it includes layered plots and lots of the critical elements like assassins, drug dealers, a voodoo priest, adulterous spouses and plenty of bad things happening to characters good and bad. And, as with all novels by RWW, it is grounded in history and legend.

I first read RWW when he was still writing for Outside magazine in the 1980s. I enjoyed the authentic voice as he wrote from the perspective of a man who spent a lot of time outdoors; he was a fishing guide, thus a natural naturalist with respect for the wild. It was fitting that I discovered him as a novelist during our first voyage on Wild Haggis. I stumbled across one of his novels, not his best I now know, then backtracked to start at the beginning. Not essential, but a sensible way to read his work.

In the tradition of John D. MacDonald with his Travis McGee series, RWW writes what I consider smart suspense that is grounded in reality, avoids contrived solutions to challenges and portrays the grit of daily life with honest characters that are flawed and as human as the people we all know. RWW's stories are set mostly along the west coast of Florida, the islands and mangrove swamps near Sanibel Island. Doc Ford, RWW's protagonist, is a covert operative for the NSA and lives in an old stilt house that is half laboratory and half living quarters. His hippy guru sidekick, Tomlinson, lives on a sailboat in the bay. 

Only a glove.

The nearby marina is populated with a lively and colorful roster that seasons all of Doc's adventures. In them, I see similarities (of type, not personality) to our own local cadre. Past lives here include: CIA, nuclear submarines, big city police, prison (caught with an airplane carrying almost five tons of marijuana many years ago), Coast Guard (duty near the Arctic Circle), a sculptor, a potter and a smattering of more traditional careers such as engineering, construction, software and clerical (pastor). As Doc Ford does with his marina friends, we gather together from time to time for food and drink and to tell stories. There is never a shortage of good stories.

Try RWW if you like  saltwater and good tales well told. I cannot read enough of his work.


Sunken boat.


  1. I think you introduced me to RWW and I've been reading him for years now. Thank you. I'll have to find the latest. Very creepy pic of the glove!

  2. You know what's cool about his books, is that he refers to very real people in the state fishery research institute where I used to work.


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