Friday, February 13, 2009

Book Review: Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey

Take two old high school buddies on a fishing vacation away from their jobs and families. Add a fun-loving serial killer with a drugged-up sidekick and a black widow tag-along, a right-wing talk show host turned detective, a crooked insurance company CEO, four vengeful drug smugglers, a real estate scam artist, a three-man unsuccessful biker gang, a development owner that swindles the elderly, and a sexual deviant into Barbie dolls and drowning. Now, throw a suitcase filled with ten million dollars in the middle, and watch the real fun begin.

Florida Roadkill is the first in a long series of novels featuring everyone's favorite obsessive/manic/psychopathic madman, Serge, and his lovable substance abusing sidekick, Coleman. It is also Tim Dorsey's first novel.

As debut novels go, Dorsey nails his audience right out of the gate. While his later books do become slightly more polished and streamlined, there is little in Florida Roadkill that would seem alien to anyone who started with his later works first. Dorsey's voice is consistent and unfaltering.

The key word is Madness. Dorsey's Florida is a land overflowing with criminals, lunatics, swindlers, scumbags, and cold-blooded killers. But he manages to make the this dangerous god-forsaken tourist trap a colorful and humorous at every turn. If you never thought you would find serial killers, drug dealers, real estate scam artists, and violent biker gangs funny, then Florida Roadkill will definitely surprise you. The Riders of Eternal Doom, for example, are the most memorable and laughable biker gang since the Black Widows first attempted to terrorize Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way but Loose.

Dorsey embraces the narrative format of jumping back and forth between seemingly unconnected people and events, all of which eventually tie in together, and in a very non-linear format. But he manages to weave these snippets into a chaotic tapestry that never confuses or discourages. He knows how to keep the readers interested, and exactly how far he can string them along before revealing the connections. In short, he's a storyteller, and a damn good one at that.

Humorous Floridian criminals are not an untapped resource, and Dorsey is well aware of this. He not only knows that he has others authors of such novels to contend with, he acknowledges it by including guest appearances by Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry. A humbling and tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat, it shows that Dorsey isn't afraid of the competition. He shouldn't be, either, as his writing never borders on imitation. He's carved out his own stomping ground in Florida, and rightfully declared it his own.

The newest book in the Serge series, Nuclear Jellyfish, has just been released. If you start now, you can make it through the series before the next installment hits the stands. I highly recommend you give it a shot.

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