November 14, 2017

I’d never been much of a fan of fiction in general. Like, ever. Biographies, autobiographies, and history from the real world has always been pretty much my choice when it came to reading. Sure, I got the entire Aubrey / Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian for Christmas two years ago, but that was more like historical fiction based on fact. (It’s been nearly two years later and I’m still not all the way through them; I think I’ve still got three books remaining!) This past January, however, I found myself facing a 5 1/2-hour flight back to Phoenix from Boston with nothing to read and nothing but a couple of crappy Hudson News stores at Logan Airport’s Terminal C to choose from. I couldn’t find anything that caught my fancy, but did find a piece of fiction called Cuba Straits by Randy Wayne White, a later book in his Doc Ford series of fiction.

Of course, anyone who knows The Great White Shank knows one way to grab his interest is to mention anything even remotely having to do with Cuba. And the fact the book was based in southwest Florida, on Sanibel Island – well, on a long flight back from cold New England to warm Arizona it seemed like the perfect way to pass the time. It turned out to be a fun read, so much so that upon arriving home I picked up the very first book in the series, Sanibel Flats and found that as equally enjoyable. I was hooked. I’ve now read 22 of the 24 books in White’s series. They’re not all great, there have been a snoozer or two amongst them, but all in all they’ve been a great way to spend time while soaking in a bubble bath or sitting with a glass of pinot grigio under happy pineapple lights. Sure beats watching TV, that’s for sure. So who is White’s Doc Ford character? From bookseriesinorder.com:

Marion “Doc” Ford started his career working for a small covert government agency as an agent and assassin. He was known for years as one of the best at tracking targets and eliminating them once they were found. But, while this might have been a career that he excelled at, it was also something that he was not entirely comfortable doing. He eventually quit to start a better life for himself.

Doc was always in love with the ocean and this is where he looked for his second career. He became trained as a marine biologist and set himself up to work in the quiet and uneventful community of Sanibel, Florida, focusing on doing research projects on environmental conservationism. Doc lives on a home right on the water and is known for being friendly and willing to help out others in the community. He also has a history with many different women but can’t seem to hold one down for very long. Like James Bond, there seems to be a new one around for each of his adventures.

One of the overriding themes in each of White’s books are the escape lifestyles of the people in Ford’s little fictional Dinkins Bay Marina and the mix of crime and corruption in Florida whenever old slow money and new fast money mix. Interestingly, there’s a character inspired by one of my all-time favorite Red Sox players, Bill “Spaceman” Lee who is Ford’s closest companion. In Doc Ford’s southwest Florida, the state truly is, as Boston radio talk-show host Howie Carr is wont to quip, “a sunshiney state for shady people.” Having performed a rescue mission on behalf of my sister-in-law several years ago that took me into the seedier side of St. Petersburg, I can certainly vouch for that!

If you’re in the market for some decent fiction with an interesting cast of characters and plots where you actually learn something about Florida’s past in each novel, I recommend Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford series of adventures.

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