When my kids were little, reading a book on the beach or by the pool was tantalizing but totally impossible. Little guys are WAY too busy and move WAY too fast for Mom to be able to bury her nose safely in a novel. So if you’re headed to the beach with little kids, skip this post. Take a magazine instead, preferably something dull that you don’t really want to read. Better yet, take a pail and shovel. Join in the kids’ fun in the sure knowledge that your days reading by the pool WILL return (the little monsters do grow up fast, even if it doesn’t seem that way somedays).
But if you are now in the luxurious position of being able to slather on the sunscreen and escape into a fictional world without distractions (distractions sounds nicer than monsters, don’tcha think?), then it’s important to select a good beach book. Wonderful as it is, War and Peace does not qualify. Nothing that requires serious concentration qualifies. Hard cover books do not qualify for beach reading either and don’t talk to me about e-readers on the beach. It has to be a paperback. I don’t know why that is, but it just is. Something to do with sunscreen, maybe.
The best beach reading is an amusing page-turner that sucks you effortlessly into the story. It has heroes/heroines struggling to save the world against evil villains, while facing their own personal demons and finding true love. The heroine is sexy as hell and wears Louboutin shoes, maybe Jimmy Choos. The hero is sexy, too, but not conventionally handsome. The villain was abused as a child, which is sad but no excuse.
When you are in Florida, I also think your beach reading should ideally reflect your current setting. That narrows the selection some.
I’m happy to recommend anything by the wonderful native Floridian author Carl Hiaasen, who will introduce you to the unforgettable Clinton Tyree, the maybe mad ex-governor of Florida who exacts poetic justice on the assholes of the world. Even reading-phobic teenagers will enjoy Hiaasen’s books (one son survived Grade 11 English thanks to Carl). You’ll find Hiaasen’s STORMY WEATHER in the little library of books in the entertainment unit of 611. Of course, you can find more at Amazon or your local library if you enjoy that one. . Hiaasen has a new book out, Bad Monkey , which I’ll read next time we visit Siesta Key.
Other Florida authors whose stories are set in the sunshine state include Edna Buchanan, James Hall and Lawrence Shames. Edna is a Pulitzer prize winning ex-Miami Herald reporter who writes crime/PI stuff, many featuring Britt Montero, a female crime reporter in Miami. Write what you know, indeed. Or introduce yourself to Thorn, the hero of James Hall’s series in his first novel, Under Cover of Daylight. Or for a walk on the funnier side, Lawrence Shames has a series featuring a bumbling ex-paper-pusher becomes a PI for the tax deduction and quickly finds himself in a hot tub of trouble. If you can find Shames’ Florida Straits, Tropical Depression or Sunburn, they’re perfect for poolside.
From an older vintage, don’t miss the wonderful John D. MacDonald, who wrote TONS of crime novels set in Florida including the Travis McGee series that starts with The Deep Blue Good-bye.
Not sure if Ed McBain, Steven King and Dennis Lehane really qualify as Florida authors though they all lived or live in Florida at least part of the year, according to the author blurbs on their dustjackets. McBain has a series set in Sarasota and Lehane’s latest novel is set partly in Florida during the Prohibition Days. Can’t recall anything Steven King set in Florida, but he’s so wonderful, I’d take him to the beach any day of the week.
What are your recommendations for great beach reading? Let me know!