Florida’s Randy Wayne White | News, Sports, Jobs

Ironically, I was introduced to my favorite author not in a library or bookstore, but rather in a restaurant.

During a 2012 visit to Florida’s Sanibel Island, my wife and I wandered into Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, named after a thriller series by Florida writer Randy Wayne White. There, in addition to a great meal, I bought an autographed copy of White’s new book, and it did. I was hooked.

Marion de White “Doctor” Ford is a marine biologist in Sanibel, a beautiful low-key tourist mecca just off Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast. Although Ford prefers to hang out in his lab and boat among many nearby islands, his experience as a retired NSA agent suits him well for the mysteries, kidnappings, murders and other cases he has fallen into since then. Doc’s debut in 1990.

Ford’s 26 books provide unparalleled summer reading for beaches, poolsides and airport layovers. Expertly plotted and meticulously researched, White’s novels blend biting action with an invigorating evocation of life on Sanibel, a third of which is a wildlife refuge.

A sort of thinking man action novel, your typical Ford story filters events through Marion’s informed and pragmatic approach to science and crime. He’s a man, and he doesn’t tolerate fools. Yet White also tackles mysticism and the supernatural via Ford’s best friend Tomlinson – an overgrown hippie with a predilection for mind-altering substances, Zen Buddhism and attractive women.

Amid twisting intrigue and moving detail about Gulf Coast ecology, White distills remarkable wisdom. Some samples:

“Guilt is the curse of those who care.”

“I don’t believe in large-scale conspiracy theories. If I ever meet more than three or four people who can actually keep a secret, then maybe I’ll reconsider.

“There are hundreds of gated communities in Florida. Door or no door, rare are the communities. The developers bulldoze an oversized patch of brush, a truckload of grass and palm trees to dull the stench of scarred earth, then mask their domino trap with a woodsy name – Cedar Lakes, Cypress Vista, Oak Hills – and presto! an instant habitat for people looking for an instant life.

“The only real death we suffer is the things that aren’t done.”

High-end Fords include: “Twelve Mile Limit”, “Ten Thousand Islands” “Dead Silence” and the dazzling, impossible to put down “Black Widow”. As you can probably tell, these gritty adventures aren’t for kids.

Fortunately, White recently launched “Sharks Incorporated,” a young adult series featuring teenage protagonists, with Doc as a minor character. I haven’t read the last one (“Crocs” March 2022), but the first two are atmospheric and suspenseful – the classic White toned down for the youngsters.

Besides Ford and “Sharks Inc.”the author’s oeuvre includes four novels about Doc’s friend Hannah Smith, eight non-fiction works (including anthologies with titles as evocative as “Bat Fishing in the Rainforest”), and several early thrillers written under the pen names Carl Ramm and Randy Stryker.

Born in Ohio in 1950, White left college to work as a Florida reporter and tackle fishing guide. He launched his literary career as Ramm and Stryker, writing 18 novels in just four years (the first came off his typewriter in just nine days).

With a bibliography spanning nearly 60 titles, White also continues to co-own Doc Ford’s restaurants, now in four different Gulf Coast locations.

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