Contrary to our own popular belief, Miami isn't the only heavily storied city in South Florida. It's not the oldest either. In fact, there's another town that predates ours by a good half century. We mean, of course, Key West, which owes as much to rum-runners and pirates as it does to con men and ex-cons. In Setup on Front Street, the wily Mike Dennis sheds light on the all that darkness, and proves Key West bleeds much deeper than you think. Catch the cat at Books and Books this Thursday night.
Wanna tell us a quick bit about Setup on Front Street? It's a noir novel that takes place in Key West, way back in the shadows and the alleys where the tourists never go. Don Roy Doyle is a Conch grifter, returning home after three years in a Nevada prison for a diamond swindle. He's back to recover his end of the proceeds, about $200,000, but he finds the money has vanished.
It's the first in a three-book set of Key West noir novels, in which I intend to lift the veil, revealing Key West as a true noir city, on a par with Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Miami.
Is Doyle by chance based upon anybody you know? Very loosely. I knew a guy who was a professional con man, and he told me a few stories that made me want to write a novel about someone in that line of work.
If you had to choose a pulp parallel, who would it be? I try not to pattern myself after anybody, but I was influenced by some of the greats in the noir genre. Jim Thompson could take you so deep inside the criminal mind, you couldn't find your way out with a road map. James M. Cain fully understood how the average person can easily cross the line if he/she is desperate enough. Gil Brewer, Harry Whittington, James Crumley, Mickey Spillane... they were some of my inspirations. Contemporary authors would have to include Florida author Vicki Hendricks, Tom Piccirilli, and Lawrence Block.
What makes South Florida's such fertile pulp territory anyway? South Florida has always promoted itself as being a sort of paradise, encouraging others to "come on down." And for many years, that's exactly what happened. They came in great, unregulated numbers. Of course, whenever you have this kind of frenzied migration, you're going to have plenty of opportunists, people who want to take advantage. You've had the phony real estate salesmen, post-hurricane scam artists, drug cowboys... these people saw a chance to make a buck and figured out the angles. Average people were often drawn into their schemes, and when these people got caught up in the backwater of their own bad decisions...voila! Noir!
Mike Dennis reads from Setup on Front Street Thursday August 18th, 8pm at Books and Books 265 Aragon Avenue Coral Gables. For more information call (305) 442-4408 or log on here.