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Monday, April 28, 2008

Staff Book Review: DARK LIGHT

DARK LIGHT, by Randy Wayne White. Fiction. Putnam’s Sons, 2006.

Those of you folks who are getting away to Florida soon should take advantage of airplane or beach time to become acquainted with this author. He has written 12 novels, mostly centered in the islands of Southwest Florida and the nearby Everglades. The main character is “Doc Ford,” a marine biologist living at the marina on Sanibel Island. Doc’s job is collecting biological specimens for colleges and research institutes, and a community of unusual and quirky characters surrounds him at the marina. These characters are his close friends, the only family he knows.

In spite of the quiet island surroundings, adventures always seem to find Ford and friends, partly because of repercussions following from Ford’s mysterious past, working for a secret government organization somewhat like the CIA, but also because he and his friends represent the “locals” who live on these islands, those at odds not only with the annual invasion of tourists (who, by their sheer numbers, threaten the delicate balance of nature that allows these islands to exist), but, more importantly, with developers who sneak in at night to fill the swamps and destroy wildlife habitat to clear the way for shopping malls and giant hotels.

Before he started writing novels, Randy Wayne White was a charter fishing captain. As a result, he knows these islands intimately and describes them in accurate detail, and there’s a distinct advantage in reading a book about the immediate area you are visiting. When you get home, you can impress your friends describing all the sights you have seen, even if you actually only read about them and never left the beach. This particular book involves a boat that sank during a hurricane in 1944 and an attractive woman visited by German relatives late in WW II. Were the Nazis fleeing to Florida to escape retribution? Did they bring gold bullion to pay their way to Argentina? Was the gold in the boat that sank (and is now lying in the sand just off Sanibel)? Only “Doc Ford” can find out for you!

If you enjoy this book and are fortunate enough to be visiting Sanibel Island, be sure to stop for a meal at the Doc Ford Sports Bar on SanCap Road. There you will probably find Randy Wayne White at the bar of his restaurant, chatting with his old fishing buddies, and you can tell him yourself that you enjoyed his book.

- Bruce Balas

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