Florida Crime Fiction And The New Face Of America

The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik joins us on the seedy, wacky face of Sunshine State crime fiction.

The Miami skyline as seen from Miami Beach. (Stefano Giudici/Flickr)

The Miami skyline as seen from Miami Beach. (Stefano Giudici/Flickr)

Once upon a time, Los Angeles was the American capital of crime fiction, of our dark, moody, noir tales of guns, detectives, blackmail, sleaze, fighting corruption. Think Raymond Chandler. “The Big Sleep.” “Chinatown.” America wrestling with the dark side of Tinsel Town.

Now, says my guest, Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker, our crime fiction capital is Florida — the Sunshine State and the state of the fiction, the crime, is something else. Wacky, seedy, random. And corruption is just presumed.

This hour On Point: Adam Gopnik on America now and the rise of Florida crime fiction.

— Tom Ashbrook


Adam Gopnik, writer for the New Yorker who recently wrote about Florida crime fiction in “In The Back Cabana.” (@adamgopnik)

Oline Cogdill, mystery fiction reviewer who blogs at Mystery Scene. (@OlineCogdill)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Yorker: In The Back Cabana: The Rise And Rise Of Florida Crime Fiction — “But another line of crime fiction, at the other peninsular end of the country, may have supplanted the L.A.-noir tradition as a paperback mirror of American manners — the fiction of Florida glare. In this genre, as Dave Barry, a late-arriving practitioner, puts it, a bunch of ‘South Florida wackos’ — all heavily armed, all loquacious, all barely aware of one another’s existence — blunder through petty crime, discover themselves engaged in actual murder, and then move in unconscious unison toward the black comedy of a violent climax. This line begins in John D. MacDonald’s color-coded’ books (‘The Dreadful Lemon Sky,’ ‘Free Fall in Crimson’), of the sixties and seventies; moves through Elmore Leonard’s talky, episodic Florida novels of the eighties; engages Barry as a comic outlier; and eventually leads to Carl Hiaasen, the Miami newspaperman who has, for the past few decades, written a new crime novel practically every two years.”

Mystery Scene: Florida Bound? Read A Mystery — “Florida has a rich history of mystery fiction and here are some authors that will show you the intricacies of the Sunshine State…Here are some novels to get you going, whether you listen to them as an audio book or read them.”

Reuters: America Noir: The Biggest ‘Gate’ Of All — “Metaphors function much like art, and you might consider Watergate not as a scandal but as a gigantic movie. Not just any movie blockbuster, either, but as America’s epic noir. Film noir was a genre that began in the late 1940s, when America was forced to confront the darkness within itself after World War II. ‘Film noir’ translates into ‘black film,’ and the noir movies of the time were literally and figuratively dark. They involved corruption, deceit, amorality and the potential rot of the American soul — capturing the anxiety of the Cold War era.”

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