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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
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On The Whispering Wind Book Review:
"On The Whispering Wind"
by Dan Allison, 2002
Writers Club Press, New York, N.Y., Lincoln, NE., Shanghai

To the best of my knowledge the first fictional Florida noir story to leave the race gate in 2003 is Florida Folk Hero and Pinellas County author Dan Allison's newest novel, "On the Whispering Wind". As this goes to press his fellow Florida noir writer, Tim Dorsey, should have his newest novel, "The Stingray Shuffle" released for public distribution.

I thought it would be difficult to improve on the perfection of his first novel, "All the Little Birdies", but Allison has done just that with this second novel.

Where Carl Hiaasen has his "Skink", Randy Wayne White has his "Doc Ford", Richard F. Gatehouse has his "Roy Gallagher" and Tim Dorsey has his "Serge A. Storms", Dan Allison has his "Jake Murdock", Island Hoppers Taxi cab driver extraordinaire, who honors us with his reappearance.

This time around it appears that a serial killer is littering the Pinellas County barrier island communities with the corpses of people who met with violent and torturous deaths. Through his involvement as a part time obit writer for the advertising tabloid, the Treasure Island Beachcomber, Murdock suddenly finds himself as a target of this crazed killer. This comes about as a result of Murdock's intentionally phrasing an article that profiles the serial killer in ways that Murdock knows will incense and draw out the psychotic assailant.

In addition to this overlying premise, we get to meet some delightful characters in the likes of just-folks Island Hoppers cabby Cassidy Andrews (who Murdock is sweet on), Treasure Island police officer Chester Purdy, and Adelaide Simmons, owner and publisher of the Treasure Island Beachcomber (who reminded me of the Southern, genteel ways of my own mother). Mac, the old geezer Hemmingway wanna-be, makes his repeat performance, as does Jake and Mac's favorite island hangout, Nora's Beach Bar. Newer characters include Treasure Island police officer Van Heilberg ("..the affable young cop who posed for the local 'Hunks of Law Enforcement' calendar" and is nicknamed "Van Halen."), fellow cabbie and political wanna-be Max Cravenhaven, Pinellas County Sheriff and shill Lawrence Peckerly, and "hood" mob leader Marcus Anthony. Undoubtedly, one of Allison's biggest improvements over his first novel is his character development skill.

Allison's Words of Wisdom
Once again Dan Allison conveys thoughts on the current and previous state of affairs of Florida in the most straight forward and no-holds barred manner of any Florida noir author:

I was born Jacob Ezra Murdock at Mound Park Hospital in St. Petersburg forty-nine years ago. I can show you the house Babe Ruth owned in Gulfport and tell you about the aphrodisiac Doc Webb concocted in the twenties. Jim Morrison's first public poetry reading was at the old Beaux Arts Coffeehouse off Park Boulevard (was there with my sister in 1973-Will), back when Jimbo attended St. Pete Junior College. I can show you where Ron Howard lives, Mel and Sylvester, where Mick and Keith wrote "Satisfaction" and where Jim Bakker got the bee-jay from Jessica Hahn.

From my grandmother's front yard, I watched the tanks, Key West bound, roll down Highway 92 during the Cuban Missile Crises. I remember-with crystal clarity-when old farts sat and ruminated on green benches and played shuffleboard everywhere and shopped at Webb's City, before the retirement hotels were turned to rubble and replaced by the boutique strip malls and upscale townhouses in the mid six-figures.

Developers aren't raping Florida; they're sodomizing it, hard, fast and relentless. They obliterate housing for working and retired people, the people who've been told all their lives that they could retire in Florida with dignity. Affordable trailer parks and retirement homes turn overnight into trendy condos or swinging apartment complexes.

Treasure Island, the middle and smallest of the three big barrier islands west of St. Petersburg, finally fell to the developers in 2003. Old mom 'n' pop motels met the wrecking ball and the bulldozer. Developers, builders and politicians worked at a fever-pitch to manipulate, litigate and find loopholes in an older generation's environmentally-conscious development restrictions, worked to squeeze as many units as possible onto a lot and on top of each other, to attain maximum income streams, In ten years or less, Treasure Island will look like Sand Key to the north, a Berlin Wall of ugly high-rises.

Destroying Florida is, of course, Progress, which is What Makes America Great. The decadent rich invade Florida, and the depraved poor too, industrialists and mobsters and preachers and psychotics and pimps and their whores. O.J Simpson and Stephen King. They flock to Orlando and Gainesville, Tallahassee and Tampa, to the Glades and the Keys and the Tamiami Trail, where the milk and honey flow (if you're clever or lucky) and the Fountain of Youth, or maybe at least a winning Lotto ticket, is just beyond the next mile marker on Highway 41.

Americans did go to war on Nine-Eleven. Against each other. We're ripping one another off in history's biggest ever, f**k you buddy marathon grabfest. Even Uncle Sam's a school yard bully, extorting lunch money from the little guys.

Doesn't matter if you're a CEO in a Saville Row suit and a Jaguar absconding with 401k money, or if you're a tow-truck jockey snatching honest working people's cars for ransom in the dark of the night. Or even a traffic cop at Tampa International. There might be two or three righteous people left, an old man painting sunrises, an old woman feeding seabirds along the shoreline. That's about it.

Allison never fails to amaze me with his brash, gritty and honest approach to story telling. Hey, here's a thought! Why not a Jake Murdock movie by Florida indies film producers? Ennywho, support your local Florida writer. Give Dan Allison's great new novel "On the Whispering Wind " a shot.

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.