By Mike Miller
James W Hall was born in 1948 and is currently living in South Florida and Western North Carolina. He is one of the best educated and credentialed writers in our collection of Florida authors.
He has a Ph.D., and can legitimately be called Dr. Hall. In spite of that - or because of that - he's one hell of a writer.
He was a Fulbright professor of literature in Spain, and spent more than 40 years at Florida International University in Miami as a professor of literature and writing.
He taught many students who have gone on to become successful Florida authors.
Hall has written 16 novels, but is also a poet and has published 4 volumes of poetry. Many of his novels have Florida settings. Hall captures South Florida as well as any Florida author around.
He knows the Florida Keys and its waters, and it shines forth in his work. He also captures the solitude and danger of the Everglades.
He also knows the urban areas of South Florida with all its contradictory squalor, poverty, wealth and glamour.
His work is sprinkled with references to Florida Keys history.
Thorn is featured in 12 of this Florida author's novels. He is a beach bum who lives like a hermit in his Key Largo stilt house on Florida Bay. He makes his modest living tying fishing flies that he sells to local bonefish guides.
He has a mysterious past, was raised in the Keys by a doctor and his wife who adopted him when he was an orphaned baby. His adoptive parents died many years ago.
Thorn still drives the doctor's battered old VW although it has expired license tags and he has no driver's license.
He has worked from time to time as a mate on a fishing boat, and as crewman on various vessels around the Florida Keys.
Thorn minds his own business, but always stumbles into dangerous adventures, and usually has to call on his latent violent side to get himself out of trouble.
Sugarman, also known as Sugar, is Thorn's best friend. Sugar is a private detective who has a Jamaican father and a Norwegian mother, and is strikingly handsome.
His skin is a couple of shades lighter than Thorn's perpetually sun tanned hide.
Sugarman combines the passion and tropical flair of his father and the cool rational detachment of his mother.
He does investigations for Thorn when it's called for. His rational side helps the impulsive Thorn chill out now and then.
In one novel, Thorn has to dispatch a shotgun wielding villain. Thorn's only weapon is a nail file, but he succeeds in killing the bad guy.
A witness says that he saw the whole thing, that it was self defense. It was a nail file against a shotgun.
Sugarman observes that for Thorn, that's even odds.
Thorn is representative of what is still one of the enduring Florida Keys mythical attractions: the eccentric loner with a mysterious past who goes by one name only.
Hall is a master at creating believable characters and making improbable situations seem reasonable in his twisted tricky plots.
He is one of my favorite Florida authors. I find it hard to put a James W Hall novel down once I've started reading it.
JAMES W HALL FLORIDA BOOKS