Derek Dowell's Reviews > Florida Roadkill

Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey
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Apr 05, 12

Read in April, 2012

We can now trace the exact date that Carl Hiaasen become the reigning “old” master of Florida adventure writing, the safe, mainstream alternative to a new breed of even edgier, more over-the-top writer. It was August 1999 and that was when Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey hit the bookshelves. This hyperactive tale of sociopaths, alcoholics, retirement communities, and cocaine strippers stumbling around the south Florida coastline, killing off bad guys in particularly gruesome and creative fashion, all the while pursuing a suitcase with half a million dollars unknowingly stashed in the the trunk of a car driven by a pair of buddies headed for a Key West vacation set a new standard for manic literary mayhem.

Does this mean you’re going to like it? Heck no! You might hate it. Critics routinely slam Dorsey’s efforts for being a loosely plotted series of one dimensional characters no one could possibly care about. Umm, so what’s your point? That makes this a bad thing? Fifteen books into this series featuring everyone’s favorite Florida serial killer and vigilante, Serge A. Storms, along with his faithful companion, the perpetually stoned and inebriated Coleman, and the duo are still cruising the state in search of the perfect day: “Florida, a full tank of gas, and no appointments.”

The events of the story are this. Serge has gone off his anti-psychotic medications. Again. Along with Coleman and a coked up stripper named Sharon, the three concoct a plan to steal insurance settlement money from an oversexed dentist. But when the money-stuffed suitcase ends up in the trunk of a mystery car, they set off on a wild goose chase that eventually leads to Key West. Along the way, Serge dispatches of the increasingly erratic and dangerous Sharon by filling her lungs with Fix-A-Flat, while Coleman meets an untimely demise in a hail of gunfire.

Too late, Dorsey realized he still needed some of the characters lost in the pages of Florida Roadkill, and was forced to set up a later timeline in which events in subsequent books actually occur between the events of the first. Don’t bother trying to sort it all out. It really doesn’t matter. Just enjoy a Tim Dorsey book for what it is. Not your cup of tea? Fine. Don’t buy it, don’t read it, and don’t ruin it for everyone else with your incessant whining and literary snobbery. The great thing about ebook readers like Kindle and Nook is you can sample the first bit before you buy.

Part travelogue and part outraged conscience of the world’s favorite tourist destination, this trigger happy writing style hurtles us from point to point with scarcely time to breathe or contemplate the parade of eccentric characters. Deranged pervert with a Barbie Doll fetish? Check. Bikeless bikers employed as muscle in a retirement community? Got it. Death metal singer flattened by tourist bus in the middle of Highway A1A? Ditto. Homophobic talk show host turned private investigator?

You get the idea.

Does it all tie neatly together at the end? Sort of, but it doesn’t really matter. In Florida Roadkill, the process is what matters. This is a high speed romp through the seedy underbelly of Florida, though Dorsey manages to keep the plot from running completely off the tracks. To me, a Serge aficionado, the question is always: can a sociopathic serial killer really work as a main character? Well, thirteen years later I’m still reading. It helps that our man with a plan has become less mercenary along the way and only kills people who really need it.

In the end, what more could a reader want from a protagonist?
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