Friday, July 3, 2015

Nasty! The smarmy side of Florida from author Tom Turner

HALLIE EPHRON: Tom Turner sounds like a character out of MAD MEN. He ran a bar in Vermont after college, then moved to New York where he worked as a copywriter at Manhattan advertising agencies, then moved to Palm Beach and got into real estate flipping houses. He uses his interesting background (aka checkered past) to his advantage in writing his debut novel, Palm Beach Nasty (Permanent Press). 

Nasty? Really??? I asked him to explain.

TOM TURNER: A few of my friends-- women for the most part-- thought that the word 'Nasty' in the title smacked of cheesy, prurient no-tell-motel sex. I stuck with it anyway. Mainly because I had the title long before I wrote the first word of the novel. Just liked it. 

The nastiness I write about actually refers to my bad guys. 

HALLIE: More than one?

TOM: A billionaire with a thing for young girls. He's gotten to where he is by being ruthless, predatory and over-the-top depraved. An ex-bartender who hatches a nefarious plan to defraud and deceive the second richest man in Palm Beach, an old dude half-way down the Alzheimers highway. A Mutt n' Jeff combo of vicious hitters -- one a former Fulbright scholar, the other a guy whose lips move as he reads comics books. 
Nasty guys indeed… but I think you're gonna like 'em!

HALLIE: And who are they up against?

TOM:  Detective Charlie Crawford of the Palm Beach Police Department, and the big question is does he have enough left in the tank to take down these guys? Sure, he was a big-time, gold shield up in NewYork. But that was before he burned out and washed up on a Key West beach, listening to stoned-out beach bums in lame Hawaiian shirts ooh-and-ah pretty average sunsets and ‘dude’ each other to death.

HALLIE: Love that idea: 'dude each other to death.'
How did you research your cops?

TOM: Well, for one thing I did a lot of ride-alongs. But nothing of a criminal nature ever seemed to happen. It was pretty  disappointing. No break-ins, no petty larcenies, nothing. The cops actually apologized to me. They were greatly relieved one night when the dispatcher reported a suspicious man sleeping on the beach. Five cop cars showed up. Turned out he was just sleeping off a long night at a local gin mill called Ta-boo.

And what about Palm Beach? A good place for nastiness?

As for my knowledge of Palm Beach… I did a long stint there renovating houses. I was thrown into a mix of shifty-eyed developers, promise-you-the-moon real estate brokers and lawyers who all bore a certain resemblance to Breaking Bad's Saul Goodman. It was an eye-opening period and many of those characters wandered into Palm Beach Nasty.

I saved a few others for Palm Beach Poison, which is next in the series. Like the deadly Russian duo and their poisonous snakes. Talk about nasty.

In case you're wondering, Tom got a very nice review in Publishers Weekly which called his brand of nastiness plenty entertaining.

My question: What it is in the water in that part of Florida that breeds so many twisted tales?  
(To quote Carl Hiassen: "The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It's hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life.")


  1. I have absolutely no idea what breeds so many twisted Florida tales, but Tom’s “Palm Beach Nasty” sounds like a delightfully fun read.

  2. Welcome, Tom! Yes, what is it about Florida? The humidity? The alligators? The limes? I love the "dude each other to death" too... Off to add to my to-read stack!

  3. I love the voice of this interview. Tom, I too have done ride-alongs where nothing more sinister than a suspicious package (that turned out to be an empty cardboard box) was reported. My officer also apologized. "Wish I could have given you a 'shots fired' or something"). I told him boring for me meant safe for him (since he had young children) and thanked him.

    I admit, "nasty" for me has the same connotation, but that won't keep me from looking up the debut. Congrats!

  4. Nasty. Interesting in connection with yesterday's guest Elizabeth Lyon and our discussion of titles. Palm Beach Nasty definitely sounds like noir... with an edge.

  5. Welcome to a fellow Florida writer Tom! The book sounds like such fun. Did you do your ride-alongs in Palm Beach or Key West? Usually in Key West, a rider sees plenty of action. My officer was summoned to a girl down on the sidewalk, dead drunk at 7 pm. We had to take her to jail and I got plenty of material!

    My friend Jan was privy to a drug bust and friend Pat to domestic violence. And then there was the naked man on Duval Street who stole someone else's coat at The Garden of Eden. It seems like as long as you don't ride on the day shift, the fun never stops:)

  6. Welcome Tom. I'm always amazed at the extremes in Florida.... Extreme opulence or seediness, beauty and squalor. So many good tales to write about. Good luck with the book.

  7. Tom, PALM BEACH NASTY sounds delicious. Who can resist tales of swampy Florida corruption beneath all that sun-gilded Florida glamor?

    And of course, we're all conditioned to believe anything could happen in the Sunshine State, since the real-life news from there is so often stranger than fiction!

  8. Hi Tom! I love Florida. It's such a weird place, but talk about atmosphere! Heaven for a writer. Love your title, too--the first thing I thought was, "Oh, fun!" Looking forward to reading the book, and good luck with the series.

  9. I wonder what Ta-boo thinks about your description: "a local gin mill called Ta-boo" They consider themselves rather swanky.

    I heard Carl Hiassen speak once. He told about early on when he would pitch a story idea to his publisher, they would tell him it was too outlandish for anyone to believe. Then 2000 came with the election, anthrax, etc. He assured them that his story-lines came from his collection of newspaper clippings. They haven't questioned him since!

    South Florida is a strange place.

  10. Libby, that's good to know - because I went to see if I could get a picture of Ta-boo and it did look pretty ritzy. That's not to say...

    Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaassen, Dave Barry, our own Lucy Burdette... they all feed off Florida's crazy goings on.

  11. Tom, it's always great to welcome another Florida author to the fold of those fascinating ones I already read. When I heard Carl Hiassen speak, he said that all the crazies eventually come to Florida, as he was relating a story about a criminal from there. So, I think you will ha e plenty of material. Your book sounds most interesting, and the title is great.

  12. Running in incredibly late-- this is hilarious. and the title -- I think its: take it or leave it, right? Love it. And yes there is somethimg about Florida-- last time I was there I
    saw an alligator . You just dont see that in, you know, Boston.
    Happy 4th everyone !

  13. Welcome to Florida, Tom. The rules here are different! Gotta agree with the Hiassen quote, eventually all crazies do end up here. They arrive, shaken out of their various northern and western states. Just when they think they have gone as far as they can--they find the nirvana of South Florida and they morph into the person of their desires, or fears. Sounds like you captured the context beautifully.

  14. Thank you all for your comments, input, and anecdotes! Thank you again Hallie for the opportunity to do this guest blog!