There are few people writing Florida-based novels today with more street cred than Tom Corcoran. The guy co-wrote songs (“Fins” and “Cuban Crime of Passion” for those Parrotheads who might be interested) with Jimmy Buffett back in the 1970s, and sold tacos on the street corner out of his bicycle basket, for Pete’s sake! The locals knew him as Taco Tom back then.
With the recent release of The Quick Adios (Times Six), Corcoran revisits a character, Alex Rutledge, who has appeared in five or six books previously – I could look it up but does it really matter? If you decide to check out this book on Amazon, it shouldn’t be too hard to find the others.
Even though The Quick Adios is a most excellent example of what everyone here at Florida Pulp Fiction loves in beach books, I admit that several years passed between reading my first Corcoran novel and the second; now I eagerly watch for them to show up in the Kindle Store. At first read, Rutledge seems to be a Travis McGee knock-off, which isn’t a bad thing. Why not borrow from the best? But the first exposure wasn’t spectacular enough to bring us back for a second dose immediately. Nice. Not riveting.
Now I’m kind of ashamed to not have immediately realized these books ebb and flow with the kind of authentic spirit of Key West that only comes from selling tacos on the streets and rubbing elbows with Jimmy Buffett before he became a conglomerate. Whatever the reason, I’m hooked on Alex Rutledge now. So let’s get to The Quick Adios (Times Six).
Corcoran delivers a fine dose of mystery that finds Rutledge called in to photograph a crime scene again and, big surprise, he becomes involved in a doozy of a mystery that has him running back and forth between Key West and Sarasota, getting beaten up by a pugilistic bubba cop, surviving a plane crash, ogling beautiful women, spending plenty of time on his front porch, interacting with a comfortable and well-drawn cast of supporting characters, and trying to solve the mysterious death of an old girlfriend.
An Alex Rutledge book oozes tropical sights, smells, and visions from between the pages. Sure, it’s kind of hard to believe that a photographer could get caught up in so many life-threatening scenarios in one lifetime, but he is a crime scene photographer and tends to date female cops, so that makes the logical leap a bit more palatable. Actually, strike that last. Who the heck cares what machinations Mr. Corcoran uses to insert Rutledge into the fray?
It’s quite possible that, while the former king of the Florida novel, Carl Hiaasen, was wasting his time writing children’s books, Taco Tom slipped by him to claim the top spot, though we might have to arrange a death match with James W. Hall before handing out the official crown.
These days, Corcoran is that good. Believe it. (Top image: Flickr | Couch Commando)