Miami: A Literary Loop
Sunday, December 22, 2002
Gliding into the international airport of the magnificent city of Miami, you can't help but picture Freddy Frenger, the haiku-loving psychopath in Charles Willeford's noir novel "Miami Blues," also arriving and beginning his parade of terror by snapping the finger of a Hare Krishna.
You've read so many stories -- sexy, sublime, sinister -- set in Miami, it's hard to go anywhere in this way-cool, way-complicated city without recalling certain scenes. On this particular jaunt, you draw from a range of works by some familiar -- and some not so familiar -- writers.
You begin your literary loop through Miami at Books & Books (
You ask him about Willeford. "Charlie preceded everybody," Kaplan says. " 'Miami Blues' was misunderstood. Some people took it seriously. They didn't see the black humor.
"Miami has, over the last number of years, developed into a pretty diverse, vibrant literary community."
To sample what Kaplan's talking about, you buy a copy of "Naked Came the Manatee," a collaborative novel written by 13 Miami writers, including Elmore Leonard, James W. Hall and Tananarive Due.
From Kaplan's store, drive north to SW Eighth Street, also known as Calle Ocho, and head east toward the city. Around 37th Avenue or so, you come into Little Havana, a Cuban (and increasingly Nicaraguan) haven of exotic foods and marvelous music.
Downtown Miami is the fulcrum of the fictional scene. On the bay, you see the Miami Herald, a seedbed for dark and delightful tales by Carl Hiaasen, Edna Buchanan, Dave Barry and others who work, or have worked, there.
Near the waterfront, you pass a passel of roller skaters at Bayfront Park. At times the carousel is lit up like a cruise ship and twirls precariously like the world. On NBA game days, you see limos lined up like a string of white pearls outside the American Airlines Arena and dressed-to-the-tens women high-heeling it up the steps. The Heat may be inside, but the cool are definitely outside.
Taking the MacArthur Causeway across Biscayne Bay, you pass the Port of Miami
At the end of the causeway, you find South Beach