Tuesday, February 1, 2011

James W. Hall - A Florida Literary Icon

When James W. Hall stepped off the train from Kentucky in 1965 and took his first breath of Florida air, something magical happened, and he has been working to capture that magic in his writing ever since.  Hall is the award-winning author of short stories, essays, poetry, and sixteen bestselling crime novels. His writing has a lushness and lyricism that literally sing on the page and bespeak a writer who has an abiding respect for the beauty of language. He is also a master storyteller who keeps readers mesmerized with stories that are impossible to put down. 

Hall entered Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd) planning to become a preacher.  Then he met Peter Meinke, the man who changed the course of his life. “It was Peter’s first year teaching at Florida Presbyterian,” Hall recalls. “He taught poetry, and I thought he was really cool so I took his classes.  That’s when I fell in love with literature. Peter became my role model.  He had an incredible influence on me.”

But Hall’s love affair with reading actually began long before that.  As a young boy growing up in Kentucky, Hall remembers being dropped off at the town library while his mother went shopping.  When the librarian walked by, Hall grabbed a random book from the mystery shelf to make himself look busy.  He became hooked on the story and had “the extraordinary revelation that reading a book was fun.” Hall credits that unnamed mystery novel with setting him on the road to becoming a writer. According to Hall, “I started to picture the unspeakable – that I might someday learn the craft of writing well enough to create the very things I so dearly loved to consume,”

After graduating with a BA in literature, Hall went on to earn a Masters degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins and a Ph.D in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah.  He took a teaching position as Professor of Literature and Writing at Florida International University where he has worked for over thirty years.

Hall published his first novel, Under Cover of Daylight, in 1988. The story introduces Thorn, the reclusive, reluctant hero who longs for a simple life hand-crafting fishing lures at his home in the Florida Keys.  Hall based his character on a Key Largo neighbor,  but admits that he’s thrown in some of himself as well. “Like Thorn, I’m withdrawn by instinct, but called into action by the real world,” he says. “When you write, you have the joy of disappearing into the world you’re creating.   But the downside is that it’s hard to disengage, and sometimes it causes you to neglect the real world of family and friends.”  Hall tries to counteract this by setting a schedule: writing in the mornings and afternoons and keeping evenings and weekends free.

Silencer, a book Publisher’s Weekly  describes as “Hall’s superlative eleventh thriller,” pits Thorn against two deviant contract killers as he attempts to keep an environmental treasure out of the hands of greedy developers.  Thorn finds himself pulled into a complex web of kidnapping, murder and family intrigue that leads back to the 1930s and a group of powerful men with a sinister plan.  

While critics have been lavish in their praise of Silencer, Hall isn’t one to rest on his laurels.  He is already at work on another book, but he still manages to spend quality time with his wife Evelyn, his “first and best editor.” He also enjoys reading, hiking, fishing, tennis, traveling, watching movies, and walking his three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Carrie, Stella, and Maggie.   

It’s been quite a journey from that long-ago Kentucky library, but along the way, James W. Hall has enriched the lives of countless readers all over the world.  

For more about James W. Hall, visit his official website at http://www.jameswhall.com/

Next: Carolina Garcia-Aguilera - Mystery...Cuban Style




  1. Hi Jackie,
    Kudos to you... another excellent "interview!" Dr. Hall indeed is an intriguing and interesting wordsmith. At the moment I'm very busy with my own writing tasks (and also reading another James' book [Jim Swain's "Jackpot"]); when finished, however, I plan to read "Hells' Bay" -- it truly looks like an exciting read!
    Thanks again,

  2. Jim Hall is a Florida treasure! Great choice for an interview at Fabulous Florida Writers. Hope your readership continues to grow.