Friday, February 24, 2012

Randy Wayne White - Doc Ford and Dinkin's Bay

In 1987, the Tarpon Bay Marina in Sanibel closed its doors, and Randy Wayne White found himself out of a job.  After spending thirteen years as a fishing guide, White had to look for another line of work.  As it turned out, the marina’s loss was the reading public’s gain.

White moved to Florida in 1972 and took a job working for the Fort Meyers News-Press.  He was impressed by the “complexities” of the state, and became fascinated by Florida’s social and natural history.  He also found himself drawn to the sea and eventually obtained his captain’s license.  Then he decided to purchase a boat and become a light-tackle fishing guide.

His experiences on the water inspired him to try his hand at writing. Although he had never formally studied the craft, he was an avid reader and credits “a wonderful library system” with helping him develop his skills.  “I always wanted to write,” he says.  “It was a calling.”  He was influenced by his favorite writers:  Conrad, Hemingway, Twain, Peter Matthiesen, John D. MacDonald, and John Steinbeck.  In fact, the inspiration for White’s Doc Ford came from a character in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.  “I wanted to create a character that was purely analytical, not spiritual,” White explains. So he made Doc Ford a scientist - a marine biologist.

White started out writing several novels under the pseudonym “Randy Striker.”  So when the government closed Tarpon Bay to powerboat traffic, White decided to turn to writing full-time.  His first Doc Ford novel, Sanibel Flats, was published in 1990 and was chosen by the American Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of the “Hundred Favorite Mysteries of the Twentieth Century.”  Since then, White has published eighteen novels centered around the exploits of ex-CIA agent Doc Ford and his friends at Dinkin’s Bay.  In his latest, Night Vision, Doc Ford finds himself protecting a mystical Guatemalan teenager from the degenerate trailer park manager she can implicate in a murder. According to Booklist, “White handles the action scenes superbly, writing with both precision and dramatic flair, but he gets inside the heads of his characters, too…” 

When it comes to writing, White does his job superbly.  A New York Times-bestselling writer, he has been awarded the Conch Republic Prize for Literature and the John D. MacDonald Award for Literary Excellence.  In addition to his Doc Ford novels, White has written several non-fiction works, many based on his extensive travels.  His non-fiction books include, Baitfishing in the Rainforest, The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua, Last Flight Out, and An American Traveler. The Gift of the Game, a PBS documentary that he wrote and narrated, won the “Best of Best” Award at the 2002 Woods Hole Film Festival.

White structures his novels in three levels.  As he explains it, “First, I try to write a fast story.  I also try to make a political or environmental statement. And then, there’s a spiritual level that I write for myself.  My readers can take from the story whatever they want.” He calls writing “the hardest work I’ve ever done,’ but loves it nonetheless.  According to White, “The best part of writing is reading something I’ve done and saying, ‘Gee, that’s pretty good!’”  He also enjoys having readers tell him how they’ve been affected by his works.  His biggest challenge is finding the time to write. “The impositions on my time are more than I’d ever imagined,” he says “People think that because you write, you don’t really work.  They don’t realize that even when you’re up from the typewriter pacing, you’re still working.” 

White’s next Doc Ford novel, Chasing Midnight, will hit bookstores on March 6, 2012. White describes this as among the best of his thrillers. Set completely on Florida’s west coast, Chasing Midnight finds Doc Ford pitted against environmental extremists and the Russian mob.

When he isn’t writing, White enjoys reading non-fiction, traveling, boating, windsurfing, playing baseball, and socializing with friends at his restaurant, “Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grill.”  He even dabbles in the culinary arts. “I cook all the time,” he says. “In fact, I do all the cooking at home.”  “Home” for White is an old Cracker house that sits on a Calusa Indian mound on the bay.  For the man who was named a Florida Literary Legend by the 2010 Florida Heritage Book Festival, this peaceful setting has inspired some of the most compelling novels in all Florida fiction.

For more about Randy Wayne White, visit the author’s website at

Next: James Sheehan - The Thinking Man's Grisham

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating story. We just moved back to Florida and there is something about it that inspires writers. I'm going to send this link to my husband who loves to read Florida fiction - and even wrote a Florida novel himself. Nice to meet you. :)