Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bugs on the grill

It's lobster season here in Florida, meaning :
1) You can don mask and fins and hit the reefs to bag a few bugs for dinner. Or,
2) You can hit the local fish market and pay $10.98/pound for whole lobster like I did.

In other words, that's $46.90 worth of Florida lobster we're looking at. One lobster weighed just shy of two-and-half pounds, the other just north of a pound and a half, the end result being slightly more than one pound of lobster meat. And if you do that math ... well, don't. Because it will ruin dinner.

Yes, it was good. My wife and I ate it with grilled romaine and corn on the cob. I was feeling kinda cocky because I went in for a physical last week and my total cholesterol came in lower than 180, which meant I got to indulge in plenty of drawn butter. And half a bottle of Spanish wine, a nice Grenache, which might not be the perfect accompaniment to grilled lobster, but I don't do white except under extreme duress.

The only real downside is that our house stinks something fierce because I put the lobster heads and all the meat-picked shells into a big pot, covered them with water, threw in onions and celery and garlic and pepper, and boiled it down for hours, creating a stock that I hope to turn into a killer lobster bisque.

Otherwise, it's damn hard to justify $46.90 for two measly bugs on the grill...

Monday, August 27, 2007

The unspeakable joy of a sea bath...

Note: I wrote the following piece for ISLANDS magazine a few years ago, just before Jeremiah Gumbs died, at age 91. Last weekend, while visiting Boca Grande, I started each morning with a sea bath. And I found myself thinking of the man who first introduced me to the pleasure of starting each day immersed in the sea...

The absolute best way to start an island day? I discovered it a couple of years ago on Anguilla after I telephoned Jeremiah Gumbs, the island’s most famous citizen, to ask if I could drop by to meet him. Gumbs said bright and early the next morning would be fine. Just show up on the beach in front of the small hotel he owns along Rendezvous Bay.

“You can join me for my sea bath,” he told me.

We said our goodbyes, I hung up the phone, and only then did I begin to question exactly what I had agreed to do. Join him for his sea bath? Why would anyone invite a stranger to participate in such a personal morning ritual? And what was the etiquette? Did I bring my own soap? What about towels? And what exactly, if anything, did one wear while sea-bathing?
Gumbs, who will turn 90 in February, is a founding father of modern Anguilla, the low-slung, eel-shaped spit of Caribbean sand and scrub best known these days for its gemlike beaches and boutique hotels. Like our own founding fathers, Gumbs is a revolutionary—an altogether benign revolutionary, but a revolutionary nonetheless.

Back in 1969, the good citizens of Anguilla, fed up with being the stepchildren in a British territory that also included St. Kitts/Nevis, seceded from the unfriendly union. In faraway London, bureaucrats totally misread the situation, dispatched a warship and launched a farcical invasion of the island. British troops landed expecting a skirmish with Anguillan freedom fighters, but instead found themselves applauded and cheered by the adoring islanders. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Gumbs was in New York City, pleading his island’s case before the United Nations, desperately trying to explain that Anguilla’s only beef was a long-simmering one with St. Kitts/Nevis. Anguilla didn’t want independence from Great Britain. If anything, it wanted to forge even closer bonds with Mother England, to be forever a part of the beloved empire.

Lots of diplomats scratched their heads. The warship pulled anchor. The British bureaucrats wiped egg off their faces. Anguilla got what it wanted. And Jeremiah Gumbs returned to his quiet home on Rendezvous Bay.

When I arrived at the beach that morning, Gumbs was already in the water just a few yards offshore. So were a half-dozen or so other people—men and women. All I could see of them were their heads, bobbing above the wavelets, the hills of St. Martin/Maarten forming a dusky backdrop across the nine-mile wide channel separating the two islands. Jeremiah Gumbs was easy to spot. He was the one who looked like Jerry Garcia as Santa Claus gone tropo—a head full of white hair, a curly white beard that tickled his chest and skin the color of burnished teak.

I flipped off my shoes, pulled off my shirt and waded out to join him in the waist-deep water. We shook hands. I stood in the water, not sure exactly what to do next. Gumbs finally said:

“Don’t just be standing there, man. Ease yahself down.”

I lowered myself into the water, up to my neck. It was warm and comforting, like being under an old blanket on a cool night. My “ahhhhh” was automatic.

I have since learned that while conversation is not taboo during sea baths—indeed, they can often evolve into all-out gossipfests—one does not simply arrive and start jabbering as if one has nothing better to do. Which is what I did. I talked about myself, I talked about the weather, I talked about how much I liked the island of Anguilla. I talked just to talk. Gumbs nodded politely. So did the other people. But no one said much.

“This your first sea bath?” Gumbs asked.

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“Just supposed to let it be, man.”

I shut up and got with the program, which as far as I could tell mostly involved just sitting in the water and doing nothing. No one had soap or shampoo or a washcloth. No one was scrubbing. A few people appeared to be stretching, getting the kinks out, but there was nothing that even remotely approached exercise.

So I let it be. And be. And be…

There was a gentle current, just the slightest tidal surge. At first I fought it, treading water against its pull. But that seemed contrary to the concept—no one else was fighting it—and so I yielded. The sea rolled in, and I rolled with it. The sea rolled out, and I let it pull me along. In and out, warm, so warm…

And something happened, something subtle, something I didn’t even realize was happening until it had so fully consumed me that I wasn’t about to let it stop happening, something that clued me into the essence of a sea bath: It is not so much about bathing as it is connecting with the sea.

Far be it from me to wax too New Agey about that moment, but yeah, it was transforming. I didn’t come to the beach at Rendezvous Bay that morning looking for revelation, but the best revelations are the ones you don’t grab for and this one, as it turned out, grabbed me. It left me rocking, like in a cradle, like snuggling up with Momma Ocean. I came, I sat, I touched the sea.
When the conversation did come, it rolled just as gently, just as easy, as water lapping upon a shore. I don’t remember what we talked about, doesn’t matter. A few people left, a few more arrived. About half an hour after getting in, I got out, all the mellower for my immersion.

“How’d you like your sea bath?” Jeremiah Gumbs asked.

I told him I liked it just fine.

“Take a sea bath and it makes you a real islander,” said Gumbs. “All your days will be better days if you start them just that way.”

Since that morning on Anguilla I have sought out sea baths wherever I can find them. While I have enjoyed sunrise dips with the locals in French Polynesia—on Moorea’s Faimano Beach and along Auea Bay in Huahine—the sea-bath tradition seems strongest in the Caribbean, on those islands blessed with gentle lees and sandy shoals. Of course, if one wants a sea bath, then I suppose all one really has to do is plop oneself down in the water and take it from there. But true sea baths are communal affairs, their locations long established and as well known in island towns as the post office, the bank or the grocery store. Travelers who partake in sea baths gain quick entry to an island’s soul.

On tiny Marie-Galante, in the French West Indies, I took my sea baths at Anse de Mays, joined by the island’s retired postmaster and the manager of a small rum distillery who brought samples of his work. On Bequia, in the Grenadines, my fellow sea bathers included a fifth-generation boat builder and whaler whose grandfather, at age 70, had harpooned a humpback the previous spring. On Harbour Island, in the Bahamas, the Brilanders, as they call themselves, take their sea baths in the late afternoon near a dock looking west to Eleuthera, often enjoying a bowl of conch salad with sunset. Grenada’s sea bath central sits along Grande Anse, at the end of a narrow dirt road that feeds off the main drag into St. George’s. It’s a favorite meeting place for the island’s taxi drivers, one of whom told me had to ration his weekly allotment of sea baths.

“If I took a sea bath every morning, I wouldn’t get any work done the rest of the day. I’d be too relaxed, I wouldn’t care about anything,” he said. “But I have to get down here at least once or twice a week just to make sure I don’t get behind on the gossip.”

During a week in Barbados, I set out walking my first morning and found a large group of sea bathers on a stretch of beach along Six Men’s Bay. Bicycles were propped against a fallen casuarina tree. Towels and clothes hung from its branches. I edged into the water and kept to the perimeter of the group, reminding myself that Bajans fancy themselves the most sophisticated and civilized of all the Caribbean islanders and that’s why they seemed to ignore me. The second day, the same crew was in the water and this time they offered a couple of nods and a “good morning” or two. By the third day we were chatting it up, and by the end of the week I’d been invited to join some of the men for their regular Friday lunch at Mustor’s in downtown Bridgetown, a place justly renowned for its cou-cou, a thick corn meal gumbo with okra and pigeon peas. It is one of the most comforting of comfort foods, and it was a sea bath that led me to it.

When I last spoke with Jeremiah Gumbs he was planning his 90th birthday party. It was shaping up to be quite a shindig with folks from all over coming to pay their respects. I asked him if he planned to start the day the way he typically did, with a sea bath. Gumbs took a moment to answer, then told me he’d been having some trouble with his arthritis and needed help to get around.

“But I think these old legs might have one more walk to the beach left in them,” he said. “Yes, a sea bath that morning, why that would be just fine.”

Friday, August 24, 2007

A remarkable bird is the pelican...

I've grown accustomed to receiving notes from nitpicky readers. These are the ones that typically go something like: "Enjoyed your last book, but on page 47, when Zack is talking to Barbara Pickering, he says 'The wombats can go with you and I.' It should be 'The wombats can go with you and me,' since 'with' is a preposition and ..."

While I appreciate the crusade for good grammar, some folks just have way too much time on their hands.

But every now and then a reader comes forth with a legitimate bone to pick. Such was the case the other day when a friend of mine, Wendy Ahl, asked me to meet her dad, Bill Weller, for a cup of coffee and sign some copies of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ. Bill visits Bermuda often and wanted to give the books to some friends on an upcoming visit. So we sit down at Palmano's, my favorite coffee shop, and Bill begins by saying: "You know, I really enjoyed your book, but on page ..."

Oh no, I thought, here we go. The grammar police strike again.

But not this time. Bill flipped to page 132, pointed to the fourth paragraph and said: "Read that." The section in question takes place when Zack and Boggy have driven down the coast of Bermuda, to Tucker's Town, and are standing on a bluff where the squirrely Brewster Trimmingham, who has stolen $2 million from Zack, wants to build a bunch of condos. Zack looks down on a cove with gorgeous water where sea fans wave atop coral heads and "Pelicans dive bomb schools of fish."

"OK," I said after reading the passage. "So what?"

Bill Weller smiled.

"There are no pelicans in Bermuda," he said. "Every now and then, one might get blown way off course, but there are no pelicans in Bermuda."

These are the moments that drive writers nuts. You do your research on the big stuff (in this case, the history of Bermuda, shipwrecks, money laundering, the search for the True Cross, etc.) and then someone pulls the rug out from under you on an ornithological slip-up. I have since conducted some independent research regarding pelicans in Bermuda (yes, maybe I'm the one with too much time on my hands) and have discovered that there are eight species of pelicans worlwide and two of them, the white pelican and the brown pelican, "occur" in Bermuda. But apparently they do not occur in such great numbers that a bunch of them would gather in a cove and dive-bomb schools of fish.

I'll take it like a man. Mea culpa, mea culpa ...

And I offer this rendition of a famous poem:

A remarkable bird is the pelican
Its beak holds more than its belican
It can store in its beak
Enough food for a week
But in Bermuda? No way in helican.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's Doe-min-EEK-a, dammit...

Hurricane Season is once again upon us. Meaning, it's time for TV and radio folk to mangle the pronunciation of Caribbean islands. And no island gets more mangling than Dominica, the lovely lush outpost which sits between Martinique and Gaudeloupe, and is way too often confused with the Dominican Republic.

As Hurricane Dean began belting its way through the Caribbean Friday, one of the announcers on the sports radio station I was listening to was talking about the high winds that were already hitting Dominica (which he pronounced "Dum-IN-ica.") He went onto say something like: "I really hope it doesn't blow away all those good ball players the major leagues get from down there."

OK, it was sports radio. But he's still a dumbass. All those good ball players come from the D.R., which shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti, not Dominica, which is properly and more lyrically pronounced as "Doe-min-EEK-a," a fact that seems lost on anchors at CNN, MSNBC and other networks where I heard mangled versions over the last few days. To my knowledge, Dominica has never produced a major leaguer, its most famous export being the best version of bay rum on the market, the stuff you splash on after showering, not the stuff you drink, although I suppose, in a pinch, you could mix it with lime juice and catch a little buzz.

It's probably a hopeless cause to educate broadcasters on the right way to pronounce Dominica. So maybe the island should revert to its original name. The Arawaks who once lived there called it Wai'tu kubuli, meaning "tall is her body."

Whatever they were drinking, I want some of it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Alive, Alive-o

In response to a multitude of recent emails (OK, maybe a dozen), the author of this blog is, indeed, alive and breathing air.

So why haven't I posted anything here since, let's see, March? I've got a multitude of excuses (OK, maybe three.)

* Tour fatigue: I was on the road pretty much solid from mid-February until mid-May and, well, it just wore me down. Yeah, I know. Other authors go on book tour for weeks on end and manage to blog daily. I'm not one of them.

* Deadlines: The fourth book in the Zack Chasteen series is due to St. Martin's soon, very soon. It is called DEAD AHEAD and it takes place on a cruise ship. It used to be called SHIP HAPPENS, but we abandoned that ... so to speak. In any event, I've still got a long way to go on the book and the lapsed Protestant in me inflicts guilt if I even so much as think about writing something that isn't DEAD AHEAD-related.

* Ross Thomas: For some reason, I don't feel guilty spending time reading his stuff when I should be writing. I remember reading a couple of Ross Thomas books in the 1970s, but have only re-discovered him in recent months. And since May I've knocked off "The Cold War Swap," (his first novel and the 1967 Edgar winner), "On the Rim," "Chinaman's Chance," "Ah, Treachery," "Twilight at Mac's Place, "Voodoo Ltd." and am almost finished with "The Fourth Durango." Great writing. Smart-talking characters. Intricate plots. Double-crossing galore. And no one could paint a picture of a character quite like Thomas could. Anyway, I've been sucked into the Time-Thomas Continuum and that, among many other reasons, is why I haven't been here lately.

But I'll try to show up in the days ahead. Promise ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


These photos are courtesy of my old college pal, Acey Harper, photog extraordinaire, who now lives in the Bay Area. Sadly, there are no shots of Acey, but he did show up at Ed Kaufman's fine "M is for Mystery" to document the event.

I arrived early just so I could go eat sushi with Ed. Then we rolled aside the book racks, set up chairs, poured some drinks and welcomed a crowd that included the Jordan Family, my cousin Hank Harper, and, as always, some folks from the local Gator Club and Parrothead chapter. Then Acey and I went out afterwards for Mexican. So let's see, it was sushi, then rum, then chili rellenos... pass the Alka Seltzer, please.


The great thing about visiting Murder on the Book in Houston is:

1. David Thompson is an awesome host and always turns out a good crowd.
2. Some of my pals from the local Gator Club and Parrothead chapter show up.
3. Goode BBQ is just down the street and afterwards I can pig out on the sampler: brisket, ribs, bbq duck. With Shiner Bock beer, of course.

Please note the nice lady with the walker on the front row. I apologize because I wrote her name down on a notepad and now I can't find it. But she had her daughter drive her the 50 miles from her home outside of Houston so she could drink Dark 'n Stormies with me. That's her holding the empty Goslings bottle. Cheers, baby...


The great thing about a blog is its immediacy. I can post here in real time and keep a constant account of where I am and what I'm doing.

But screw immediacy. Here it is March 13 and I was in Chicago on, let's see, Feb. 18. In between it has been pretty much non-stop. I've been getting up way early in the morning to work on the next book -- due June 1 -- and then hitting the next town and visiting bookstores. This will continue through the end of April. It's been going great so far. I've met some wonderful people, had some memorable times. But this is the first chance I've had to sit down and put things in order. I've got a couple of days until the next book-related events kick in (March 14 at the Winter Park Historical Society; March 15 at the Leesburg Public Library Dinner; March 17 at the Lake County Reading Festival in Leesburg; March 18 at Circle Books in Sarasota.) So I figured I might as well try to settle accounts, blogwise, and see if I can't actually bring this baby back to almost present time.

What will follow is a whole bunch of postings that trace the Dark 'n Stormy Tour from Chicago up until last weekend's swing through Atlantic Beach. Wham bam, thank you m'am...

I lucked out in Chicago thanks to the ever-hospitable Joe Konrath (his new book, DIRTY MARTINI, comes out this summer), who picked me up at the hotel and drove me all over the place. We had a nice gathering at the Book Cellar, along with Julia Buckley, Jimmie Gordon, Henry Perez and my lovely niece Whitney (she's the blonde, front left), then proceeded to stop at several Chicago bookstores where I did The Konrath (ran in and signed books) while Joe and Henry circled the block.

After a very meaningful stop at a bar called Sheffields (meaningful, in the sense that I paid $10 for a bottle of beer, Goose Island Bourbon County, that Joe insisted was the best beer ever made, and he might be right), we wound up at a German restaurant, eating sausages and drinking more beer from large glass boots. No, the photo isn't really sideways. Joe and Henry were on the floor.

The last thing I remember, I was on stage performing a medley of tunes with the band. In German. You had to be there...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Other Bob Morris

Here's my latest idea for a book: I'm gonna get in a car and spend a couple of months driving around the U.S., basing my itinerary on meeting other guys named Bob Morris. We'll hang out for awhile, have some laughs and then I'll be on my way, a journey of self-discovery based on discovering other people who have the same name as me. I'm gonna call this: THE BOBYSSEY. If nothing else, maybe the other Bob Morrises will actually buy it and that will pay for gas money.

So here's another Bob Morris. Actually, he's a famous Bob Morris -- the renowned Bob Morris who writes the "Age of Dissonance" column in the New York Times Sunday Styles section, along with occasional features. People have been confusing us for years. I used to write for the New York Times regional newspapers. And we both contribute to some of the same travel and food magazines. A few years back, I even received the Other Bob Morris's 1099 forms from Bon Appetit. What a mess. All I know is that he made a whole lot more money from them than I did.

In any event, the Other Bob Morris kindly showed up for the rum party at Partners & Crime. A good guy, we had some laughs. As it turns out he has a book coming out next year, a memoir of sorts based largely on his relationship with his dad (he wrote a most memorable column about his father for the NYT earlier this year called "Stop Spending My Inheritance.") He told me the title of the upcoming book, but I apologize, I've forgotten it. No worries. All you need to remember is this: Whenever you go into a bookstore and see a book written by Bob Morris, buy it...

Monday, February 26, 2007

EXTRA BONUS! Wall Street Journal video

Among those who dropped by for the rum party at Partners & Crime was Jeffrey Trachtenberg, who covers the publishing industry for the Wall Street Journal. Jeff and a WSJ crew shot a video of the event that you can view right here.

The Dark 'n Stormy Tour, Stop #6 -- New York City

I didn't count heads at Partners & Crime, but here's a way to guesstimate the crowd: We went through five bottles of rum and a case-and-a-half of ginger beer. If you'd like to check out some professional shots of the event, go to Mary Regan's Web site(that's her with the camera.)

Some pals from my long-ago days at the Fort Myers News-Press showed up (Jim Pratt; of the New York Post; Stelvis Dougherty, People magazine and Barack Obama biographer; Frazier Moore, television writer for the AP; and Myra Forsberg, the New York Times) as did my awesome editor Marc Resnick, Partners & Crime co-owner Kiz Reeves and my awesome agent Joe Veltre. Also on hand was Sally Richardson, president and publisher of St. Martin's Press, who managed to keep her Dark 'n Stormy away from Marc Resnick long enough to raise a toast.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dark & Stormy Tour Stop #5 -- Washington, DC

OK, I'm way behind on posting from the road. But between all the much-delayed flights with last week's snowstorm and insane taxi drivers, I'm just glad to be here. I'll catch up over the next few days, but for now --

A stalwart band braved ankle-deep snow to join me at the Border's in Bailey's Crossroads, VA. That's soon-to-be-married Chris and Aubrey, middle front, who will be honeymooning next month in St. John... considering the temps, I'm longing for islands right now...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

And a good time was had by all...

We had ourselves a large time at Palmano's Cafe last Sunday. Kool Vibes Reggae Band, Dark 'n Stormies by the dozen and a lively gathering of good people.

Now it's northward into the ice storm. Next stop: Borders, Bailey's Crossroads, VA....

Monday, February 12, 2007

Darky 'N Stormy Tour Stop #3: Borders, Winter Park

So why the apron? Because I fried up a big batch of conch fritters at Borders in Winter Park. And lots of folks stopped by to enjoy them, including, from left to right, high-powered attorney Nadia (a former student of mine at Trinity Preparatory School); Steve, a former Leesburg pal visiting from Tupelo, MS; and Michael, whose Christmas shopping was stymied when BERMUDA SCHWARTZ didn't come out until February, but who bought lots o' copies anyway.

If you didn't make it, not to worry. Drop by Borders in Winter Park any time throughout the next month or so and I can guarantee it will still smell like conch fritters.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Dark 'n Stormy Tour, Stop #2: Inkwood Books

We had ourselves a lively and rather high-minded gathering at wonderful Inkwood Books, in Tampa. Instead of me just sitting there talking about "The Making of Bermuda Schwartz" or telling Caribbean tales, the conversation turned to such topics as increasingly shorter attention spans and how that effects writing , the making of a book cover, the demise of book editors who actually edit (except for Marc Resnick, of St. Martin's, of course) and an assortment of far-ranging topics.

Must be something in Gosling's Rum that fuels conviviality.

In addition to some other folks who cut out before we took the photo, I was joined by an old fishing buddy, a debonair restaurant critic, my cousin Helene, the man behind the world-famous Skipper's Smokehouse, several new friends (one them named LaDonna, like the place where Zack Chasteen lives), a fourth-grade teacher, a famous chef, a writer for a local newspaper and two rogue author pals, Jim Sheehan, second from the left (his "Mayor of Lexington Avenue" just came out this in mass market p-back) and, next to Jim, Tom Corcoran, author of the Alex Rutledge/Key West mysteries, bartender to Jimmy Buffett and one prince of a guy.

A good time, as they say, was had by all...but man, it was a long drive back to O-do on I-4.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Over at Crime Fiction Dossier, the inimitable David Montgomery is offering a free copy of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ to some lucky visitor. No heavy lifting or thinking is required. All you have to do is send David an email, per the instructions, and he'll be picking the winning name from a hat, or a bowl, or a wastebasket, or something. So get over there. And look for MORE FREE STUFF here soon...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Dark 'n Stormy Tour, Stop #1: Urban Think!

The only downside to Tuesday night's Publication Day party at Urban Think!, in downtown Orlando, was that I got so wrapped up talking to people that I forgot to take a bunch of photos. Here's me with Orlando author Tom Cavanagh (HEAD GAMES) pimping each other's books. Meanwhile, most everyone else was gathered around the bar where three quarts of Gosling's Rum was demolished in a most successful mission to introduce O-do to the national cocktail of Bermuda.

Oh yeah, Urban Think's stock of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ was also demolished, proving that good rum and good books make delightful bedfellows.

Next stop: Thursday, Feb. 8; 6:30 p.m. at Inkwood Booksin Tampa.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Sun shines on Schwartz

The first review of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ is in (aside from the good ones in Publisher's Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus.) Writing in the Baltimore Sun, the goddess of mystery reviewers, Sarah Weinman says: "Comic crime novels are exceedingly difficult to pull off, especially as the inevitable Leonard/Hiaasen comparisons set up expectations that disappoint -- and that's before reader tastes about humor kick in. But Morris gets things very right in his third novel, which marks the return of football hero-turned-adventurer Zach Chasteen."

You can read the whole review by going back and clicking on the Baltimore Sun thingie. And I know it's wrong for authors to grovel and suck-up to reviewers by calling them goddesses and such, but Sarah is, after all, brilliant, and I, after all, am shameless.

At long last ... pub day!

Man, it feels like I've been waiting forever for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ to come out. Finished writing it last June, got the advance copies in August, and since then it has been wait, wait, wait. But now it's official. Today is Publication Day! And for the next coupla months I'll be taking my show on the road, vying for book sales and happy to take whatever crumbs the likes of James Patterson, Janet Evanovich and JK Rowling might leave me.

I'll be posting regular dispatches from the road here, so check back often to see how things are going in DC, NYC, Chicago and, oh, Wetumpka, AL. Wetumpka. Never been there. Can't wait to see if it's as glorious as it sounds.

But first, one housekeeping matter: I am proud to announce the winner of our "Name the Librarians Contest." We were in search of a collective noun that best described a group of librarians and while many of the entries came close: "A shush of librarians," "a stack of librarians," "a lush of librarians" (according to the librarian who sent that in, librarians really like to drink -- who knew?), the winning entry came from (cue drum roll, please):

Jane Peterson, Seminole County (FL) Library System, who suggested: A volume of librarians.

I like that, I like that a lot. And since I'm the judge, Jane wins a free copy of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ.

Now, the rest of you -- go out and buy them.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Dark 'n Stormy Tour

After much, much ado -- which explains why I haven't posted here in more than a month -- I am proud to announce the itinerary for the upcoming BERMUDA SCHWARTZ Dark 'n Stormy Tour.

And I'm proud to announce that, in addition to my publisher, St. Martin's Minotaur, I've signed on a corporate sponsor for the tour: Goslings Rum. The Gosling family has been bottling and blending rum in Bermuda since the 1800s and its famed Black Seal rum is the backbone of a Dark 'n Stormy, the national cocktail of Bermuda. You gotta love a country with a national cocktail.

In any event, Gosling's is kindly donating rum for me to use in a judicious manner, and at several stops along the way I'll be making Dark 'n Stormies and serving them to one and all. The other primary ingredient in a Dark 'n Stormy is ginger beer, specifically Barritt's ginger beer, also made in Bermuda. I've got no idea how I'll be getting my hands on that, but something will work itself out. Always does. If not, hell, we'll drink it neat. Just like Zack Chasteen.

The itinerary below is still evolving, so check back to see if dates have been added. Also, double-check with the store about the specific time because I have a hard time keeping it all straight and may have screwed up. And if you have friends or family in the cities I'll be visiting, shoot me their contact information (by email, please, not here) and I'll send them an invitation to join me and drink a little rum.


Tuesday, Feb. 6
6 p.m.
Urban Think! bookstore
This is the Official Publication Day. And I'll be hanging out at this very cool downtown store with owners Bruce and Medea Harris, manager Jim Crescitelli and other Urban Thinkers. Also on board for the evening -- Orlando writer Tom Cavanagh, whose Central Florida-based mystery, HEAD GAMES, was just published by St. Martin's.

Thursday, Feb. 8
7 p.m.
Inkwood Books
The lovely Carla Jiminez has invited me to return to her awesome store. Yes, Dark 'n Stormies will be served. Possible guest appearance by my pal and fellow St. Martin's author James Sheehan ("The Mayor of Lexington Avenue"), who practices law in St. Petersburg on the side.

Saturday, Feb. 10
2 p.m.
Winter Park
No rum here, sorry, but I might be making conch fritters if Mimi Sandoval, the district marketing manager for Borders, gives me the go ahead.Stay tuned...

Sunday, Feb. 11
2-6 p.m.
Palmano's Roastery-Cafe
333 S. Park Ave.
Winter Park
Rich and Teresa Palmano have once again decided to throw good sense to the wind and let me hold my Official Publication Party in their wonderful courtyard. There'll be reggae by Kool Vibes, and if you buy a book, then I'll buy you a Dark 'n Stormy.

Thursday, Feb. 15
7:30 p.m.
Bailey's Crossroads, VA

Friday, Feb. 16
7 p.m.
Partners & Crime
New York City
Join me for Dark 'n Stormies at this mystery lovers institution on Greenwich Avenue. Earlier in the day, I'll be dropping in at Black Orchid Bookshop and The Mysterious Bookshop.

Sunday, Feb. 18
2 p.m.
The Book Cellar
Join me for Dark 'n Stormies and possible sightings of JA Konrath and JD Gordon,
who have gallantly declined to drink rum until after they have finished driving me around town.

Monday, Feb. 19
6:30 p.m.
Murder by the Book
One of the best things about visiting MBTB, in addition to the wonderful hospitality and manager David Thompson's enthusiasm for Florida mystery authors, is that it's right around the corner from Goode's Barbecue and Goode's Seafood. The real dilemman -- deciding which one to hit after the book signing.

Tuesday, Feb. 20
7 p.m.
M is for Mystery
San Mateo, CA
Local chapters of the University of Florida Alumni Club and the Parrotheads have both threatened to show up, so this could get ugly. Owner and all-around-great-guy Ed Kaufman will try to keep things under control.

Wednesday, Feb. 21
7 p.m.
Chaucer's Bookstore
Santa Barbara, CA
My former stompin' grounds (1996-1999.) I'll be hanging out with friends old and new, including some of the good folks I used to work with at the late, lamented Islands Publishing Co.

Thursday, Feb. 22
Mysteries to Die For
Thousand Oaks, CA
Jane, Deanne and Heidi -- the lovely trio behind Mysteries to Die For -- are so darn nice that I'd like to spend more time here. But sadly, it's just a quick drop-in since I'm catching the red-eye out of LAX in the evening, just after ...

7 p.m.
The Mystery Bookstore
Los Angeles
I promise that this year I am taking into account the late afternoon LA traffic and won't be an hour late for the signing. But it's worth fighting gridlock to join Bob McCue and crew and to sign the store's legendary booking sheet...I'm already trying to figure out a clever entry that will hold up against the hundreds of others from authors who've visited the store.

Fri.-Sat., Feb. 23-24
South Carolina Book Festival
Columbia, SC
I'll be on a Saturday panel at what is shaping up to be a great event. Some of my author buds in attendance include James "Zero" Born, Ad Hudler, Michelle Martinez, Mary Anna Evans, Charles Martin, James Sheehan and Matt and Ted Lee. OK, I don't really know Matt and Ted Lee, but I am a giant fan of their food columns in the New York Times Magazine and their cookbook and anyone who can come up with a recipe for boiled peanut soup is fine by me.

Tuesday, Feb. 27
7 p.m.
Muse Book Shop
Owner Janet Bollum will have her hands full since James "Zero" Born ("Field of Fire") will also be there. And yes, Dark 'n Stormies are on the agenda...

Wednesday, Feb. 28
7 p.m.
Vero Beach Book Center
Vero Beach
Yes, another gig with Jim Born. Heck, folks are gonna think we're going steady... The always enchanting Cynthia Grabenhauer helps make this a welcome stop on the book tour.

Thursday, March 1
7 p.m.
Murder on the Beach
Delray Beach
The fabulous Joanne Sinchuk hosts the equally fabulous Christine Kling and me at her store, which is, of course, the center of the Florida mystery universe.

Friday, March 2
Stay tuned...I'm trying to set up something in Fort Lauderdale/Plantation...especially for all you friends of Randy Nutt and Aqua Moon Adventures.

Saturday, March 3
5 p.m.
Books & Books
Coral Gables
"Conch Fritter Fest" returns to Mitch Kaplan's most wonderful store. Beware of hot peanut oil!

Sunday, March 4
2 p.m.
Well Read Books
1338 SE 17th St.
Fort Lauderdale
Owner Donna Mergenhagen's fine shop, near the cruise ship docks, stocks lots o' Florida authors and caters to the nautical crowd. A perfect fit for the likes of Zack Chasteen.

Tuesday, March 6
4 p.m.
The Book Basket
108 Company Street
Wetumpka, AL
Owner Tammy Lynn has invited me to show up early to sign books and drink Dark 'n Stormies before speaking to the store's mystery book club -- Fowl Play -- and drinking more Dark 'n Stormies.

Wednesday, March 7
3-5 p.m.
Page and Palette
Fairhope, Al
I've heard so much about this great bookstore -- I'm delighted to finally pay a visit. I'll be signing books right before Cassandra King arrives to talk about her newest novel, "The Queen of Broken Hearts."

Thursday, March 8
6 p.m.
Adding to the zoo -- the Florida legislature will be in session.

Friday, March 9
6 p.m.
Those of you who've read JAMAICA ME DEAD can turn out to enjoy a guest appearance by the real life "Lanny Cumbaa," fictional foul-mouth DEA agent extraoridnaire.

Saturday, March 10
7 p.m.
The Bookmark
299 Atlantic Blvd.
Atlantic Beach, FL
I set off the smoke alarm at The Bookmark when I made conch fritters on the JAMAICA ME DEAD tour. So this time around, I've promised owner Ron Brinlee that I'll stick to rum drinks. Mainly because her husband, Buford, broke a stool trying to shut of the alarm. I'll be joined here by Christine Kling ("Wrecker's Key).

Sunday, March 11

2 p.m.

Wednesday, March 14
2:30 p.m.
Winter Park Historical Association
Women's Club
Winter Park, FL

Thursday, March 15
6:30 p.m.
Leesburg Community Building, Venetian Gardens
Leesburg, FL
"A Taste of the Tropics"
This is a kick off event for the Lake County Reading Festival. I'll be cooking some conch fritter appetizers. I'm delighted that BERMUDA SCHWARTZ has been selected as the 2007 adult selection for Lake County Reads (Caution: Keep it way from kids...) This means that all 237,000 residents of Lake County are required by law to buy a copy. I wish...

Saturday, March 17
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Lake County Reading Festival
Venetian Gardens
A daylong spectacle with a variety of authors including Mary Anna Evans ("Effigies"), Charles Benoit ("Relative Danger"), Joe Moore and Lynn Sholes ("The Grail Conspiracy") and my pal and neighbor Pam Brandon ("Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas.")

Sunday, March 18
1 p.m.
Circle Books
St. Armand's Circle
I'll be set up on the sidewalk outside of Deb Stowell's terrific shop with Christine Kling, making Dark 'n Stormies and signing books. It's always a lovely day in Sarasota. C'mon by...

Thursday, March 22
1 pm.
Murder on the Beach
Delray Beach
Joanne Sinchuk has invited a book club to have lunch...and I'm their speaker.

Fri.-Sat., March 23-24
Virginia Festival of the Book
Charlottesville, VA
I'll be part of the "You're Killing Me ... With Laughter" Crime Wave panel at 4 p.m. on Saturday with JD Rhoades, Elaine Viets, Donna Andrews and
Linwood Barclay. Also appearing as part of the Crime Wave are Lee Child, George Pelecanos and Tess Gerritsen.

Sunday, March 25
Sometime in the afternoon
Mystery Loves Company
Baltimore and Oxford, Md.
I'll be dropping by the store's two locations to say hello and sign stock.

Monday, March 26
7:30 p.m.
Creatures 'n Crooks Bookshoppe
Richmond, VA
I'll be speaking to the store's book club, but those darn Virginia laws prohibit serving Dark 'n Stormies...

Tuesday, March 26
All day -- Details to come
Raleigh and Southern Pines NC
The wonderful Molly Weston has volunteered to take me around to her favorite bookstores/libraries in the Raleigh area.

Thursday, April 12
2 pm
Cape Coral Public Library
Cape Coral, FL

Friday, April 13
5 p.m.
One for the Books
Cape Coral, FL
Don and his crew have invited me to serve cocktails and darn if I'm not going to oblige them.

Saturday, April 14
MacIntosh Books
Susie Holly has invited Jim Born and me to drop by and hang out for awhile. Come see us...

Fri.-Sat., April 20-21
Much Ado About Books
This is always a great event with dozens of authors from all over Florida and the U.S.