Interview with Jungle Red Writers

Nasty! The smarmy side of Florida from author Tom Turner
HALLIE EPHRON: Tom Turner sounds like a character out of MAD MEN. He ran a bar in Vermont after college, then moved to New York where he worked as a copywriter at Manhattan advertising agencies, then moved to Palm Beach and got into real estate flipping houses. He uses his interesting background (aka checkered past) to his advantage in writing his debut novel, Palm Beach Nasty (Permanent Press).Nasty? Really??? I asked him to explain.

TOM TURNER: A few of my friends– women for the most part– thought that the word ‘Nasty’ in the title smacked of cheesy, prurient no-tell-motel sex. I stuck with it anyway. Mainly because I had the title long before I wrote the first word of the novel. Just liked it.

The nastiness I write about actually refers to my bad guys.

HALLIE: More than one?

TOM: A billionaire with a thing for young girls. He’s gotten to where he is by being ruthless, predatory and over-the-top depraved. An ex-bartender who hatches a nefarious plan to defraud and deceive the second richest man in Palm Beach, an old dude half-way down the Alzheimers highway. A Mutt n’ Jeff combo of vicious hitters — one a former Fulbright scholar, the other a guy whose lips move as he reads comics books.
Nasty guys indeed… but I think you’re gonna like ’em!

HALLIE: And who are they up against?

TOM: Detective Charlie Crawford of the Palm Beach Police Department, and the big question is does he have enough left in the tank to take down these guys? Sure, he was a big-time, gold shield up in NewYork. But that was before he burned out and washed up on a Key West beach, listening to stoned-out beach bums in lame Hawaiian shirts ooh-and-ah pretty average sunsets and ‘dude’ each other to death.

HALLIE: Love that idea: ‘dude each other to death.’
How did you research your cops?

TOM: Well, for one thing I did a lot of ride-alongs. But nothing of a criminal nature ever seemed to happen. It was pretty disappointing. No break-ins, no petty larcenies, nothing. The cops actually apologized to me. They were greatly relieved one night when the dispatcher reported a suspicious man sleeping on the beach. Five cop cars showed up. Turned out he was just sleeping off a long night at a local gin mill called Ta-boo.

HALLIE: And what about Palm Beach? A good place for nastiness?

TOM: As for my knowledge of Palm Beach… I did a long stint there renovating houses. I was thrown into a mix of shifty-eyed developers, promise-you-the-moon real estate brokers and lawyers who all bore a certain resemblance to Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman. It was an eye-opening period and many of those characters wandered into Palm Beach Nasty.

I saved a few others for Palm Beach Poison, which is next in the series. Like the deadly Russian duo and their poisonous snakes. Talk about nasty.

HALLIE: In case you’re wondering, Tom got a very nice review in Publishers Weekly which called his brand of nastiness plenty entertaining.

My question: What it is in the water in that part of Florida that breeds so many twisted tales? (To quote Carl Hiassen: “The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It’s hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life.”)

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