You can tell this isn’t your typical detective novel right away. Just check out the drawing of the jellyfish at the bottom of each page that bobs up and down when you flip through the book.
Oh, and then there’s Serge Storms, the ultimate antihero. Serge is homicidal, unstable and more than a little obsessed with Florida history. You really, really don’t want to get on his bad side, or he’s likely to kill you in a highly creative way. In “Jellyfish,” Serge dispatches with bad guys (“bad” being a relative term when dealing with Serge) using sprinkler hoses, hurricane tie-down straps, bicycle inner tubes and that expanding foam stuff they use to seal drafty places in your house.
The plot is wildly convoluted – something about diamond smugglers – and entirely beside the point. You don’t read a Tim Dorsey book for the plot. You read it to learn obscure information about Florida and to ride along with Serge and his perpetually stoned pal, Coleman, as they spread havoc across the state.
It’s a very easy read, with quick chapters and lots of interesting things going on to keep you turning pages.
They really ought to make Dorsey‘s books required reading for Florida history students. The murders and the frequent trips to strip clubs might be a problem but, man, these novels are packed with facts about the Sunshine State. Dorsey, a former reporter and editor for the Tampa Tribune, spends a lot of his time traveling the state to appear at book festivals and do signings in bookstores. And he really knows his stuff. Serge is constantly popping into Old Florida landmarks or citing some obscure fact about Florida travel in the ’30s or traveling with former governors. It’s a sneaky but effective way to actually teach people a little something.
Much of “Jellyfish” is set right in our backyard. Fort Clinch is in there. So is the Mayport Ferry, the Fuller Warren and Main Street bridges, Pete’s Bar and the Prime Osborn Convention Center. There’s a whole scene set at the Pastime bar on the Westside (that’s the place that inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps.”) An extended-stay hotel off Baymeadows plays a role, and Serge puts forth an interesting theory of how “Monday Night Football” is the main reason for the lights on the downtown bridges.
Get someone to take a picture of you reading “Nuclear Jellyfish” on the beach, then tuck a copy of the picture into the book and mail it to friends in snowier climes, along with a note saying that, yes, there really are people like that living in your state. It’ll make them crazy and would please Serge to no end.
Order your signed copy of Nuclear Jellyfish by Tim Dorsey at www.vjbooks.com
(Jacksonville.com, Jan 31, Tom Szaroleta)