Tim Dorsey loves Florida news headlines. Those headlines, along with small towns and black humor, fuel the Serge Storms novels readers have come to love. Dorsey’s nineteenth book in the series is Coconut Cowboy, a wacky blend of Easy Rider, a corrupt Southern town, and a serial killer out to set the world right.
For those unfamiliar with the movie, Easy Rider was a 1969 classic starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. The movie was about two part-time, drug-dealing motorcyclists (Fonda and Hopper) who went in search of the “American Dream.” Fonda and Hopper’s lifestyle didn’t mix with traditional Southern values and they met a tragic end. The movie, said Dorsey, was the genesis for Coconut Cowboy.
“Basically,” said Dorsey, “the star of the books is the state of Florida. The books provide an insider’s view you won’t find in a Chamber of Commerce brochure. I love Florida and it has become my life. First, I was a journalist and then I was able to become a novelist. I consider myself lucky to be able to cull these inane facts and weird places into a job. These books come from my own passion. Readers ask if I’m a historian, but I’m just an amateur who loves history. I love to drive around and take photos.”
His passion for the area’s history led Tim Dorsey to the Southeastern portion of Louisiana. He said, “In Louisiana, there are parishes instead of counties. Seven of the parishes were formed out of what was once West Florida Territory. There’s even a Republic of West Florida Parkway and it all used to be part of the Florida panhandle. The area was once controlled by the Spanish, but the English settlers stormed the Baton Rouge garrison and kicked the Spanish out. They set up the Republic of Florida, had their own legislature. They even wrote a constitution and had a flag.”
The thing that always got me was that in the movie their whole dream was to get to Florida.
This type of history leads to a culture with strong values—one intolerant of motorcycle-riding drug dealers like those in Easy Rider. “The thing that always got me,” said Dorsey, “was that in the movie their whole dream was to get to Florida. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were heading to paradise—the Promised Land. I’ve checked online and on the map. They would have to have been in St. Tammany parish, one of the Florida parishes. I decided to go back to the parishes and create the sequel to Easy Rider.”
“It all begins when Serge sees the movie and decides he’s going to find his own American dream where the movie left off. Just like the movie, he shuns interstates. He starts in the Florida parishes—basically, hitting the small towns. In Florida, they drive through one small town that’s completely corrupt and is lining someone’s pockets with fines from a speed trap.”
Because Tim Dorsey’s books deal with all things wild and wacky, he often receives comments from readers saying things like, “You think it’s so funny to make this stuff up.” In response, he tells them all he has to do is to keep up on current Florida events.
Now working on his twentieth novel, Dorsey finds the most difficult challenges to being a writer are mostly a matter of discipline. “To write, you have to squirrel yourself away. If you’ve got a life and a family, you’ve got to tend to that first. It’s not the challenges you would normally expect to hear. This job is a labor of love.”
Learn more about Tim Dorsey and Coconut Cowboy at timdorsey.com.