The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 19, 2013

Mike Pound: How can a normal guy create an insane fiction character?

Tim Dorsey appears to be a fairly normal guy.

Sure, he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt on a cold night in Kansas City, but he also was wearing a hooded jacket because, as Tim put it, “I’m not insane.”

Other than his shirt preference, Tim seems to be normal. He has a wife and kids, and he lives in a fairly typical subdivision near Tampa, Fla.

So why does he write novels that feature a serial killer named Serge Storms, his drug- and alcohol-obsessed sidekick named Coleman, and a host of unsavory, sick, violent characters? And, how does Tim make it all so funny?

According to Tim, you can blame it on Florida.

Many of the oddest scenes in his novels, Tim said, come straight out of the newspaper.

As an example, Tim said he recently came across a tidbit in a Florida paper about a couple who desired to get — shall we say — amorous in a trash bin and managed to get robbed by two other people who were already in the same bin.

“The stories are too good to be true,” Tim said.

I first came across Tim’s novels several years ago when I picked up a copy of “Hurricane Punch.”

By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked.

So when I saw that Tim was going to be at Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., on Monday to talk about his new book, “The Riptide Ultra-Glide,” I had to drive up and chat with him.

Besides discovering that Tim is a pretty normal guy, I also discovered that he is outgoing, friendly and very down-to-earth. He made it a point to greet every fan who came into the store, and he talked with them all at length. And in case you’re wondering, Tim’s fans are normal, too.

Sure, he has fans who send him pictures of tattoos they have gotten in honor of his books — “(John) Grisham doesn’t have that,” he said with a laugh — but he also has fans who knit during his appearances.

“If you look at the demographics of my readers, I have more women readers than men, and half of my readers are over 50,” Tim said.

On the other hand, Tim said that according to the Florida Department of Corrections, he is the most popular writer in the state’s prison system.

“My kids are so proud,” Tim said with a laugh.

Tim said that as a rule, the majority of his fans are normal and polite, which is why, he thinks, they like the fact that the hero of his novels is a serial killer.

Serge Storms is not a random serial killer. The people he disposes of tend to be awful, greedy, selfish characters who prey on others and deserve their fate.

“Rude people get their way simply by being rude, and Serge takes care of them,” Tim said.

And, yes, Tim admits that there is a lot of Serge in him.

“I’ll drive away from a confrontation (with a rude person) thinking of ways to kill them,” he said.

A native of Florida, Tim worked as a reporter and editor at The Tampa Tribune from 1987 to 1999, which allowed him to become somewhat of an expert on Florida history. His novels are filled with fascinating and often obscure state landmarks and tales related by Serge as he and Coleman buzz up and down the state.

Asked to describe Serge, Tim paused for a second.

“He’s clearly insane,” Tim said.

Of course, insanity can be a relative thing, and somehow in the Florida of Tim’s novels, the insane Serge often is the only person who makes any sense.

Tim’s novels aren’t for everyone, but if you aren’t put off by a serial killer with a heart, plenty of violence, a lot of drug and alcohol references, strong language, and evil villains who often meet their demise in bizarre fashion, you might pick up one of Tim’s novels.

But remember, you have been warned.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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