Last month I was here to talk about my newest release, “The Dirty Blonde,” the third installment in the Vic Fallon romantic mystery series. Since it’s done fairly well I wanted to draw some attention to the previous installment, “Lido Key” (Extasy Books) because it’s one of my favorites. It’s the second book in the series but they don’t need to be read in order. “Lido Key” evokes the pulp fiction style of Chandler, Spillane and Westlake in a contemporary setting, with all of the required elements – tough romantic hero, sexy heroine who’s hard as brass on the outside but soft in the middle, vivid atmosphere, a supporting cast of shady characters and liberal doses of hot sex.
“Vic Fallon has worked on some strange cases since he left the police force to become a Private Investigator, but when a former lover asks him to look into a bizarre blackmail demand, it’s one for his memoirs. Vic hasn’t spoken to Ariel Weston since his last trip to Siesta Key, Florida three years earlier. The end of their affair wasn’t amicable, and Vic swore that the next time he saw Ariel he’d drown her with the nearest Pina Colada. When Ariel gets caught up in a potentially embarrassing sex scandal, she appeals to him for help. Vic reluctantly agrees but finds himself in a real quandary when he realizes they still have feelings for each other. Can Vic solve Ariel’s problem before the blackmailer ruins her life? Will Ariel succeed in convincing Vic to give their failed relationship another chance?”
In total candor, this is probably the sleaziest concept I ever came up with. It was also one of the most fun books I’ve worked on because it’s topical. The story was inspired by the online dangers of sexting and the repercussions when one’s private moments unknowingly become public. Here’s an excerpt where Vic has a flashback of meeting Ariel for the first time:
Their initial meeting had happened on his first night in town, at a place called The Daiquiri Deck in Siesta Key Village. Vic hadn’t been actively looking for a hook-up when he went there after a day of beachcombing, but when he locked eyes with Ariel Weston from across the bar there was no escape.
Vic moved to the stool next to hers, drawn in like a marlin hooked by a determined fisherman. “Excuse me, Miss, but I’m new in town. Could you please direct me to your house?”
She began with a chuckle that escalated into full-blown laughter, then she playfully smacked Vic’s forearm. “That’s so lame, it’s cute!”
Her eyes scanned him up and down. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before, have I?” she asked in a low, smoky voice.
“No. Do I need a reservation to sit here?”
She laughed again. “A smart-ass. I like that quality in a man. Where are you from, smart-ass?”
“A whole other world. Would you like me to provide references before we go any further?”
She placed her hand on his on top of the bar and drilled his eyes with hers. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary, but since we’re going to be friends I think I should call you something more formal than smart-ass.”
“Are we going to be friends?”
“Unless you think you already have enough of them.”
“You can never have enough friends. Why don’t you call me Blake?”
“Is that your real name?”
“No, my real name is Vic. I just use Blake to fool people. What should I call you besides totally hot?”
“I like that, but let’s go with Ariel.”
“Thank you. I’m rather attached to it.” She massaged his hand. “I should tell you something, Vic. I’m married to a rich older man, we don’t have any kids and we’ve always had separate bedrooms. He doesn’t really notice if I’m not home, since he’s only there long enough to change clothes before he meets his latest girlfriend. He doesn’t ask me any questions and I don’t grill him about where he drops his pants. Does that bother you?”
“One man’s ignorance is another man’s bliss.”
“Ooh, a clever smart-ass. That’s another quality I like.”
“And we’re just getting started.”
* * * *
I wanted to include a scene that shows Fallon’s insolent character along with one of the shady members of the supporting cast. This is a run-in he has with a crooked cop who just happens to be one of Ariel’s former paramours:
Vic cruised along Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key. He was within two miles of Ariel’s house when he saw the flashing red light in his rearview mirror and heard the short burst of a police siren. He parked on the side of the road, turned off the ignition then tossed his sunglasses onto the passenger seat. In the side mirror he saw Eric Broussard get out of his unmarked car and casually stroll in his direction. What fresh hell is this? Vic thought.
Broussard looked at him through his aviator’s and smiled. “Hey there, Sport. Know why I stopped you?”
“Not a clue, Lieutenant.”
Broussard jerked his head in the direction Vic had just come. “I clocked you doin’ thirty-six in a thirty-five zone back there. Step out of the car.”
Vic groaned, unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car.
Broussard walked him to the back of the Mustang then held out his hand. “Driver’s license and proof of insurance, please.”
Vic took out his wallet, extracted the items then handed them to Broussard. He examined them carefully, made notes on his ticket pad then gave them back. He took a couple of sniffs. “You been drinkin’, Sport?”
“Uh-huh.” Broussard indicated the shoulder of the road. “Give me a straight line, heel to toe, both arms straight out at your side, ten paces up and back.”
Vic scowled at him then complied with his order. When he returned to the car Broussard grabbed the front of Vic’s shirt then threw him face first against the trunk. Vic contained a groan as Broussard patted him down.
“You oughta be more mindful of local traffic ordinances,” he said as he continued his head to toe search. “Every year we write a mess of tickets to out-of-towners who don’t know the rules.”
“Maybe you should think of it as job security.”
Broussard grabbed Vic’s shirt, yanked him upright to face him then drove his fist into Vic’s gut. He let out a cry of pain and surprise.
“Somethin’ you wanted to say? Maybe you’d like to register a complaint about Police brutality?”
Vic took deep breaths and glared at him while cradling his gut.
Broussard grinned. “Boy, I’ll bet you’d love to take a poke at me right about now, wouldn’t you? Can’t say I’d blame you, since I swung first without provocation. Go on, take your best shot.”
Vic slowly shook his head. “Forget it, Broussard. I’m not hitting a cop. Not even an asshole like you.”
Broussard quickly drew back his fist and punched Vic in the jaw. The impact sent him sprawling against the car. Vic felt blood trickling from the corner of his mouth.
Broussard stepped back. “I apologize for that unwarranted outburst. Chief says I’ve got anger management issues. I’m lettin’ you off with a warning this time, but don’t let me catch you breakin’ our rules again, you hear?”
Vic looked at him and wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. “Yeah.”
Broussard walked back to his car. “Hey, Broussard,” Vic called after him. “You carry your gun when you’re off duty?”
Broussard stopped and looked at him. “Why you askin’, Sport?”
Broussard grinned and gave a snappy salute before getting into his car and pulling away. Vic eased himself into his car, exhaled a deep breath then continued on his way. When he reached Ariel’s house he went to the front door, pressed the bell then leaned against the frame. A moment later, Marchia opened the door. She looked at his face and torn shirt and gasped.
“Conqueror! What happened to you?”
“I fell down,” Vic quipped.
She helped him to the pool out back. Ariel frowned.
“How does the other guy look?” she asked.
Vic eased himself onto a chair. “Not a scratch.”
* * * *
If you’re in the mood for a blast from the B-movie past with a contemporary twist, pour yourself a glass of Scotch, prop your feet on the desk, tip back your fedora and enjoy “Lido Key.” It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
* * * *
Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author whose books range from romantic mystery/thriller to contemporary erotic romance. He can often be found in The Florida Keys, doing research in between parasailing and seeking out the perfect Mojito. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.