James W. Hall is an American author and professor from Florida. He has written several novels, poetry, a collection of short stories, and a collection of essays. Hall published four collections of poetry, three of them with Carnegie-Mellon University Press. His poems appeared in Poetry, American Scholar, North American Review, Antioch Review, Poetry Northwest, and many other literary magazines.
He was a Fulbright professor of literature in Spain and is a professor of literature and writing at Florida International University.
Hall is also the author of two collections of short stories. Paper Products (W.W. Norton), and Over Exposure, an ebook that contains his Edgar Award winning short story, “The Catch.”
Several of his novels were optioned for film and Hall wrote the screenplays for two of those projects, Bones of Coral, MGM-Pathe, Gruscoff-Levy Producers. (Co-writer, Les Standiford) And Under Cover of Daylight, (screenplay), Nelson Entertainment, Red Bank Studios Producers. He also wrote a television series pilot for Renfield Productions.
The Thorn Series
Thorn is the ultimate lone wolf hero who would prefer to be left alone to enjoy the idyllic life that Key Largo can offer him. But he keeps getting dragged into the most perilous situations by any types of crooks, criminals and nut-jobs who happen into his orbit.
Since first being introduced in Under Cover of Daylight (1987), Thorn has appeared in 14 books. The Florida setting is consistent throughout the series and the promise of living a quiet life casting for bonefish always seems to be snatched out of reach as some greedy asshole always seems to appear to send Thorn into a cold rage.
Down the stretch the books have covered numerous different situations that can be expected of the Florida life. Eco-terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration are all covered at some point.
Blackwater Sound won the 2003 Shamus Award for Best Novel and Buzz Cut (1996), the fifth book in the series was nominated for the 1996 Hammett Prize.
I’ve seen Thorn described as a tougher Travis McGee and Hall himself has compared him to Robert Parker’s Spenser. For myself, I see a lot of similarities to Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford another Floridian who would much prefer to lead a simple life but is drawn into conflict which he accepts with more than a little capability.
One of the regular characters in the series is Thorn’s good friend Sugarman who is also a private detective. He helps out whenever Thorn needs some proper investigation done and also acts as a sounding board when Thorn’s rationality begins to diminish.
There are a lot of things to like about the Florida Keys and Thorn is one of them. He remains a point of cool calmness in the surrounding madness that sometimes takes over.
The Stand-Alone Novels
As well as the Thorn series of books, Hall has also written five high quality stand-alone novels. For the most part, Florida is the primary location for these novels but they display great diversity while consistently spinning a good yarn.
Bones of Coral (1991) takes what should be a predictable situation, that of a rekindled romance, and adds a couple of off-beat characters to spice things up. If you’re looking for a crime novel with a difference with twists that you won’t see coming this will give you what you need.
Hard Aground (1993) is a treasure hunt story based around the city of Miami. The main character is Hap Tyler, a Vietnam vet who has eased into the local tourist industry. His brother has been murdered by people hoping for the information he was holding about a Spanish shipwreck that holds over $400 million in treasure. The race is on to beat the bad guts to the treasure.
Body Language (1998) introduces Miami-based police crime-scene photographer and black belt Alexandra Rafferty. There is a lot going on in this story as Alex works a serial killer case which is our main focus. Meanwhile her husband is in the process of planning a robbery. Throw in an airhead mistress and a senile father and the story quickly descends into a very entertaining farce.
Rough Draft (2000) is another suspense novel that features a female protagonist. In this case a Miami police detective, Hannah Keller, whose parents are murdered in what looks like a gang-related assassination. Her six-year-old son was present at the time and is badly traumatized.
Forests of the Night (2005) once again features a female protagonist in the form of police detective Charlotte Monroe. She comes home one evening to find her family chatting to a man whom she comes to recognize as a man on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Before she can take action the man has gone and her daughter has gone with him. The chase heads into the wilds of the North Carolina mountains and grows equally more desperate and convoluted the further it goes.