The Story Behind “Lido Key”
By Tim Smith
To learn more about Tim's title, Lido Key, visit eXtasy Books.
I’m pleased to announce the release of my new romantic mystery, Lido Key, from eXtasy Books. This is the second in the Vic Fallon series I started a year ago with The Bundle, but it isn’t a sequel or follow-up. This is a stand alone entry in the series, and it evokes the pulp fiction style of Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane and Donald E. Westlake. All of the elements are here – 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.
The case pulls Vic out of his northern Ohio comfort zone to the Sunshine State, where he crosses paths with a corrupt local cop, a famous writer with a taste for booze and women, and a sleazy strip club owner who knows more than he’s letting on. Throw in one very cute Latina who develops a crush on him, and the puzzle gets more complex. 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?
When I conceived the Vic Fallon character I kept remembering the Private Eye shows that littered TV in the sixties and seventies, like Mannix, Peter Gunn and The Rockford Files. In each episode the hero got involved with a different woman as part of the case of the week. There were sparks but just when things were about to get interesting, they’d cut to a commercial. In contemporary erotic romance we don’t have commercials so we can show the gritty details. For the Fallon series I envisioned him getting involved with a different heroine in each installment, and fading out with a “will they stay together or not?” ending.
To prepare for Lido Key I watched a lot of film noir crime capers from the forties and fifties, and re-acquainted myself with some of my favorite Chandler and Westlake novels. Quirky characters, moody atmosphere and witty dialogue laden with double entendres are part of the charm and I wanted to recreate that in a modern setting. Here’s an example, 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 had a lot of fun creating the supporting cast. This type of story presents endless possibilities for all kinds of underhanded characters. This is my description of one of them, a sleazy strip club owner:
“A gorilla wearing men’s clothing got out of the car then waddled to the club’s private entrance. Willie Castillo wore a garish yellow shirt with a tropical print over a pair of cream-colored slacks, and had a fat cigar wedged into the side of his fat sweaty face. He took a handkerchief from his pocket then mopped his brow and receding hairline.”
* * * *
I like to use dialogue to develop each character’s personality. This forces me to “show versus tell” when I can have a character reveal insights and personal history through dialogue, either internal or conversational:
Vic and Ariel sat on the white sandy Siesta Key beach, gazing into the clear night sky over The Gulf.
“Did I ever tell you what I did in my former life?” Ariel asked.
“You mean the life you had before you became a trophy wife?”
“Yeah, that life. I was a dancer at a gentleman’s club in Tampa. That’s how we met. He was one of my best customers.” She smirked and slowly shook her head. “Hell of a way to make a living, but it beat what I left behind in Orlando.”
“What did you leave behind?”
Ariel took a deep breath and slowly exhaled while staring at the incoming moonlit tide. “A stepfather who used to get drunk, beat the shit out of my mother then try to climb into my bed. I left home when I was eighteen because he couldn’t keep his hands off me. Some start, huh?”
“What did you do?”
“I made my way to Tampa, got a job and started attending school. I have an Associate’s Degree in Business.”
Vic hesitated for a moment. “At least you made something out of your life.”
“I tried to. Doing lap dances fro rich guys who were bored with their wives wasn’t exactly the career move I had in mind, but it worked out.” She turned to look at him. The evening wind gently rustled her long hair. “What about you?”
“Never performed a lap dance in my life.”
She laughed softly. “I would hope not. How does a guy like you get to be a guy like you?”
“What kind of guy would that be?”
Ariel softly stroked his cheek. “Someone strong but laid back who doesn’t really give a damn what people are. That kind of guy.”
“Hard to say. I just had the typical middle-class upbringing, no drama.” He paused a moment. “But I can relate to one thing you endured.”
“I never told you one of the reasons I had to quit being a cop. One day before I got shot n that hold-up, my partner and I went to arrest this guy for selling drugs, and the first thing I saw was his wife, beaten and bloody, curled up in a corner, begging him to stop hitting her. Long story short, something inside me snapped, I dragged the guy outside and beat the hell out of him. Seeing something like that just set me off.”
Ariel rubbed the back of his neck. “Wow. You did that for a stranger?”
“It didn’t matter to me. The guy was out of line. My old man preached to me that you don’t disrespect a woman and you never hit one.”
Ariel sighed. “Wish it would’ve been you I gave that lap dance to.”
* * * *
If you’re in the mood for a blast from the 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 is also a freelance photographer. When he isn’t pursuing those two passions 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.
To learn more about Tim's title, Lido Key, visit eXtasy Books.