Tim Dorsey doesn't get a bad rap so much as an inaccurate one. His
penchant for writing about the off-kilter residents of the State of
Florida has led to comparisons with other authors who mine similar
territory, which is unfair to everyone involved. Because a Dorsey
novel is an experience worthy of its own classification.
All of his novels have featured, to varying degrees, a force of
nature named Serge A. Storms. Storms is quite the character, a
roiling, disruptive mass of mental illnesses, each of which is
competing for attention and control, and all of which win the
contest at one point or another. He maintains a running commentary
out of his mouth and in his head, which is hysterically funny and
requires that the reader pay close attention. Storms is also a
serial killer, though for the most part his victims are people who
will never be missed.
In HURRICANE PUNCH, Storms finds time to cut and cull some of the
Gulf Coast's more obnoxious citizens from the herd --- using
ingenious, innovative techniques --- even as he and Coleman, his
faithful intoxicated companion, transverse Florida in the midst of
the worst hurricane season ever. Coleman spends most of his time
succumbing to the god of chemical toxins while Storms chases
hurricanes, seeking to drive within the eye of each one, even as he
is the subject of yet another manhunt conducted by the undaunted
and unbowed Detective Mahoney, his constant and hapless nemesis.
Storms has some competition in the mayhem department, however, as a
mysterious and jealous serial killer vies with Storms for newspaper
There is a mystery here --- the identity of Storms's competitor is
the puzzler --- but HURRICANE PUNCH is not so much a whodunit as it
is a commentary, a snapshot of the underbelly of the Florida
population, a demographic that is unacknowledged by the Florida
Department of Tourism but nonetheless exists within a few miles of
any beach in the state. As did John D. MacDonald in his brilliant
Travis McGee series, Dorsey cannily documents a class of people at
a particular time and place. Where McDonald utilized drama as his
vehicle, however, Dorsey uses humor soaked in absurdity to
illustrate and illuminate the women --- and men --- who didn't make
the cut on the "Girls Gone Wild" videos.
But the underclass is hardly Dorsey's only target. Everyone from
the President of the United States to the CEO of Dorsey's own
publishing company is lampooned here --- not always accurately, but
nonetheless unflinchingly and hilariously.
In addition to being the book's title, HURRICANE PUNCH is an apt
description of Dorsey's work. He, like Storms, is a force of nature
who will leave you howling.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 26, 2011