Tag Archives: Bob Morris

Morris’s “Baja Florida” Goes Down Easy

Ex-Gator, ex-Dolphin (as in football, folks), and all-around sensitive tough guy, Zack Chasteen is – in this fifth novel in Bob Morris’s series – an adventurous do-gooder, exonerated ex-con, and dedicated family man all at once. I love the big guy. You’ve got to love a guy who can get away with naming his daughter Shula. I want to go fishing with him, down a few brews, and hear his stories. Luckily, I can do the later between the covers of a book (or, more and more likely these days, on the screen of a Kindle).

Winter Park resident Bob Morris, a fourth-generation Floridian, has founded a new para-nation: Bermuda to the north, the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands to the south, and Florida as the anchor – the island of the mind with water on three sides. Baja means a lot of things, including “lower” and “dropped from.” It’s a region to which, for all its internal variety, Morris gives a startling continuity. An accomplished travel and entertainment writer (“National Geographic Traveler,” “ Bon Appetit,” “Caribbean Travel & Life”) Bob Morris writes with authority not only about resort destinations, but also about less visited and less homogenized places near, along, and well off the coast of the Sunshine State. 

Chasteen’s Palm Nursery is headquarters, and Zack’s old friend, Mickey Ryser, finds him there. Mickey, who is both enormously wealthy and deathly ill, persuades Zack to track down Jen, a daughter whom he had more or less abandoned when she was a toddler some twenty years ago. He needs to reunite with her before he dies. In fact, he has already set a private detective on the case, but the man has disappeared and won’t respond to Mickey’s calls.

The full review is available in the February 25-March 3, 2010 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly. Click here for the online version: Florida Weekly – Bob Morris. It also appears in the March 10-16 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly.

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BOOK BEAT 62 – Bob Morris

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   January 23-29, 2008

by Philip K. Jason

Our wonderful State of Florida must be the charmed zone for authors of outstanding crime fiction. One of the best to come along in recent years is Bob Morris, who turned novelist after years as a journalist, travel writer, and editor – working for such publications as the “Fort Myers News-Press,” the “Orlando Sentinel,” “Caribbean Travel and Life,” “Bon Appetite,” and “National Geographic Traveler.” His first novel, “Bahamarama,” was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award as best first mystery novel. It achieved several other distinctions as well. It was followed by “Jamaica Me Dead,” which also received much positive attention. Most recently, Morris brought to press “Bermuda Schwartz,” which has just been released in mass market paperback. 

“Bermuda Schwartz” is a delightful romp, at once travelogue, mystery, and tough-guy romance. Morris’s continuing character, Zach Chasteen, travels to Bermuda with his girlfriend, travel magazine publisher Barbara Pickering. Their visit, occasioned by a birthday party for Barbara’s wealthy and somewhat wacky aunt, turns into a series of interlocking puzzles that Zach must solve.

There is the corpse that shows signs of a unique torture, linking the unknown perpetrator to crimes on Bermuda that happened some years back. There is the strange business of Zach’s sizeable Bermuda bank account having disappeared. And there is the fascinating character of Teddy Schwartz, a famous treasure salvager, whose mysterious behavior causes suspicion and mayhem. Then there is the guy at the dive shop, Bill Belleville, a somewhat questionable character whose name matches that of one of Florida’s most respected nature writers. (Florida authors seem to love these in-jokes.) And there is Zach’s sidekick, Boggy, a man of wisdom drawn from the indigenous Taino culture of the Dominican Republic, and a person of unfailing loyalty. And there is the attractive and determined Australian, Fiona McHugh, whose brother Ned is the victim.

We meet an obstinate Bermudan police officer who walks a tightrope between conducting his investigation by the book and resentfully granting Zach some space to freelance. We meet Manuolo Ferreira, the leader of a Portuguese crime family reputed to be connected to a mysterious religious order seeking an important remnant of the Holy Cross. Indeed, it seems that everyone is seeking it, and this quest becomes intertwined with Zach’s quest to recover his missing funds. We have an adventure that is on one level thousands of years old and on another level goes back merely hundreds of years to the late fifteenth century voyages of discovery to the New World.

Morris at Miami Book Fair

Morris adroitly maneuvers Zach through a series of confrontations, alliances, and near-misses until the final pieces of the puzzle are assembled. Morris’s skills in characterization, pacing, and scene-setting are powerful, and he invests Zach with an edge at once hard-boiled and humorous. Zach’s sarcastic, satiric wit and rough-hewn manner sometimes put him at odds with Barbara’s stuffy aunt, but the two eventually gain a grudging respect for one another. And Zach’s relationship with Barbara deepens in the process.

You have to like a guy who played big-time college as well as professional football and has evolved into the proprietor of the Chasteen Palm Nursery. Like many of his contemporaries in the world of fictional crime-solving leading men, Zach Chasteen does not play at being a detective – troubles just come his way. Morris, who knows his Florida and the fascinating world of nearby paradisiacal islands, paints with cool authority a colorful world populated by memorable characters – and his plot clicks like the tumblers in a safe.

You can discover more about this must-read author at bobmorris.net. And you can meet him in Naples on April 5 & 6 as part of the faculty of the Naples Writers Conference, held in conjunction with the Naples Press Club’s Authors and Books Festival.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.

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