Hall, James W. 1947–
Hall, James W. 1947–
(James Wilson Hall)
Born 1947, in Hopkinsville, KY; married Evelyn (a schoolteacher), 1990. Education: Attended Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College); Johns Hopkins University, M.F.A., 1969; University of Utah, Ph.D., 1973.
Home—Miami, FL; NC. Office—Florida International University, Miami, FL. Agent—Esther Newberg, International Creative Management, 10250 Constellation Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90067. E-mail—[email protected]
Florida International University, Miami, FL, teacher of literature and creative writing, 1974—.
John D. MacDonald Award; Critic's Choice Award, San Francisco Review of Books, for Gone Wild; Shamus award for best P.I. novel, 2003, for Blackwater Sound; Edgar Allan Poe Award for best short story, Mystery Writers of America, 2006, for "The Catch." Several of Hall's books have been Literary Guild and Book-of-the-Month Club selections.
Bones of Coral, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
Hard Aground, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Body Language, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Rough Draft, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Forests of the Night, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.
"THORN" SERIES; CRIME NOVELS
Under Cover of Daylight, Norton (New York, NY), 1987.
Tropical Freeze, Norton (New York, NY), 1989.
Mean High Tide, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Gone Wild, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Buzz Cut, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Red Sky at Night, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Blackwater Sound, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
Off the Chart, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
Magic City, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.
The Lady from the Dark Green Hills: Poems, Three Rivers Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1976.
The Mating Reflex (poetry), Carnegie-Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1980.
Ham Operator: Poetry and Fiction, Ampersand Press (Bristol, RI), 1980.
False Statements (poetry), Carnegie-Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1986.
Paper Products: Short Stories, Norton (New York, NY), 1990.
Hot Damn!: Alligators in the Casino, Nude Women in the Grass, How Seashells Changed the Course of History, and Other Dispatches from Paradise, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Also author of poetry collections and short stories. Columnist for Sunshine, 1998—. Contributor to periodicals, including American Scholar, Antioch Review, Georgia Review, Kenyon Press, North American Review, Poetry, and Southern Poetry Review.
Some of Hall's novels, including Body Language and Buzz Cut, have been adapted as audio books; several of his novels have also been optioned for film, and Hall has written two screenplay adaptations for his books, as well.
James W. Hall is a versatile writer whose publications include poems, short stories, and novels. He is especially well known for his crime novels, including a series featuring Thorn, an unlikely protagonist who supports himself by making fishing lures in Key Largo. "I never intended Thorn to be a series character," Hall told an interviewer in Mystery Pages. He added: "I simply wanted to try to get a single novel published." On his own Web site, Hall describes Thorn as "a simple guy, a little grumpy sometimes, who mainly wants to be left alone." But Brewster Milton Robertson, writing in Publishers Weekly, acknowledged Thorn as a "rugged man of action [who] is also a poet and philosopher."
Hall introduced Thorn to readers in 1986 with Under Cover of Daylight; then he allowed three years to pass before producing a second "Thorn" novel, Tropical Freeze, wherein the adventurous fisherman foils a cocaine-smuggling plot. An ensuing tale, Mean High Tide, finds Thorn averting ecological disaster while tracking his lover's killer, and a fourth book, Buzz Cut, relates Thorn's attempt to thwart a terrorist operation aboard a cruise ship. Mark Donovan, writing in People, concluded that Buzz Cut "packs a pretty good jolt." Booklist critic Bill Ott wrote that Buzz Cut possesses "the gut-level narrative drive of a disaster novel," while a Publishers Weekly critic affirmed that "this thriller will slice readers' sleep into slivers."
Gone Wild offers a somewhat broader scope than Hall's previous books set in Florida. In this novel, Allison Farleigh and her two daughters travel to Borneo to assist with the orangutan census. When poachers kill one of Allison's daughters, she sets out to avenge her death and, with then help of Hall's recurring character Thorn, ends up uncovering a multi-layered conspiracy that she traces all the way back to Florida and her own family. Bill Ott, writing again for Booklist, noted that "attempts to deliver messages on a variety of social and environmental issues have ruined many a crime novel, but Hall mixes his ingredients flawlessly." Insight on the News contributor Elizabeth M. Cosin commented: "The plot is intricate but doesn't go overboard."
In Red Sky at Night, the next "Thorn" thriller, the resourceful sleuth discovers that a childhood friend is using maimed war veterans as unwitting subjects in bizarre scientific experiments. A Publishers Weekly contributor claimed that Red Sky at Night amounts to an "awkward outing." On the other hand, Booklist reviewer Bill Ott called it "popular fiction at its absolute best," and People reviewer Mark Donovan hailed it as a "readers' delight."
Among Hall's other crime thrillers is Body Language. Alexandra Rafferty, a forensic photographer with the Miami police, contends with horrific childhood memories and deranged acquaintances, including her senile father, while embroiled in a case involving a serial killer. Library Journal critic Francine Fialkoff deemed Body Language a "high-priority purchase for thriller fans." A Publishers Weekly reviewer alleged that the novel contains "distracting, superfluous plot threads," but appreciated Hall's "poetic imagery in the landscapes and love scenes." Booklist reviewer Ott concluded: "Only a too-pat romantic subplot and a slightly too happy ending keep this thriller from perfection."
Another crime novel, Rough Draft, concerns Miami police officer Hannah Keller, who becomes the bait in a government scheme to nab a homicidal banker responsible for the murder of Keller's parents. A Publishers Weekly reviewer, hailing Hall as an "expert creator of grotesque villains and fast action," declared that here he "raises the crossbar with his sensitive insights into the human condition." Ott was similarly enthusiastic in his Booklist review, stating that Hall succeeds in "ratcheting tension while also dispensing fascinating information."
Blackwater Sound has Thorn caught up in an adventure that starts a decade earlier. When the eldest son of the Braswell family is killed in a fishing accident the remaining family members seek revenge against the marlin that was responsible. Thorn learns that a recent airplane crash was caused by the Braswells and their secret weapon, and so he teams up with police photographer Alexandra Rafferty to uncover their plot. Janet Maslin, writing for the New York Times, reported: "Mr. Hall creates an attention-getting story if not a seriously suspenseful one. His style is more efficient than exciting." However, New York Times Book Review contributor Marilyn Stasio wrote: "If violence can be poetic, Hall has the lyric voice for it." A critic for Publishers Weekly remarked that "Hall the poet and Hall the novelist have never been more beautifully melded than they are in this book," and went on to label the novel a combination of "suspense, entertainment and high-quality literature."
In Forests of the Night Hall turns to fresh subject matter. He bases this book on a nineteenth-century incident involving the relocation of Cherokee tribes from North Carolina to Oklahoma. In 1838, the Cherokee Tsali refused to leave North Carolina. The U.S. Army agreed to allow the rest of the tribe to remain if Tsali would forfeit his own life and those of his family members. The event marks the start of continued hostilities between the Cherokee and the white inhabitants of the region that lasts until the present day. The Cherokee Bright Sky Jacob Panther kidnaps Gracey, the daughter of police officer Charlotte Monroe and her lawyer husband, Parker. Parker eventually reveals that Jacob is his son from a youthful affair. Current events appear to link back to the summer of that relationship, when the camp Parker attended was burned to the ground, killing his father in the process. Gracey suffers from schizophrenia, which adds an additional twist to the dynamic between the players. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews was disappointed in the novel, citing "inconsistent writing: tight action scenes offset by thin characters." However Roz Shea remarked in Book Reporter: "This fast-paced literary thriller fuses historical fact, political intrigue, corruption and family feuds with deep characterizations of a troubled family facing inner terrors of their own," concluding that the novel "delivers not only as a thriller but also as a page-turner with smarts." Ott, writing for Booklist, called it "a first-rate literary thriller."
Hall's other writings include the poetry collections The Lady from the Dark Green Hills: Poems, The Mating Reflex, and False Statements, and a short-story collection, Paper Products: Short Stories. In addition, he has written Hot Damn!: Alligators in the Casino, Nude Women in the Grass, How Seashells Changed the Course of History, and Other Dispatches from Paradise, a collection of essays that prove Hall's assertion that the essay form need not be boring. The essays are based primarily on Hall's experiences following his move to Florida, shortly after he earned his Ph.D. At the time, he had no job, but he was unwilling to fall back on the standard resources of someone with his educational background and teach. Instead, he took a job as a landscaper and learned a great deal about his new home state while waiting for more suitable prospects. Hall writes almost entirely about Florida: the climate, culture, and why he will never truly be accepted as a native, even after more than three decades as a resident. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the collection "laid-back and quite competent, if not consistently soul-stirring, certainly well-enough executed to be enjoyed in the shade with the sound of the surf not far away."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1995, Bill Ott, review of Gone Wild, p. 1035; April 15, 1996, Bill Ott, review of Buzz Cut, p. 1394; May 15, 1997, Bill Ott, review of Red Sky at Night, p. 1540; July, 1998, Bill Ott, review of Body Language, p. 1829; November 15, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Rough Draft, p. 579; November 15, 2004, Bill Ott, review of Forests of the Night, p. 531.
Insight on the News, May 22, 1995, Elizabeth M. Cosin, review of Gone Wild, p. 25.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Hot Damn!: Alligators in the Casino, Nude Women in the Grass, How Seashells Changed the Course of History, and Other Dispatches from Paradise, p. 544; October 15, 2004, review of Forests of the Night, p. 63.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Francine Fialkoff, review of Body Language, p. 136; January, 1999, Michael Adams, review of Body Language, p. 184; May 1, 2002, Pam Kingsbury, review of Hot Damn!, p. 121.
New York Times, December 27, 2001, Janet Maslin, "The Case of the Hard-boiled Thrillers with Blurbs by Famous Authors," review of Blackwater Sound, p. E13.
New York Times Book Review, January 6, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of Blackwater Sound, p. 19.
People, September 2, 1996, Mark Donavan, review of Buzz Cut, pp. 32-33; July 28, 1997, Mark Donavan, review of Red Sky at Night, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, May 13, 1996, review of Buzz Cut, p. 53; July 1, 1996, review of Buzz Cut, pp. 30-31; July 8, 1996, Brewster Milton Robertson, "James W. Hall: Serious South Florida Thrillers," pp. 62-63; May 26, 1997, review of Red Sky at Night, p. 63; July 13, 1998, review of Body Language, p. 62; November 22, 1999, review of Rough Draft, p. 43; November 12, 2001, review of Blackwater Sound, p. 33.
Book Reporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (June 2, 2007), Roz Shea, review of Forests of the Night.
James W. Hall Home Page,http://www.jameswhall.com (May 31, 2007).
January Magazine,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (May 31, 2007), Kevin Burton Smith, interview with James W. Hall.
Mystery Pages,http://www.mysterypages.com/ (April 6, 2001), Paul A. Bergin, "Hard Boiled."