Standiford, Les(ter Alan) 1945-

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STANDIFORD, Les(ter Alan) 1945-


Born October 30, 1945, in Cambridge, OH; son of R. Allan and Lucille F. (Patterson) Standiford; married Margaret Ann Spence (a public school teacher; divorced, 1980), married Kimberly (a psychotherapist), 1980; children: Jeremy, Hannah, Alexander. Education: Attended Air Force Academy; Muskingum College, B.A., 1967; attended Columbia University Law School; University of Utah, M.F.A., 1970, Ph.D. (honors), 1973; American Film Institute, screenwriting fellow and graduate.


Home—Miami, FL. Office—Creative Writing Program, Florida International University, Biscayne Bay Campus, North Miami, FL 33181. E-mail[email protected].


Writer. Ameritel Enterprises, Inc., Columbus, OH, administrator of nursing home, 1970, restaurant manager, 1972; University of Texas, El Paso, assistant professor, 1973-78, associate professor of English, 1978-85, director of Creative Writing Program, 1973-85; Florida International University, Miami, associate professor, 1985-91, professor of English, 1991—, director of Creative Writing Program, 1985—. Visiting professor at Baylor University, summer, 1974. Regular reviewer for Herald (Miami, FL), Tribune (Chicago, IL), Newsday (New York, NY), and the Daily News (New York, NY). Has given readings in Texas, New Mexico, and Utah. Series editor, Sand Dollar Imprint, University of Florida Presses, 1998—; member of the Board of Advisors, Florida Council for Public Libraries, 1993—; member of the Artistic Advisory Board, City Theater of Miami, 1996—. Military service: U.S. Air Force Reserve, 1963-69.


Associated Writing Programs, Mystery Writers of America, Writers Guild.


Short story award, Utah Fine Arts Institute, 1971, for "Closing the Sarasota Road"; Frank O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, Texas Christian University Press, 1979; National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Teachers, 1984; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, 1989; Humanities Award, Florida Council of Public Libraries, 1989; Florida Arts Council fellow; Presidential Award for Achievement and Excellence, Florida International University, 1992; fiction fellowship, Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, 1995; Professorial Excellence Program Award, Florida International University, 1999.



Done Deal, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Raw Deal, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.

Deal to Die For, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Deal on Ice, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

Presidential Deal, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.

Deal with the Dead, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.

Book Deal, Poisoned Pen Press, 2002.

Bone Key, Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.

Havana Run Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.


Armadillo Country Safari (poems), Endeavors in Humanity Press, 1977.

(Contributor) Wolodmyr T. Zyla, editor, Ethnic Literatures since 1776: The Many Voices of America, Texas Tech University Press (Lubbock, TX), 1978.

Bones of Coral (screenplay; based on the novel of the same name by James W. Hall), MGM-Pathe, 1990.

Spill (also see below), Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1991.

(Author of text) Miami: City of Dreams, photographs by Alan S. Maltz, Light Flight Publications (Key West, FL), 1997.

Coral Gables: The City Beautiful, Riverband Books (Coral Gables, FL), 1998.

(With John Keasler and Diane Stevenson) Surrounded on Three Sides, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 1999.

Black Mountain, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.

(Contributing editor) The Putt at the End of the World (collective novel), Warner Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Opening Day: Or, the Return of Satchel Paige, Old Orchard Books (Santa Clara, CA), 2001.

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean (nonfiction), Crown (New York, NY), 2002.

Also author of a screenplay adapted from Spill. Work appears in anthologies, including Death Was Our Escort, edited by Hugo Eckback, Moorpark Press, 1974; New and Experimental Literature, edited by James P. White, Texas Center for Writers Press, 1976; The Southwest: A Contemporary Anthology, edited by Karl Yopp, Yarbrough Mountain Press, 1977; and Naked Came the Manatee, Berkley Publishing Group, 1996. His work has been translated into other languages, including French, Dutch, German, Spanish, and Japanese. Contributor of articles, stories, and poems to literary journals, including Fodor's Guide, Smoke Magazine, Key West Reader, Confrontation, Three American Literatures, Occident, Kansas Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, Writer's Digest, and Quetzal, and to newspapers.


Last Train to Paradise and Havana Run were adapted for audiobook. Opening Day was also published as an electronic book,, 2001.


A nonfiction book titled Meet You in Hell, about Andrew Carnegie, his partner Henry Clay Frick, and the 1892 steel workers strike.


Novelist and college professor Les Standiford has developed parallel careers, each feeding off the other, and a body of work that contains a variety of different types of writing. In addition to creating the screenplay adaptation of the novel Spill, Standiford wrote the text for the photographic essay Miami: City of Dreams by renowned photographer Alan S. Maltz, the local history book Coral Gables: The City Beautiful, and more than a dozen novels. Many of these novels are mysteries, and within this ever-popular form he has tried his hand at different kinds of works, such as joint novels, his "John Deal" series, and stand-alone mysteries, one of which was offered as an electronic book. In an article for Writer's Digest, Standiford revealed how a career shift helped him to finally write and publish his first novel. Taking a break from a teaching career to attend film school, Standiford found that film's emphasis on the scene as the building block of narrative was something that he could use profitably in his fiction. "For me," wrote Standiford, "the discovery was something of an accident, born of a midlife career detour that took me out of the classroom where I'd been teaching for more than a decade, to Los Angeles, where I became a student again…. I was still trying to place my first novel when I began to study screenwriting.…I credit a large part of [my] success to techniques I stole from Hollywood." This success has been significant on the bookstore shelf and in the classroom. "For years, before I began to publish books, I saw myself as a teacher who wrote. Now the balance has shifted a bit the other way, so that I have become more of a writer who teaches. I think the students benefit from the change," he told Steve Glassman in a Writer's Chronicle interview.

Standiford grew up in a coal-mining and manufacturing area of southeastern Ohio, and as he told Glassman, his mission in life "has been to devise a way to stay off working on the assembly line." As a child he was an avid reader—thanks to the influence of the local librarian—and became the first person in his family to attend college. After earning a B.A., Standiford enrolled in and later dropped out of law school, went on to graduate school, where he studied social psychology, and finally discovered that writing was his true vocation. "The greatest thing that ever happened to me was having the door opened to me into the literary life," he told Glassman. After attending on scholarship a summer writer's workshop in Utah, he enrolled at the University of Utah. There he studied under Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor. Standiford's first published works were poems in literary journals, and soon his short fiction began appearing in journals as well. After earning his doctorate at the University of Utah, Standiford taught literature at the University of Texas—El Paso and worked on his novels. Yet it was not until he became a fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles that he achieved literary success. As he told Glassman, "I learned how to write well at Utah. I learned what I didn't know about structure at the American Film Institute."

Since 1991 Standiford has penned a steady stream of mystery novels featuring Miami building contractor John Deal and his buddy, retired Miami cop Vernon Driscoll, who investigate murderous activities throughout southern Florida. "The Deal books… grew out of my fascination with the typical Hitchcock film," Standiford explained in an interview: "ordinary folks thrown into the path of extraordinary evil." Standiford's sleuth John Deal is popular with readers, which comes as no surprise, considering the author told, "The plot is always there, but it's the people I care about when I'm writing." According to Wes Lukowsky of Booklist, Standiford's caring shows, for the critic described Deal as "the most emotionally centered protagonist in contemporary crime fiction."

In Deal to Die For, Deal and Driscoll look into the apparent suicide of a family friend, only to uncover a complicated plot involving Chinese pornographers, Hollywood moguls, and underworld figures. According to a critic for Publishers Weekly, Standiford "is at the top of his game here, displaying excellent pacing and a particular affinity for action scenes." J. D. Reed, reviewing the novel for People, claimed: "While hammering together his best plot yet, Standiford improves his acid eye for the American under-belly. This one is a very nifty deal indeed."

Deal investigates the murder of a friend, the owner of a Miami bookstore, in Deal on Ice. He soon finds himself surrounded by corpses as a series of deaths seems to follow his inquiry. It all leads to a shady television preacher whose media ambitions lead to questionable practices. "Standiford serves up crackerjack action and memorable characters," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, while Mark Donovan in People praised Standiford for creating "an engaging main character—hard-boiled, yes, but in deference to the '90s, soft around the edges."

Presidential Deal finds Deal about to receive a presidential medal for helping to save some Cuban refugees from drowning in Biscayne Bay. Although he considers the heroics an accident, Deal goes to the White House for a ceremony in which civic heroes will be recognized. But a terrorist group invades the ceremony, kidnaps Deal and the First Lady, and Driscoll must follow down even the most unlikely leads to set the pair free. "Standiford," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly, "builds a tight narrative with credibly flawed characters and a powerful sense of place." Library Journal 's Susan A. Zappia also remarked that Standiford "handles deftly the scenes in which Deal and the First Lady are alone together, offered with a tenderness uncharacteristic of the genre."

In the mid-1990s Standiford took a thirty-month hiatus from his John Deal character to write other works, including the stand-alone mystery Black Mountain and the text for Alan S. Maltz's photographic essay Miami: City of Dreams. When he returned to his series, Standiford published Deal with the Dead. This novel, which a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed "artfully crafted, ingeniously layered noir fiction," revolves around Deal's efforts to fathom his father's possible mob connections and mysterious suicide. The next Deal title, Bone Deal, is an intricately plotted murder mystery revolving around buried treasure, and in Havana Run, Deal is approached by a suspicious Cuban businessman about a supposed building project in Havana that turns into the rescue of an American prisoner in what a Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reviewer called "equal parts crime fiction and spy thriller." Standiford has continually tried to keep his Deal mysteries interesting for himself as well as the reader. "When I sit down to write a new John Deal book, yes, I'm looking for a place and a subject that's new," Standiford told Susan L. Rife of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. "I've always tried to work in something a little beyond your typical thriller components in these books."

Standiford has also published nonfiction books, including a historical look at Coral Gables for the local chamber of commerce and Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed the Ocean. The latter concerns millionaire and cofounder of Standard Oil Henry Flagler's construction of a 153-mile railroad from Miami to Key West, which operated for twenty-two years until it was destroyed in the great hurricane of 1935. While a Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed Last Train to Paradise "engaging, but facile," Duncan Stewart of Library Journal recommended the title, describing it as "a powerful story told by a talented writer."



American History, April, 2003, Richard Sassaman, review of Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed the Ocean, pp. 64-65.

Booklist, November 1, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of Deal to Die For, p. 457; February 1, 2000, Frank Caso, review of Black Mountain, p. 1009; December 1, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Deal with the Dead p. 696; May 1, 2001, Bill Ott and Brad Hooper, review of Presidential Deal, p. 1602; August, 2002, George Cohen, review of Last Train to Paradise, p. 1899; March 15, 2003, Nancy Spillman, "Finders Keepers," review of Last Train to Paradise (audiobook), p. 1339; May 1, 2003, Bill Ott, review of Havana Run, p. 1552.

Choice, May, 2003, G. E. Herrick, review of Last Train to Paradise, pp. 1572-1573.

Christian Science Monitor, March 12, 1997, Katherine Dillin, review of Naked Came the Manatee, p. 14.

Entertainment Weekly, November 15, 2002, Wook Kim, review of Last Train to Paradise, pp. 140-141.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2002, review of Bone Key, p. 296; June 15, 2002, review of Last Train to Paradise, p. 868l; March 15, 2003, review of Havana Run, p. 432.

Library Journal, May 15, 1991, Marilyn Jordan, review of Spill, p. 110; October 15, 1993, Dawn L. Anderson, review of Done Deal, p. 90; September 1, 1995, Alice DiNizo, real of Deal to Die For, p. 210; February 1, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of Deal on Ice, p. 111; May 15, 1998, Susan A. Zappia, review of Presidential Deal, p. 117; August, 2001, Mark Bay, review of The Opening Day: Or, The Return of Satchel Paige, p. 83; July, 2002, Duncan Stewart, review of Last Train to Paradise, p. 99.

Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2002, Dick Lochte, review of Bone Key, p. E2.

New York Times Book Review, November 7, 1993, Marilyn Stasio, review of Done Deal, p. 24; November 6, 1994, Marilyn Stasio, review of Raw Deal, p. 41; March 5, 2000, Marilyn Stasio, review of Black Mountain, p. 34.

Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL), December 11, 2002, review of Last Train to Paradise.

People, November 6, 1995, J. D. Reed, review of Deal to Die For, p. 32; May 26, 1997, Mark Donovan, review of Deal on Ice, p. 35; July 3, 2000, Pam Lambert, review of The Putt at the End of the World.

Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Spill, p. 58; August 23, 1993, review of Done Deal, p. 59; September 6, 1994, review of Raw Deal, p. 52; August 7, 1995, review of Deal to Die For, p. 441; November 11, 1996, review of Deal on Ice, p. 55; June 15, 1998, review of Presidential Deal, p. 41; January 31, 2000, review of Black Mountain, p. 83; March 6, 2000, review of The Putt at the End of the World, p. 81; December 4, 2000, review of Deal with the Dead, p. 52; February 26, 2001, Brewster Milton Robertson, "A Handyman Special" (interview), p. 50; March 25, 2002, review of Bone Key, p. 42; July 8, 2002, review of Last Train to Paradise, p. 43; April 21, 2003, review of Havana Run, p. 37.

Sarasota Herald Tribune (Sarasota, FL), June 1, 2003, Susan L. Rife, "Keeping It Interesting," review of Havana Run, p. E4.

Sun (Baltimore, MD), January 12, 1997, Michael Pakenham, "A Philosophical Manatee," review of Naked Came the Manatee, p. 4F.

Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), December 4, 2002, review of Last Train to Paradise; May 21, 2003, review of Havana Run.

USA Today, February 6, 1997, Deirdre Donahue, " Manatee Plays on the Imagination of Thirteen Writers," p. 9D.

Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), February 26, 1997, Craig Shapiro, " Naked Came the Manatee Disappointing to Mystery Fans," p. E5.

Writer's Digest, August, 1998, p. 35.

ONLINE, (1997), interview with Standiford.

Les Standiford FIU Home Page, (July 20, 2004).

Les Standiford Web site, (July 20, 2004).


Writer's Chronicle (Associated Writing Program), May, 2002, Steve Glassman, "Interview with Les Standiford."

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Standiford, Les(ter Alan) 1945-

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