|HOME | US EDITION | BOOKS|
November 3, 1999
Pune-Born Journalist Digs Murder In Daytona Beach
Nitish S Rele in Tampa
The stock-car racing heir Nick Van Horne is sitting on an oil mine but he can't get his millions unless he gets his RaceWorld theme park under way. There's just one little hurdle in his way: His estranged wife, Barbie, is suing to keep cars off the beach for the sake of the sea turtles.
"Time is running out for Nick," S V Date chuckles as he recreates the outline of his just published novel, Speed Week (Putnam). "And he does what any red-blooded Daytona Beach husband with a troublesome wife would do -- he decides to have her killed."
And in another time-honored Daytona tradition, he decides to do it on the cheap.
Soon Nick finds himself consorting with enterprising bikers, sexy pool hustlers, venal fortune-tellers, a stepmother with alarming ideas about family, a top state legislator with a keen eye for graft, and a former SEAL with a disconcerting fondness for sharks and plastique.
"I had read Carl Hiaasen's books (Sick Puppy among them) about all the crazy things that happen down there in south Florida," Date says. "I thought they were great and decided to write something of my own."
"With these ingredients, I knew I had to get hold of the person who had edited Hiaasen's book," Date continues. "When I got hold of the name, I also learnt Neil Nyren had become a publisher at Putnam."
Date sent him a one-page letter. He was not tempted to send the copy of his first novel, Final Orbit, a mystery set at NASA and published by Avon in paperback.
"Being a journalist, I have known that editors prefer thin envelopes to bulky ones," says Date, 36.
"I think I was truly lucky," he says, referring to the number of unsolicited, agent-less proposals that are garbaged by publishing houses each week. "It also helped that Nyren was brought up in Daytona Beach area."
Date is among a handful of Florida journalists who have turned to writing crime fiction. The list includes Pulitzer Prize winners Edna Buchnan (Garden of Evil) and the nationally-syndicated humorist Dave Barry (Big Trouble).
Shirish V Date was born in Pune and migrated to America with his physician parents. For a while, it looked like Date would don the doctor's apparel, but after working on his pre-med for two years, he backed out.
"I enjoyed writing for the Stanford College paper in California where I went to school," he says. Since then, he hasn't looked back.
Date makes ample use of his vast daily experience and tremendous knowledge as a reporter. He covered Daytona Beach for The Orlando Sentinel in the late 1980s.
"Almost the whole novel is based on real people," admits Date. "The murder-for-hire scheme is based on a case that occurred in Daytona Beach in 1989-90. This person tried to hire several men to kill his wife but none of them succeeded. However, he himself did end up killing somebody and is now serving time in prison for murder."
Date is presently working on another humorous thriller. But this time it revolves around the strong-arm tactics of the tobacco industry to suppress negative information about the industry and is based in Tallahassee, Florida's capital.
Date works there as the bureau chief/writer for The Palm Beach Post. He hopes to wrap up the novel by the end of the year and have it published by Putnam next year.
The comparatively less-known, Final Orbit grew out of a one-year sailing sabbatical during which he and wife Mary Beth sailed their 31-foot cutter from Daytona Beach across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and back across to the Caribbean.
Unlike the Final Orbit, the new book is getting plenty of buzz. It has been reviewed by several major publications such as the Chicago Tribune.
But what Date cherishes most is an endorsement by his idol.
Hiaasen wrote: 'Speed Week' is good, twisted fun, cheerfully submissive. The chamber of commerce should hate it, which is the highest possible compliment for any Florida novel.'
Also showering compliments was Les Standiford, author of Presidential Deal and Deal to Die For. He wrote, 'Babes, bikers, and a bad-ass shark in Daytona Beach. I love it! Speed Week peels off the line like a car designed by Jeff Gordon, built by Marx Brothers, and piloted by Carl Hiaasen. It's scary, sexy, and most of all hilarious, all the way to the finish line.'
Date says he cannot write the traditional mysteries like Agatha Christie did.
"I enjoy writing thrillers," he says, "but they all must have humor."
N or surprisingly then, among the writers he admirers most are John Irving (A Son of Circus) and Dave Barry who has just written a racy Florida crime novel,Big Trouble.
"Murder, intrigue and humor are a mix that is never dull," Date says.
He says enjoys hearing from his readers, and is setting up a web site to be operational next week (http://www.svdate.com).
A P Kamath contributed to the feature.
ELECTION 99 |
SINGLES | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | MONEY
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK