Murder on Tiki Island by Christopher Pinto
The idea for this book has been growing in me for years. I've wanted to write an old-fashioned noir murder mystery since I first read I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane almost 25 years ago. Mike Hammer's character was so intense, so vivid...I decided then that I wanted to write a character as fun to read as his. It took me another fifteen years of learning the craft, writing murder mystery plays and short stories, and sharpening my writing skills before I made my first attempt...and Detective Bill Riggins grew out of my experiences, first showing up in Murder Behind the Closet Door.
MBTCD was a story of memories. Memories of my childhood and teen years at the Jersey shore, memories of my parents, grandparents and friends who lived there long before I came along. This book, Murder on Tiki Island, is a book of fantasy and imagination.
I'd always had a thing for Tiki bars. I got it from my old man, who lived during the golden age of Tiki, and hung out at places like Kon Tiki in Las Vegas and the Hawaiian Cottage in New Jersey. Our home had a black-light tropical indoor garden with a waterfall in it, and he built me a Tiki hut to play in, in our yard in South Jersey. He even built me a pirate ship in the yard with plastic palm trees and a parrot at the dock.
In 2000 my wife and I moved to South Florida (the old man came with us and stayed here until his death in '02). We furnished our home with tropical, bamboo furniture, and built a Tiki bar on the lanai by the pool. Since we were only two hours from Islamorada and four hours from Key West, the Keys became our getaway place of choice. In the early '00s, when things were still pretty cheap, we'd get down there at least once a month, hanging out at Rick's or Sloppy Joe's, doing all the touristy stuff like Hemmingway's house and Ripley's Believe It or Not, and of course, we went on the ghost tours.
There's something about an Island that's been covered with skeletons. There's an energy down in the lower Keys that is just...spooky. Walking the streets of Key West at night, it seems like there are thousands of eyes watching you from the shadows, souls trapped in the sandy soil somewhere between reality and the afterlife. It was while walking down one of these darkend streets in the late hours of a rum-soaked night that I got the idea for my Key West ghost story.
Another point of history that intrigued me was the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1935. It's been over 75 years since that storm took out the middle Keys, and yet there are still giant, obvious reminders of the storm's destruction. Just driving down the Overseas Highway, you come to realize you're driving over the same causeways that the Overseas Railroad traversed before it was destroyed in the storm. The old bridges, built at the turn of the century, still stand, although in very poor shape. It's only been in the last 20 years that the old train bridges that had been converted into highways were abandoned for the new, modern bridges.
In 2005 my wife and I shuttered ourselves in the house and rode out the strongest hurricane to hit our area to date - Hurricane Wilma, a Catagory 1-2 storm that battered us for hours, knocking out power for over two weeks, destroying several homes and causing $30,000 worth of damage to our house. Hearing 100 mile per hour winds rip through your roof, watching trees bend until they snap in half, seeing small twisters slide down your street...these are the sights and sounds that made me wonder how terrifying it would be to sit on an island, or worse, a boat during a Cat-3 or more storm. That attributed to the story as well.
We had taken several trips to Key West, hitting some of the tourist hot-spots including Hemmingway's House, the Pirate Museum and the Oldest House on Duval Street. Many of the homes down there are reported to be haunted in one way or another. The one I found most interesting was the Oldest House. There was a creepy vibe there that didn't fit with the restored, touristy look they were going for. The whole place just seemed...oppresive, as if there were too many people in the room, even when it was just my wife and me. It got me to thinking what the place may have looked like before it was restored, if no one had dared to enter the haunted dwelling for a few years and it were left to the Florida sun and rain.
Key West has a lot of history that includes creepy dolls. I had to throw a haunted doll in the story somewhere.
"Tiki Island" is my fantasy resort. A combination of Disney's Polynesian Resort, The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale and every other Tiki Bar I've ever been to, heard of or dreamed about. From the decor to the food to the drinks and the music, Tiki Island is the place I want to own and live at when I grow up...along with the chicks that hang out there, too ;)
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Also available by author Christopher Pinto: Murder Behind the Closet Door: The Wildwood Paranormal Mystery.
Keywords: Murder on Tiki Island, Paranormal Murder in Key West, Florida, Florida Keys, Paranormal, Occult, Murder Mystery, Noir Mystery, Noir Fiction, Christopher Pinto, Tiki Chris Pinto, Ghost Story, Fiction, Florida Keys resorts, Ghost Tours.