Sleaze! Sex! Suspense!

South Florida writers live the life

"People say, 'All she does is think about sex, and women don't do that,'" Hendricks says. "You're in her head, so it's not like she's talking about it all the time. It seems fairly normal to me."

Hendricks updates the ol' bodice-ripper romance novel -- except the romantic acts in question transpire upon mattresses on the floor. And the heroine is in all likelihood driving the action, and the bodice in question is probably a faded, giveaway Milwaukee's Best T-shirt with cigarette burns. Really, it's good times.

"It's bawdy. It's out there," says Charlie Stella, a Mob-fiction author who started reading Hendricks' stuff on a friend's recommendation. "It's a woman, especially in Miami Purity, who's talking about getting on this guy's dick. The fact that she's having the same feelings that a guy will have about a woman, it's out there."

Fed up with the lame-o cop novels he'd read while on stakeouts, James Born now writes his own. Except without the lame-o parts.
Colby Katz
Fed up with the lame-o cop novels he'd read while on stakeouts, James Born now writes his own. Except without the lame-o parts.

Hendricks figures South Florida attracts her sort: adventuresome and unsettled. The type that would traipse off to the Amazon or to Finland to go dog sledding. When she returned to Ohio for her 20th high school reunion, she found that most of her classmates at the all-girls Mother of Mercy had gone to work for their husbands and spent their days shuttling rug rats to little league. Only two of the 250 or so graduates were divorced. Guess who was one of them.

Formative experience: Getting hooked on skydiving a few years ago taught her about fear. Regularly on weekends, she ditches for Clewiston, a burg on the edge of Lake Okeechobee, and does maybe a half-dozen jumps with at least one night of hard drinking that makes for a sometimes-bedraggled arrival to teach her English students. It fed directly into the plot of Sky Blues but otherwise has curtailed the time she has to write -- and the money she has to spend. "Once you get the gear, which is $4,000 to $5,000, then it's only $20 a jump," she explains. "But you do four or five jumps a day, then there's all the beer you have to buy..."

The critics say: They love calling her a "guilty pleasure." The Sun-Sentinel's review of Miami Purity ran under the headline, "First novel features sex, sex, more sex." Babies. One online reviewer wrote that Hendricks' "classic elements" are a mystery, "a bastard," and "a lust-filled heroine desperate for orgasm." Sounds about right, except she doesn't really write mystery, because there's no question about who commits the crimes in her books.

Why you don't know her: She's too steamy for the crime crowd, too dark for the erotica folks. "I think I've managed to find a category that is really loved by very few people," she says. "They're either crazy about me or they hate me.

"I have had a couple of men say, 'The women I've known have never been that interested in sex,'" Hendricks says. "And I always want to say, 'Well, did it ever occur to you that it might have something to do with you?'"

Working on: Getting laid. Naw, just messing with you. She's in edits with her next novel and has several pending requests for erotica and noir short stories.

JAMES O. BORN

Special agent, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)

Published: Walking Money (2004), Shock Wave (2005).

Fiction muse: Military novelist W.E.B. Griffin.

Trademark: Realistic accounts of police work interspersed with jocular mayhem.

Excerpt: "The young guy in the sweatsuit lay on the floor with blood gushing from what was left of the top of his head. Tasker kicked the small revolver from the dead man's hand and watched it spin across the floor as he thought about the other three times he had taken a gun from a dead man's hand... Tasker felt something on his neck and looked up at the clumps of flesh and blood stuck to the ceiling, dripping down in swirling little wads. This hadn't worked out like they had planned." -- from Walking Money

The skinny: He was born in West Palm Beach, the son of a circuit court judge and a homemaker. He attended Florida State University because it had a good football team, was about as far away as he could drive on a single tank of gas, and was crawling with co-eds. There, he majored in psychology "based on the number of women in the class" and met his future wife, Donna, whom he instantly liked in part because, he says, she was the hottest girl at the university. They now have a 16-year-old son, John, and a 12-year-old daughter, Emily.

From FSU, he went for his psychology master's at Southern Mississippi, then returned to Palm Beach County to join the U.S. Marshals Service. Within a year, in 1987, he hired on with the Drug Enforcement Agency. It was then, on stakeouts, that he began to devour the sort of pulpy paperbacks that he thought he could top, at least in terms of realism. He hated that cops could get beat up and never feel pain, that local police deferred to the FBI, that officers would let private detectives look at murder cases.

"If I suggested that to my boss," Born says, "they would beat me and then fire me. And you know what? As I lay bleeding in the street, unemployed, I'd realize I deserved it."

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