Sleaze! Sex! Suspense!

South Florida writers live the life

Born had tinkered with a novel in the late '80s and received some encouragement from Elmore Leonard, whom he met through family friends. That started 13 years of being a closeted, unpublished novelist. In 2002, he sent a draft of Walking Money to a friend for suggestions. The friend forwarded it to an agent, who called Born, asked to represent the book, then within a couple of weeks scored a two-book deal from Putnam that Born evasively describes as "having made life a little more comfortable with us." At Putnam, Born is in good company. His editor, Neil Nyren, also handles Griffin, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, and Dave Barry. He's finishing a third, and his fourth novel is in the early stages. To this point, he's started each successive book the same day he submitted the last completed one.

Formative experience: This will ring familiar to anyone who's read Shock Wave. In 1984, he was with a SWAT team, in plainclothes, staking out a Miami apartment, waiting for a murderer who had escaped from prison. The Sunday morning's Miami Herald was in his passenger seat, covering an MP-5 automatic machine gun. "These younger guys, early 20s, come up and rap on my window," Born said. "I roll it down and say, 'Whaddaya need?'"

The men asked, "What are you doing here?"

Rod Cronk, owner of All Books & Records in Fort Lauderdale, is closing shop after nearly three decades.
Colby Katz
Rod Cronk, owner of All Books & Records in Fort Lauderdale, is closing shop after nearly three decades.
S.V. Date wouldn't mind being Carl Hiaasen. Then again, who would?
S.V. Date wouldn't mind being Carl Hiaasen. Then again, who would?

"Don't worry about it," Born replied.

"What do you need?" they asked.

"I don't need anything," Born said.

"Well," they asked, "what do you got?"

"I don't have anything," Born said.

"Well, in this neighborhood," they told Born, "you either need something or you got something."

Born didn't have time to dicker. "I said, 'Oh, I misunderstood you. You know what I got?'" He reached beneath his newspaper and brandished the firearm. "'I've got a submachine gun.' Which, how often do you have an automatic weapon to pull on someone who may be threatening you? They couldn't get out of the way fast enough."

The critics say:Flattering things. January Magazinegushed that Shock Wave is a "joy ride" and "a blast on every level." The Miami Herald's Broward cops reporter, Wanda DeMarzo, wrote that Walking Money "combines Elmore Leonard attitude with an 'only in Miami' sensibility."

Why you don't know him: His first book came out only a year ago. Last August for the Sun-Sentinel,he wrote a funny, first-person piece about a radio interviewer conducting half a live interview thinking Born was James Hall. "My psyche had been taught a cosmic lesson: I was nobody," he wrote.

Working on: Writing his ass off. Every day after work, he sits in an ugly, incredibly comfortable recliner and tickles his word processor for at least an hour. His third novel, Escape Clause, is due out early next year. He's cranking along on a fourth.

Bonus anecdote for the intrepid readers who have come this far: Following a book signing in Sarasota recently, Born recalls, an audience member complained about the wanton slaughter in his novels. "Someone came up and said, 'You can't be so cavalier about killing.' The ironic part about it was, I was thinking, 'I wish I could kill you right now. '"

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