Friday, September 17, 2010 at 12:30 p.m.
It's true -- and strange -- that Gov. Charlie Crist was good friends with the man behind the most colossal fraud in Broward County history, Scott Rothstein. But Fort Lauderdale author E.J. Bellew (a nom de plume) imagines a scenario in which a character based on Crist is haunted by a romantic history with a Wilton Manors drag queen, who turns up dead under mysterious circumstances.
A character Bellew describes as "Rothstein on steroids" uses his power to keep the governor's campaign scandal-free.
More about Bellew's impeccably timed novel, called Wilton Manors, after the jump.
The character based on Rothstein does indeed sound more sinister than the genuine article. In the novel, which will be released at the end of October, the Rothstein character is using his position with the governor to orchestrate a deal through which a group of Russian oligarchs will be allowed to drill for oil in the Florida Everglades.
If this sounds like a story in which the reporter plays the hero, I'm sorry. The reporter who discovers there are rich oil reserves in the Florida Everglades gets whacked in the opening chapter.
Rather, the hero is a washed-up NYPD detective named Michael Grace, who leaves his Wilton Manors barstool to embark on a search for the truth behind the drag queen's death.
In case it's not already obvious, Bellew was inspired by the biggest local and state news stories of the past few years. "The whole Rothstein thing blew up, and I thought, for all that's written about this attorney, the governor walked away clean as a whistle," says Bellew. "I thought, what if I could invent a local drag queen who could bring down this huge power structure?"
These themes work for Carl Hiaasen, don't they? The book is Bellew's first, but he has already begun work on the second in what he says will be a three-part series built around Grace's character.