When Serge Storms was a mere seed of a character in Tim Dorsey’s imagination, he was your basic villain. But, during the 12 years Dorsey spent as reporter and editor for the Tampa Tribune (1987-99), his protagonist blossomed into a crazy serial-killer vigilante, as well as Florida’s No. 1 trivia buff.
Now a New York Times best-selling author, Dorsey’s written 13 comedic thrillers set in Florida. In his most recent, Pineapple Grenade (William Morrow, $26), the psychotic Serge and his perpetually stoned sidekick, Coleman, become spies. It’s light entertainment to be sure. Still, Dorsey’s readers take it pretty seriously. Just check his website, where there are photos of his fans flaunting Serge-inspired tattoos. For example, big black letters spell “Serge’s Disciples” across a reader’s back.
In advance of his visit to Las Vegas, Dorsey spoke with Vegas Seven about his protagonist, his political agenda and why he refers to his book readings as The Rocky Horror Picture Show of book affairs.
We know that Serge’s escapades are drawn straight from Florida’s newspapers. Pineapple Grenade opens with a prosthetic leg bearing a Willie Nelson sticker washing ashore—did that really happen?
Oh, yeah, and I thought, I’ve got to say that. Those are the best ones, the ones that aren’t trumpeted as a big deal. They’re just little weirdness factoids.
How similar are you and Serge?
I am him. I really want to kill these people. I mean, I have impulse control. But that’s why he’s so easy: He was a third person, but then the more I did him—all of his beliefs are just simply the things that are rattling around in my head. I go, “What can I do? He’s just crazy. I can’t control my characters.” But, the truth is, that’s really what I think.
In Pineapple Grenade, Serge writes a letter to Sarah Palin expressing some strong opinions. Why put political material in your books?
It’s a good way to just get stuff off my chest. I got a lot of hate mail for this book. One guy accused me of having unnatural sex with President Obama. But, the political agenda is how decent discourse is dissolving in this country. We can’t discuss things anymore. You can’t disagree with the other side—you have to hate their guts. That’s my issue. I’m not necessarily trying to make a difference. To think that my little books could do something like that would be delusional, but I’m still going to say it.
Why do you compare your book events to The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
I’ve had people say, “Your events are not like any author signings or appearances I’ve ever been to.” I used to get up and do presentations—I mean, I have material and stuff, but I just kind of open the floor, and it’s amazing! I never know which way it’s going to go. They ask all kinds of crazy questions. They get into arguments about who should play Serge in the movie. Some people come in costumes of characters.
How do you feel about these hard-core fans?
You know, I was sitting there writing my dumb little book, thinking I had a one in a million shot of even being published. Then for people to not only read the books, but to like them to that degree, I’ve got to feel blessed.