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Serge's sidekick on rise in latest Dorsey novel

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 09:58 PM

The second fiddle in the novels of local author Tim Dorsey achieves co-star status in the new release, "The Riptide Ultra-Glide."

Coleman usually serves as the audience in the passenger seat for the highway soliloquies of Serge A. Storms, the tee-totaling serial killer and self-appointed protector of Florida's virtues who is the star of Dorsey's 16 humorous crime novels.

But this time, Coleman the lowlife busts out with an appearance on the cover of High Tides magazine. Coleman, you see, Serge's perfect foil, is on a never-ending high from pills or pot. Eighteen times throughout "Riptide Ultra-Glide" he's also drinking a beer, always in cans.

So once Coleman's fame spreads, young stoners begin to stop this sage of sensimilla on the streets, for a breast autograph, some helpful advice on the perfect buzz, or generally to worship at his feet. .

The rise of Coleman adds a twist to a Dorsey narrative formula that has won this former Tampa Tribune reporter and editor a cult-like following, complete with a Florida tour, a boat cruise, and all the people you can see at his website bearing Serge-inspired tattoos. His work has even popped up in high-minded college discussions on satire.

The plots often involve an innocent couple inadvertently caught up in a Florida crime spree before they're rescued, more or less, by Serge the fugitive superhero and reckless sidekick Coleman. This time, the couple are idealistic young teachers fired from their jobs in Wisconsin who set out for a beachfront getaway in the land of hubby's childhood but wind up on a seedy stretch of U.S. 1 south of Fort Lauderdale that's much darker than what he remembered.

They can't catch a break. Even some innocent hanky panky in the Dania Beach surf gets them pulled into a killer riptide, not to mention the evildoers engaged in human trafficking, pill mills and auto insurance fraud. It's a trifecta of current crime, to go with the thoroughbred racing thread also featured in this hodgepodge of a story.

Oh, and Serge is taping it all to sell as a reality TV show.

Dorsey's breathless novels might best be described as Carl Hiaasen with the straightjacket removed.

They're also well-researched Florida history lessons wrapped in slapstick. This time out, the lesson includes the beguiling canals of Fort Lauderdale, dripping with wealth and brought to us by a water taxi operator who's one of Serge's many long-suffering friends.

Along the way, we're always treated to the author's eye for what's funny in our everyday, mundane existence.

You can also count on gruesome death around every corner. It's usually a righteous death, creative and uniquely Florida in nature, at the hands of executioner Serge — a cross between Doris Kearns Goodwin, Rube Goldberg and Edgar Allen Poe who suffers from untreated attention deficit disorder.

Serge believes in capital punishment for a longer list of offenses than provided for in the Florida Revised Statutes.

He tries hard in "Riptide Ultra-Glide" to show more patience, but there's a muscle-bound poser of a beach bully who won't be kicking over another sand castle like Serge's perfect replica of Castillo de San Marcos.

"History," he reminds Coleman afterward, "doesn't have to be boring."

djoyce@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7604

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