Marine biologist and former secret agent Doc Ford is on the hunt for stolen artifacts in the latest mystery by Sanibel Island author Randy Wayne White.
White, whose novel "Bone Deep" marks the 21st book in his New York Times-best selling Doc Ford series, will sign his latest novel at Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on San Carlos Island today (March 19), from noon to 2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. He said he had always wanted to match book-for-book the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald, a prolific author of novels and short stories credited with spawning a new generation of Florida crime writers from Tim Dorsey to Carl Hiaasen.
In the latest installment of the Doc Ford series, Doc and Tomlinson are asked by a Crow Indian to investigate a stolen tribal carving and the trail leads them to Bone Valley, a region of central Florida known for its black market in artifacts and a booming phosphate industry.
According to White, the plot came from a real experience he had with a Yavapai-Apache named Dean Fallsdown, who needed his help in finding "two little people" lost in Florida.
The two had met years earlier during one of White's trips to Arizona.
"He invited me to a sweat lodge at the reservation in Arizona and I went. It was just torturous," said White. "Dean and I became friends and I realized he was the medicine man of the Yavapai-Apache."
White didn't understand what Fallsdown meant by "two little people," but learned that he was referring to priceless stone carvings that disappeared from his tribe 40 years earlier. After reaching out to some archeologists he knew in Florida who connected him to artifact collectors, White made contact with the man who had the carvings.
He wasn't sure how the collector had come into possession of the carvings, but a year later the tribe got their "two little people" back, and White got an idea for a new novel.
The next step in his process was to research the unique geology and underground economy of Bone Valley.
Fossils and phosphate in that part of Florida are interconnected. The ground in that region is essentially layers of bones and fossils that are slowly crushed and processed into phosphate, meaning one industry couldn't exist without the other.
"It was a fascinating subject to research and during that research I went up to the largest phosphate mine in Florida and I was shocked at the number of fossils that create the geological strata beneath the surface of that region," he said.
Besides publishing multiple novels a year, White also learned that CBS was developing his books into a television series with writer Chris Gerolmo and producer Jeffrey Kramer.
The last book from his Hannah Smith series, "Deceived," about a strong female boat captain solving mysteries on Sanibel Island, earned him a gold medal in General Fiction from the 2014 Florida Book Awards.
White, not one to take time away from writing, is in the process of finishing another Hannah Smith novel called "Haunted."
"I never take a break," he said. "I am devoted to them both."
For more information on Randy Wayne White, visit randywaynewhite.com. He recently returned from a book tour that reached as far as St. Simons, Georgia. Area signings include today's effort at Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on San Carlos Island and at Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on Captiva Island on April 5, during the same times.