Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hat’s off to Vice

from James

Miami Vice made its premiere this week on Miami Beach. For anyone who lived in Miami (as I did) in the early 80s, this was déjà vu. It’s the movie this time, not the TV show. But the city went crazy all over again. Throngs of people lined Lincoln Road, trying to get a glimpse at Michael Mann and the new Crockett and Tubbs. The Miami Herald reported that it was the biggest movie premiere in Miami’s history. Kind of pathetic, really, if you consider the fact that Jamie Foxx (Tubbs) and Colin Farrell (Crocket) didn’t even show up. They opted for the West Coast (that would be L.A., not Tampa) premiere earlier this week. John Ortiz and Elizabeth Rodriguez did show, however, so fans weren’t entirely disappointed.

I remember when the television show premiered. Miami’s city officials were aghast. The early 1980s in Miami had brought the worst race riots in the city’s history, and they had worked hard to restore Miami’s image as a safe place to vacation. They worried that the drug running image would ruin tourism. Boy, were they wrong. Vice gave Miami (especially Miami Beach) new life, inspiring everything from fashion trends to music. It also inspired a few writers.

I was an associate attorney in a large Miami law firm when Miami Vice premiered on television. At the time, I really hadn’t thought about changing careers. But anyone with a creative bone in his body could see that Miami wasn’t just a setting. It was a character unto itself. Michael Mann exploited that beautifully. So did the crime writers who, like Vice, started in the 1980s—Carl Hiassan, James Hall, Edna Buchanon, and others. Either naively or arrogantly, I thought there was room for me in the club, too.

I soon learned, however, that there’s more to a crime novel than a few tough guys in pastel jackets and some nefarious players who skulk around Miami wearing Panama hats. And if you’re going to last in this business, you have to do more than imitate. Vice the movie even changed its look.

So the south Florida family of crime writers is now incredibly big and diverse, with writing that ranges from Carolina Garcia Aguilera and her tough Latina P.I., Lupe Solano, to Naked Author Paul Levine and his engaging “guy’s guy,” Jake Lassiter, who (trust me), Lupe would never date. I’m leaving many, many writers out, but just look at the number of novelists from Miami (other than yours truly) who have come onto the scene and/or skyrocketed since Vice: Dave Barry, James Born, Tim Dorsey, Tananarive Due, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, James Hall, Carl Hiassan, Jillian Hoffman, Jonathan King, Paul Levine, Brad Meltzer, P.J. Parish, Barbara Parker, Les Standiford, Diane Vogt, Randy Wayne White . . . and I could go on if I thought about it any longer.

So, my hat is off to Miami Vice. Even if it isn’t a Panama hat.

POSTSCRIPT: A few weeks ago I wrote a piece called “I Hate Colons” because I couldn’t understand why my copyeditor had inserted colons at the end of paragraphs. No one else who commented had ever seen this before either. Turns out that I was reading The Magician’s Nephew with my daughter yesterday, and guess what. Colons at the end of paragraphs galore. If it’s good enough for C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia, I guess I need to lighten up.

More from The Magician’s Nephew: A certain speechwriter for the fist George Bush was quite famous for the clever turn of a phrase. One of the more memorable ones came in Bush’s 1991 State of the Union Address, which was entitled “Envisioning a thousand points of light.” Bush used that metaphor quite effectively in the address: “We can find meaning and reward by serving some purpose higher than ourselves—a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light.” Now, consider this from Chapter 8 of The Magician’s Nephew: “The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently, one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light.”


James Grippando


  1. I'm getting homesick. You're really bringing back memories, Jim.

    "Miami Vice" portrayed a South Beach that didn't really exist. As I recall, there was the Cardozo Hotel and the Clevelander with its outdoor party pool, and not much else. The modeling agencies, the hip clubs, the Eurotrash clubbers, the New York weekenders, were yet to come. There were still oldsters in lawn chairs on apartment house porches. The Art Deco buildings had fallen into disrepair. But then, life began to imitate art. (May I call the TV show "art?" Sure.) The pastels and neons of the show started turning up. So did clubs and refurbished hotels plus a slew of new restaurants as tourism boomed.

    A personal note. The opening credits of the TV show prompted me to take up a new sport. Windsurfing. (You may recall the girl in the bikini doing a head dip at high speed). After a steep learning curve, windsurfing became my prime activity of the 1980's, and I traveled to Maui, San Francisco Bay, Puerto Rico, and Aruba to pursue it. These days, my favorite sport is clicking the remote.

  2. Miami Vice. Isn't that like tautological redundancy?

    And Paul, I knew you were heavy into research when you wrote SLASHBACK.

  3. Paul: Do I REMEMBER the girl in the credits? I spent the greater part of the 80s trying to MEET the girl in the credits. Good for you in mastering windsurfing. You are right about the steep learning curve. I never made it over the hump. Not a sport for a guy with a bad back.