Tom Corcoran, best known for his Alex Rutledge mystery series, first moved to Florida in 1970. His jobs have ranged from U.S. Navy officer to photographer to taco seller to owner of Ketch and Yawl Press, a publisher specializing in books on the history of Florida. Although Corcoran now lives in Central Florida, he gathered much fodder for his books while living in Key West, where he spent many evenings hanging out in the Chart House with an up-and-coming young singer named Jimmy Buffett.
What's on your nightstand?
Right now, I'm reading John D. MacDonald's A Deadly Shade of Gold, James Lee Burke's The Glass Rainbow, and I'm also reading my old friend from my Key West days, Jim Harrison. I'm reading his The Great Leader. Two other books I recently read that I enjoyed were Drive by James Sallis — he uses words so sparingly, but packs a punch, as does Jim Harrison — and also Bangok Tattoo by John Burdett. Burdett talks in depth about a place I've never been and makes me intrigued. He's able to run a lot of different exercises with his writing.
It seems you have a wide net when it comes to Florida's history. What book or two do you encourage Floridians to read?
I would say Killing Mister Watson by Peter Matthiessen should be read by everyone. It sure reminds us that 100 years ago nobody would want to live in this state. It was dreadful. The residents, or at least a lot of the people down here, were hiding from something that happened to them up north. Shadow Country, which came out a couple years ago, also includes Killing Mister. Watson as the first third of the book, but for the average reader, I think Killing Mister Watson is enough. Not that Shadow Country is not magnificent. Also, any Travis McGee novel should be read to get a feel for John D. MacDonald's view of Florida. He gives us a good bit of reference on the state.
Why did you decide to become a publisher?
I wanted to perpetuate historical records of the state of Florida, especially the Keys. Out of the books that I've published, I think The Young Wrecker on the Florida Reef might be the pinnacle of this. It was written by Richard Meade Bache, great-great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, whose father and uncle built three lighthouses in Florida. It's a book that I came across in the late 1990s. Even though it was juvenile fiction, when I read it I realized it was probably the best historical record of mid-19th century I've seen.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer