It’s filled with attempted murder, mystery and betrayal. From the first sentence of the novel, in which a shot is fired, the reader knows a killer is on the loose. But between the action, many of the scenes play out like snapshots of real Longboat life. There may be shoot-outs and explosions, but there are also breakfasts at Blue Dolphin Café, beers at Tiny’s and lazy days boating on the bay. In all five of his novels, Griffin’s characters have spent time at their favorite Key hangouts.
“I wonder if I sometimes spend too much time at those places (in the books),” Griffin said. “But it’s the lifestyle I’m trying to portray. Life on Longboat Key is pretty laid-back, and I’m trying to show that Longboat Key is a warm, inviting place.”
Read on to learn about the people and places that appear in Griffin’s latest novel, “Bitter Legacy.”
Matt Royal and H. Terrell “Terry” Griffin are both Army vets, Mercer University grads and retired trial lawyers. Both like Longboat life and lawyer jokes.
“I ruminate through Matt a little bit about what’s happened to the legal profession,” Griffin said.
And although Royal’s character is based on Griffin, the similarities end there. Royal spends his days in “Bitter Legacy” cavorting with the bikini-clad Jessica Connor and his nights slugging back beers at Tiny’s. Griffin has been married for 46 years to his wife, Jean, and does not drink.
In “Bitter Legacy,” someone is out to kill Royal and his best friend, Logan Hamilton. The mystery takes him across the state while he uncovers secrets buried deep in the state’s history.
In “Bitter Legacy,” Logan Hamilton he is described as having “a face that radiates good cheer and friendliness, a smile that reminds you of his Irish genes and a voice that carries the accents of his native Massachusetts.”
He and Royal enjoy fishing, walking the beach, eating good food, drinking beer and long conversations.
And, according to Griffin, he is still an accurate representation of his friend, Miles Leavitt, who died in 2007 but lives on in Griffin’s books. In the latest novel, Hamilton is nearly shot in the chest, saved only by the thick Ayn Rand novel he is carrying. As a result, Hamilton is under police protection in a hotel off of I-75 in the early chapters of the book, but, of course, even an attempted murder can’t keep him off of Longboat Key for too long.
Longboat Key Police Chief Bill Lester witnesses the attempted shooting of Hamilton. Griffin bases Lester’s character on former Police Chief John Kintz, who resigned in 2002. Griffin hints at the association between the two when his narrator notes that a detective named John Kintz looks uncannily similar to Lester.
“J.D.” is short for Jennifer Diane Duncan, but don’t call her “Jennifer” or “Diane.” She’s the attractive Longboat Key police detective assigned to investigate the plot to kill Royal and Hamilton.
When Griffin wasn’t happy with his first draft, his wife suggested that he needed a strong female lead and suggested a female detective. According to Griffin, Jean has never allowed him to write a character based on her. But he said that his wife and Duncan have many similarities.
“They’re both very bright, both can be very no-nonsense in their approach to things. There’s a real soft side to them, and they look alike,” he said.
Patti and Russ Coit
They’re real-life Land’s End residents and real-life friends of Griffin. But they didn’t really host the fictional Jessica Connor over the holiday vacation, during which she and Royal became more than just friends. Only their characters did that.
The fictional Steve Carey is a young Longboat Key police officer who was named Kiwanis Club Officer of the Year. He canvasses the Village at night and is on hand as much of the action unfolds. The real Steve Carey is a 75-year-old Beach Harbor Club resident and was a Tiny’s regular.
The Pattigeorge’s bartender, like the restaurant’s real bartender by the same name, lives in a house next to the restaurant and jokes about his long commute.
Like the real Martin Sharkey, the Longboat Key deputy police chief in “Bitter Legacy” is a boater who takes an interest in the rash of boat thefts on the island.
The Cracker Dix character is based on longtime Village resident Graham Cox, both of whom wear a single-strand gold necklace, gold stud in one ear, Hawaiian shirt, cargo shirt and boat shoes and work at island restaurants.
The long-time blond bartender at Moore’s Stonecrab Restaurant is based on Debbie Schroeder. But one aspect of the character isn’t based on the real-life Schroeder: The character is a computer hacker.
To view a map displaying some of the place that characters visit in "Bitter Legacy," click here.
If You Go
‘Bitter Legacy’ Book Signing
When: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27
Where: Circle Books, 478 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands Circle
Contact Robin Hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org.