Sarasota author Don Bruns's writing career had an inauspicious start. “I sent my first story to Alfred Hitchcock Magazine when I was 11,” he says, “and they sent it right back.” So when he won a critique from bestselling author Sue Grafton at a charity auction in 2000, it was déjà vu. “I submitted my manuscript and got back eight pages of criticism,” he recalls. “She even asked me if I’d ever actually read a book.” Bruns was understandably discouraged until Grafton called two days later explaining that she’d been so hard on him because he had the makings of a good writer. She suggested that he attempt a new book. So, with her criticisms in mind, he got to work on a mystery novel titled Jamaica Blue. Grafton liked the manuscript so much that she mentioned it at a national mystery convention, garnering Bruns a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Twelve years and several novels later, Bruns has established himself as one of Florida’s award-winning mystery writers.
Jamaica Blue was the first in Bruns’ “Caribbean Series,” five novels featuring protagonist Mick Sever, an entertainment journalist who explores the seamy underbelly of the music business. Bruns drew from his experience as a singer/songwriter to give the series a gritty realism. “Every book was ripped from the headlines,” Bruns explains. For example, St. Barts Breakdown, the sequel to Jamaica Blue, was based on music producer Phil Spector, while book three, South Beach Shakedown, was inspired by the career of singer Jackie Wilson.
Too Much Stuff finds the boys in the Florida Keys searching for gold lost in the 1935 hurricane. The book was scheduled for release to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Henry Flagler’s railroad connection to Key West, something Bruns calls “a defining moment in Florida history.” Inspired by Last Train to Paradise, Les Standiford’s chronicle of Flagler’s railroad, Bruns wanted Too Much Stuff to be historically accurate. But there are enough bungles and missteps to keep readers laughing (and guessing) right to the end.
Book number six, Hot Stuff, is a story about the murder of a sous chef in a trendy Miami restaurant. Bruns researched professional kitchens, actually visiting about 35 all across the country. One of the characters was a pastry chef named Kelley Fields. Bruns later learned that Chef John Besh in New Orleans has an executive pastry chef named Kelley Fields. According to Bruns, “I met her and we had a good laugh about her being a murder suspect in the book. I also got a free meal at one of Besh’s restaurants. Not bad!”