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Dr. Ed Hirshberg Award Goes to Tim Wright

Hirsberg, Tim Wright and Tim DorseyDr. Ed Hirshberg (left) presents award named in his honor to Tampa Writers Alliance member Tim Wright (right) at Annual Awards Banquet January 18, 2002, at Valencia Gardens restaurant in Tampa. Looking on with approval is novelist Tim Dorsey, who judged entries in the new category. (photo - Lucy Parker, Tampa Writers Alliance publicist)

(A sad footnote - Dr. Ed passed away Saturday, June 29th, 2002)

Tim Wright’s stories tend to fall into one of two camps: noir and mainstream. A long-time fan of hard-boiled crime fiction, he can pen hairy-knuckled action with the best of them. At the same time, he writes humorous tales about more ordinary people, folks you’d see living next door.

Wright grew up in Virginia and, until arriving in Florida, spent almost his whole life mostly in the South and somewhere in the mountains: the Appalachians, the Rockies, and the Swabian Jura. His years living in Goeppingen and traveling throughout southern Germany acquainted him with the land where some of his ancestors lived before emigrating to Virginia and Kentucky, swapping one set of mountains for another.

On the hard-boiled side, Wright's short story, "Low Tide," set in Depression-era Tampa, won the 2001 Dr Ed Hirshberg Award for Excellence in Florida Writing. In this gritty story, a young man sees firsthand what happens when a gang member is caught stealing from the boss. His notions about the glamour of being a gangster vanish as he sees how cruel and ugly the lifestyle actually is.

When a man rode out of town in the trunk of a car, he wasn’t coming back. That much Pablo already knew from his short experience as driver and errand boy for Desantis. The reason for this trip, Dominic Suarez, lay hunched in the sand, hands and feet bound with rope, and his head pinned to the ground under Desantis’ sturdy foot. The boss’ right hand man, Guiterrez, watched Suarez the way a cat watches a bird while Pablo’s shovel bit into the moist earth.

(Click HERE to read "Low Tide" in its entirety as an Adobe eBook)

Wright’s soon to be completed ILLEGITIMATE is a detective story set in 1949 Tampa. Private eye Bob Russel takes on a paternity case that leads to all kinds of trouble. The supposed open-and-shut case looks like a frame. Before Russel can get to the answers he wants, a gang war breaks out. He’s dodging bullets between digging up clues. The frame hides a dirtier secret, incest, and Russel walks a tightrope between two rival gangs, the police, and a hostile client to find out who really made young Molly Ryan pregnant.

His stories - on both sides - often use setting as a character. He mines Tampa’s history of organized crime and corruption much the same as James Ellroy did with Los Angeles. In "Sunday Visitor," a hippie shows up for services at the straitlaced First Presbyterian Church in rural Guilford, Virginia. A place whose people fought on the winning side of the Revolution and the losing side of the War Between the States, the congregation doesn’t know what to make of the stranger.

They stared and waited as if the newcomer might soon sprout wings and fly around the windows the way a junebug orbits the porch lamp. Maybe he’d turn his head all the way around like the little girl in The Exorcist. Nothing exciting like that ever happened in Guilford.

Wright tends to play "what if?" in his stories and novels. What if a big-city banker is forced to move to the country and run a farm? What if a paternity case is actually a frame to hide something worse than a pregnant teenager? What if a hippie shows up at church? What if a state senator’s wife hires a detective for a divorce, but she’s out to uncover something else? What if a mousy, shy co-worker disappears and is forgotten, only to resurface as a suicide that went undetected for two months? What if a Mafia hit man has a born-again experience?

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