"I have no hard and fast rules about my villains, but I usually know they're starting to come alive when they say something outrageously funny and scary."-James W. Hall
Get Ready for the Adventure
James W. Hall has a dramatically different writing style than his fellow South Florida crime fiction writers. He does not use satire; his tone is often very serious. He plays on irony of the situation and captivating dialogue. This envelopes the reader in an enthralling adventure. Take a deep breath when you begin a Hall novel, because you will not exhale until the last page.
"The villains frequently do what they do out of a need for love."-James W. Hall
One of Hall's greatest attributes as a writer is his ability to create characters that are atypical of the usual hero or villain. He gives his villains so much emotional depth.
These characters espouse everything evil. They usually steal the show.
The recurring hero of Hall's novels is Thorn. He is an "eco-avenger P.I. in Key Largo, described as anti-social, anti-authority hero... a loner who has eked out a living... and gained commercial and critical success"(Jordan). Thorn holds similar values to Hiaasen's Skink and Skip Wiley. He is described as "morally ambivalent." Ironically,his lack of outward emotion seems to give his character unbelievable depth.
"I have to work hard to make sure they don't steal the book away from the protagonist."-James W. Hall
To show moral dimension in his novels, Hall specializes in creating the ultimate villain. Instead of using the hero as the "moral compass" of the novel, Hall uses the villain to create an "immoral compass." One of the best examples is Dougie Barnes in Bones of Coral. Barnes appears to be suffering from disorganized schizophrenia, which is characterized by "apparent silliness and incoherence"(Seligman 274). He also displays symptoms of anti-social personality disorder. He does not feel physical pain; therefore, he cannot be sympathetic to the pain of others. He constantly must ask his girlfriend to describe what she is feeling because he cannot feel it himself. "True, he's a psychopath and a killer, but he's also a kid who wants very much to please his father and is willing to do anything, even murder, to achieve that"(MysteryPages).