Like John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, and Elmore Leonard, James Wilson Hall mines the creatively fertile—and increasingly bizarre—territory of South Florida for his crime stories. Like his colleagues, Hall often focuses on issues that affect his adopted state: pollution and the adverse effects of tourism and technology. Hall does not preach about the various evils but rather demonstrates their results by incorporating them as plot elements in his thrillers.
Hall’s characters are diverse and fully rounded physically, emotionally, and psychologically. His series hero, Thorn, just wants to be left alone to fish and contemplate life but invariably gets dragged into complex situations that he wriggles out of by a combination of native intelligence, physical prowess, and determination. Unlike many other thriller writers, Hall is extremely adept at drawing sympathetic and authentic female characters that are just as capable (or just as foolish) as his male characters. Protagonists and antagonists are usually introspective, continually challenging their own motivations and reactions to events.
Dialogue throughout Hall’s novels—obtuse, profane, and often humorous—is believable. Narration, depending on the circumstances, varies from blunt and fragmented to poetic; Hall waxes especially lyrical when describing the weather, the terrain, the native wildlife, and the many moods of the ocean.
Hall’s novels have found a large, diverse readership and have appeared frequently on both domestic and overseas best-seller lists. His books have been translated into a dozen languages, and several have been optioned for film. After receiving numerous critical accolades, Hall garnered the Shamus Award in 2002 for his Thorn novel Blackwater Sound (2001).