James Wilson Hall Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

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).


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Adams, Michael. “Audio Reviews.” Review of Body Language, by James Wilson Hall. Library Journal 124, no. 1 (January, 1999): 184. A positive review of the audio version of Body Language, featuring Miami Police photographer Alexandra Collins Rafferty, which notes the colorful dialogue and humor in a complicated plot involving a failing marriage, failing memory, and a failed robbery attempt against the main thrust of the plot, the identification and tracking of a serial rapist and murderer.

Hall, James Wilson. The Official Website of Bestselling Author James W. Hall. http://www.jameswhall.com. The author’s own Web site contains a brief biography, frequently asked questions, author comments about why he wrote particular books, interviews, a family photo album, and other information.

Hall, James Wilson. “PW Interview: James W. Hall: Serious South Florida Thrillers.” Interview by Brewster Milton Robertson. Publishers Weekly 243, no. 28 (July 8, 1996): 62-63. This interview provides tidbits of biographical material and a brief publishing history of the author.

Ott, Bill. Review of Buzz Cut, by James Wilson Hall. Booklist 92, no. 16 (April 15, 1996): 1394. A favorable review of Buzz Cut, which notes the high-tech gadgetry; the introspection of the hero, Thorn; the amusing interplay among characters; and the black humor throughout the book.

Ott, Bill. Review of Rough Draft, by James Wilson Hall. Booklist 96, no. 6 (November 15, 1999): 579-580. A mostly favorable review of Rough Draft, a tale of Hannah Keller, former Miami police officer turned writer, who is simultaneously trying to solve the murder of her parents, save her psychologically damaged son, and avoid a psycho hit man. The reviewer notes computer technology plays a major role in the novel, warns of an “overwhelming gore factor,” and praises Hall as a thriller writer who creates believable female characters.

Publishers Weekly. Review of Red Sky at Night, by James Wilson Hall. 244, no. 21 (May 26, 1997): 63. In this review, the anonymous critic deems the novel “awkward” and labels the villain “cartoonish” and “talky” in a tale involving the harvesting of dolphin endorphins for use on military veterans.