How to Get Through Hurricane Season? Read!

One Deadly Eye –
Just in Time for Hurricane  Season

. . . 

June is the month Floridians start getting anxious about hurricanes. This year we have good reason to fret – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that there will be 17-25 named storms and four to seven major hurricanes (Category 3 and higher) before the end of the season on November 30.

My antidote for hurricane angst? Read a book about them, the scarier the better.

Think of it as an inoculation, helping to prepare you for what’s to come.

Experience the horrors of the Galveston hurricane of 1900 in Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, Erik Larson’s non-fiction account of the largest natural disaster in American history.

Or face down the terrors of Hurricane Katrina in Jesmyn Ward’s novel, Salvage the Bones, the story of a poor Black family in Mississippi before, during and after that deadly storm. Trust me, it will be cathartic.

The most recent spine-chilling hurricane novel I’ve read is Randy Wayne White’s One Deadly Eye, set during Hurricane Ian, the Category 5 storm that slammed into Sanibel on Florida’s West coast in September 2022.

It’s the latest in White’s popular series starring Sanibel-based marine biologist Doc Ford. Yes, that Doc Ford, the one who has lent his name to restaurants on the St. Petersburg Pier and in Jungle Terrace.

It’s also White’s best Doc Ford tale yet. His writing has never been better. Here’s his terse but chilling description of what it feels like to await an oncoming hurricane.  .  .


Outside was the darkness of a thousand years, a Florida that no longer existed. Trilling frogs, crickets, masked waves that crashed eight seconds apart. A lone exception was the historic lighthouse, a distant rotating beacon that ricocheted off low clouds.

The storm was out there, four hours from landfall.


For White, this Doc Ford tale was personal. He and his wife were on Sanibel when the massive eye of Ian — 28-miles wide — passed over the island, leaving a trail of destruction behind.

Randy Wayne White – photo courtesy of the author’s social media

It wasn’t the first time White, who has lived in Florida since 1972,  lived through a hurricane. In 2004 Hurricane Charlie, a Category 4, hit Pine Island right across the Bay from Sanibel where he and his wife were living. Their house, built in the late 1800s on the shells of an old Calusa pyramid, had survived the hurricanes of 1921, 1923, 1936, 1935 and 1947, so they thought they were safe in ignoring the pleas for evacuation.

“Standing on the front porch, I could see black snaking tornadoes, like a calvary phalanx, approaching,” he said, remembering the unforgettable screaming wind that sounded “like an old diesel train.” Their house lost part of its sheet roofing, but the house next to them imploded and the house across the street collapsed. “Nothing could be worse than this, I told myself.”

Hurricane Charlie 2004 – image courtesy of the author’s website

Then in 2017, he got caught up in Hurricane Irma and it was worse. Since his encounter with Charlie, he had moved to Sanibel. When Irma was headed for the island, residents were again urged by the then-governor of Florida (“I don’t remember his name,” says White, “and I don’t want to”) to evacuate before it was too late.

This time they complied, packing up everything (including their boat), and headed to central Florida. At the last minute, however, Irma took an abrupt right turn and went up the center of the state, passing right over where White and his wife were sheltering. “It took us three days to cut our way out with chain saws and tractors.”

So in 2022, the victim of hurricane fatigue, White decided once again not to evacuate. He hunkered down and stayed on Sanibel.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” he told me when I interviewed him for Radio St. Pete. This time, however, White took notes, shot video and surveyed first hand the horrific wreckage the hurricane wrought.

Foggy Morning on the Dock – photo courtesy of the author’s website

“I roamed around through this very thick, sticky muck, which was part petroleum, part pesticides, part who knows what. It was like Vaseline, right? I saw underground phone wires, old sea wire, fiber optics, all of which were no long in use — the scaffolding of a discarded technology laid bare.”

He also paid close attention to how wildlife reacted before and after the hurricane – snakes, coyotes and red ants, all fighting, like the humans who stayed on the island, for their survival.

The result of all that research? One Deadly Eye, a thriller that puts you in the eye of the storm, literally.

Doc Ford’s House – photo courtesy of the author’s website

But in White’s book the eye of the hurricane is only the beginning of Doc Ford’s troubles. He also has to stare down White’s most blood-curdling bad guy to date – The Vulture Monk.

“Hurricanes aren’t evil. They are natural disasters,” White told me. “It’s humans who are evil.”

The Vulture Monk, a necrophiliac and serial killer, has escaped along with five others from a notorious Russian prison (based on a real place in Russia called the Black Dolphin that houses rapist, serial killers and cannibals serving life sentences — although, as far as White knows, no prisoner has ever escaped from there.)

The unholy gang has been recruited to swoop into Sanibel once the hurricane passes in order to clean out the houses of billionaires who have evacuated. Their leader is a corrupt insurance executive who knows where all the loot is stashed. It is a brilliant choice for a villain – insurance agents are the least popular figures in Florida after a hurricane.

These thieves — who all go by the fake name of Donald Orlando — also set their deadly eyes on Doc Ford himself, who has run afoul of a Russian oligarch who wants him dead. Doc Ford’s black ops backstory, hinted at in previous novels, is finally faced head-on in this 27th Doc Ford tale.

But fear not. The marine biologist does have help in fighting The Donalds. In scenes as frightening as the hurricane, a British inventor named Dr. Max Weatherby (who possibly is an M16 spy) fights back with one of his ingenious tech inventions, zapping people with a laser beam that liquidates their ears and eyeballs while Mrs. Lazlos, the wife of a wheelchair-bound Hungarian art collector who’s been dispatched by the robbers, bravely confronts the intruders.

The physician with the fancy tech equipment, by the way, is based on a real person — Dr. Richard Salisbury — and his tech toys, which sound like science fiction, are the real deal.

White met Salisbury, founder of Thermoteknix at a hotel bar where he was staying after the 2017 hurricane hit. Salisbury is an inventor of an optical heat-sensing laser used to detect people’s body temperatures during the pandemic – he served as a consultant on One Deadly Eye.

Doc Ford’s Sunset on the Dock – photo by Randy Wayne White

My favorite characters in One Deadly Eye are the women. White says he has always had strong women in his life, beginning with his many aunts on the maternal side of his family. He remembers fondly listening to them, sitting on the porch in Rockingham, North Carolina, telling stories that made him wet his pants. “They were absolutely hilarious.”

In One Deadly Eye, in addition to Mrs. Laszlo, we are treated to the steely resolve of Hannah Smith, Doc’s fiancée and mother of his son whom Doc Ford fans have come to know and love – and the hilarious Loretta, Hannah’s octogenarian mother. My favorite scene in the book is when Loretta has a showdown with the Vulture Monk. You can guess who blinks first.

Moon By The Dock – photo courtesy of the author’s website

White never names the hurricane that strikes Sanibel in One Deadly Eye. Only at book’s end does the name Ian crop up – and then it’s the name not of a hurricane but of a secret agent who gives Doc the latest intel on Tomlinson, Doc’s friend who is a beloved returning character in the series.

Tomlinson left on his sailing boat before the hurricane hit and hasn’t been heard from since. Will Doc’s search for Tomlinson be the subject of White’s next Doc Ford book (which he has said is entitled Tomlinson’s Wake)? Is he dead or alive?

Like hurricane season, White is keeping us guessing.



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