Dutch Leonard was the master of cool. Years ago an editor at the Miami Herald contrived a serial thriller for which 13 writers with Florida connections each did a chapter, independent of the others. The result was a chaotic little novel called Naked Came the Manatee. The publishers sent me, Dutch and Dave Barry on a mini media tour in New York City. We were doing the Today show with Katie Couric when Dave and I began to suspect that Dutch hadn’t read a word of the book except for his own chapter. Finally, in the back of a town car, he confessed.
Yet Dutch, who was 87 when he passed away on Aug. 20, was so smooth and charming that nobody caught on, not even Charlie Rose. During the final interviews, Dave and I were fairly merciless, but Dutch never cracked. He was such a pro. I believe it was PEOPLE that wanted to photograph all of us in a plastic wading pool with cheesy pink flamingos and fake palm trees. Dave and I said no way, we’re not doing that. But we look over and there’s Dutch climbing in. Dave said, “That’s the greatest crime-fiction writer in America, and he’s O.K. with this.” So we proudly got in the pool with him.
Hiaasen is a best-selling author and journalist. His latest novel is Bad Monkey
This text originally appeared in the Sept. 9 issue of TIME magazine.
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