Tree Callister is not much of a private detective. But by contrast, Ron Base is one heck of a writer.
The former newspaper and magazine journalist and movie critic, Base recently published his third novel — "The Sanibel Sunset Detective" — not only to great reviews here on the islands, but in his now home country, Canada.
"It just came out, so it's a little hard to gauge," said Base. "But so far I'm hearing that people are really pleased with it. People are quite fascinated about this area, the cohabitation of man and nature that goes on here. In fact, I find myself enthralled with the island like no other place in Florida. Sanibel really is a breath of fresh air."
In "The Sanibel Sunset Detective," a 12-year-old client has just showed up at Tree Callister's door. The boy has $7 with which to hire a detective to find his mother.
Everyone on Sanibel, where Tree lives, thinks the former newspaper reporter is out of his mind. His only defender is his wife Freddie, and even she has doubts about her husband‘s new profession.
"Then a headless body shows up, along with a threatening thug, the beautiful wife of a convicted media tycoon, a couple of suspicious detectives, and a former girlfriend, now an FBI agent, who suspects Tree knows more than he is admitting," a synopsis of the novel explains. "Suddenly, all sorts of people are trying to manipulate Tree Callister. Everyone thinks he’s in way over his head. But maybe, just maybe, he’s going to surprise everyone — even himself."
Base, whose brother, Ric, is well known to islanders as the President of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, admits that the book is "semi-autobiographical," since Tree Callister is a former journalist.
"He kinda reacts the same way that I would," said Base, who will return to Sanibel later this moth to do addition promotion for the book. "He is sort of coming to terms with himself, fumbling around in a new environment — a newspaper man trying to become a detective. And everybody thinks that he's crazy to do something like that."
During his career as a journalist, Base was a freelance writer for Cosmopolitan magazine before becoming a movie critic for the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, New York Newsday and Toronto Star. He published his first novel, "Matinee Idol," in 1985. He followed that book with the non-fiction, "If The Other Guy Isn't Jack Nicholson, I've Got The Part," before settling in as a screenwriter of several "straight to cable and video thrillers," he chuckled. Among his works are the 80's cult classic "Heavenly Bodies" and "First Degree," which starred Rob Lowe.
However, Base has also worked with such legendary filmmakers as John Boorman ("Deliverance") and Roland Joffe ("The Killing Fields").
His second novel, "The Strange," was far more successful than his first because, as the writer recalls, "I got out and helped market it myself."
"It did really well," he added. "So I got encouraged to do even more."
Part of the idea to write "The Sanibel Sunset Detective," which Base noted is the first in a series of Tree Callister adventures, came from his brother.
"Ric said to me that since I come down to Sanibel so often, why not set my next novel here," Base explained. "I grew up reading Mickey Spillane thrillers — I've always been fascinated by private detectives. So I asked myself, 'What if there was a former newspaper guy who lives on Sanibel, kind of an outsider, who becomes a private detective?'"
The result is "The Sanibel Sunset Detective," which the author described as "full of fast-paced action, humor, unexpected plot twists, and memorable characters." The book is currently available at the Sanibel Island Bookshop and Bailey's General Store.
Author Ron Base holds a copy of his latest novel, 'The Sanibel Sunset Detective,' which came out late last year and is set on Sanibel Island.