|Gil Waters is a 54-year resident
of Sarasota, and the former Editorial Page Editor for the Sarasota Herald
Tribune. He served as a City Commissioner in the 1960s. In addition, he
started Downtown Sarasota, Inc. as well as the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange
and The Argus Foundation. He is an advocate for the betterment of Sarasota
His major characters
are modest and flawed. He himself, has embraced Sarasota in ways McKinley
Kantor and John MacDonald never would have thought of. Both, the Pulitzer
Prize winning author of ‘Andersonville’ and the creator of blockbuster
thriller ‘Condominium’ were private Siesta Key figures. Kaminsky is a multi-faceted
I met the youthful 69 year old creator of Lew Fonesca, Sarasota based
hero of the series whose most recent product is titled “Midnight Pass”,
at Sunrise Café for lunch. It’s one of both of our favorite in-town
The stocky writer appeared rested and serene but he confessed he just
finished playing a double header of softball in a local league.
“I played second base in the first game and right field in the second
game. The second one was easier because the other team only had three southpaws
who hit to right field.”
He also gives a free critique on a selected Burns Court art film at
Barnes and Noble’s book store the last Tuesday of every month at 7:00 PM.
Since coming to Sarasota in 1989 to head the Florida State University
Film School at the Asolo Campus, he has been writing full time since 1994.
He has also given writing classes and holds book signings at Sarasota News
and Books on Main Street.
“I go to lots of films and have made many friends in Sarasota,” he
smiled. I asked if notably difficult Dick Morris is among his friends and
he said, “Yes, we have never had the first disagreement.”
His busy local life is highlighted by a heavy writing schedule which
has resulted in two new books completed and awaiting publication.
He holds a PhD in writing and has three other series besides a Sarasota
missing person mystery featuring a depressed widower, Lew Fonesca.
Another series is set in Chicago and features a team of homicide detectives,
Abe Lieberman and Bill Hanrahan.
Another series is set is in post-glasnost Russia with Moscow homicide
sleuth Porfiry Rostnikov as the principal character. Finally, Toby Peters
is a Hollywood private eye series set in the forties. The hero interacts
with real celebrities in fictional circumstances.
“All this takes a lot of research and contacts. I use the internet.
e-mail and personal friends for source material,” he explained.
“Only the Sarasota series is comparatively easy,” he said. “All I have
to do to get plot ideas is read the newspapers.”
A case in point is his 2003 investigation of a Sarasota missing person
that holds together the very personal ‘Midnight Pass’. In it short, depressed
and insecure Lew Fonesca inhabits a tiny apartment office room right near
the real life Dairy Queen downtown on US 301. He does his drinking at the
Scoreboard Lounge across the street and eats at the old Waffle Shop that
has been in the same location across from the dance studio near his fictional
office. He rents cars at nearby Enterprise Car Rental near the Hispanic
grocery. All have fictitious names and characters. Other real life local
charm is injected into the mystery and includes two homeless men we have
all seen: one bearded who resides under the bridge nearby, the other an
incomprehensible shirtless Afro-American most often seen on lower Main
Street right near Sarasota News and Books.
|Novelist Stuart Kaminsky...
Not Much Like the Other Famous
Writers Who Have Made Sarasota Their Home!
“I am more interested in the emotional problems of my characters,”
Kaminsky said, when I pressed him gently on his plot line that blames the
issue of opening Midnight Pass on developers.
I said opening Midnight Pass is about getting Roberts Bay flushed out
He replied: “It was closed by nature. I am not in favor of spending
huge sums of money to open the Pass and keep it open.” Between bites of
his favorite creamed herring and my favorite tongue sandwich on rye we
agreed not to disagree.
In talking about his background I learned that he taught at Northwestern
as pro¬fessor of radio, television and film. He was chairman of the
department for three years. He came to Sarasota to head the Film School
at the Asolo until it was transferred to Tallahassee in 1994. Since then
he has been writing full time. The Kaminsky family numbers four children
who are widely dispersed. Son Peter, 39 is a Chicago attorney, son Toby,
29 lives in Sarasota, daughter Lucy, 26 teaches school in Denver and 15
year old Natasha is a student at Pine View School.
He, with his wife Enid Perll, own a company known as Double Tiger Productions.
It helps authors prepare manuscripts for publication. It also obtains the
rights to republish out-of-print books they like under the title “Mystery
Vault.” As to the future, Kaminsky has a week’s book signing in Reno. There
is another book signing in Fort Lauderdale and lots of softball games.
When I asked who the withdrawn moody character of Lew Fonesca is drawn
from. “Some of it is from me,” he admitted. But as we talked he announced
his politics as Libertarian. “In any argument with Democrats and Republicans
I can get them both angry at the same time.”
That’s certainly not the Lew Fonesca I met in the book. That’s the
feisty Stuart Kaminsky.
Enjoy Stuart Kaniinsky through his novels and, if you are lucky enough,
you’ll meet him around town..
This article appeared in the April, 2004 issue of Scene Magazine.
Visit them at www.scenesarasota.com