Reach back, they say.

Grab the person behind you, beneath you on the Success Ladder, the newbie in the office, and elevate them, too. Reach back and help somebody. Reach back and be a mentor, but use your head — or, as in the new book “The Pope of Palm Beach” by Tim Dorsey, it could be deadly.

Everybody knew Darby.

He was the guy who always lent a hand, lived quietly, talked to strangers, and never bothered anyone. When the best waves crashed on the inlets near Palm Beach Gardens, Darby was the only guy who could ride them. He was a legend. The surfers called him The Pope of Palm Beach.

Much like a real pope, Darby blessed his followers, but his favorite was Kenny. Back in ’65, Darby noticed the skinny boy was teased a lot and, because he made a point of including those dis-included, he taught Kenny to surf. He saved Kenny’s life, and then he taught him to live.

And, as they sat one summer night on the docks, watching men with large guns, big boats, and drugs along the waterway, Darby taught Kenny about dying.

That was the night that Kenny Reese, Florida author and witness to a crime, went home, barricaded doors and windows, and hid for the next 30 years. Terrified and assuming that drug men — or maybe cops, or both — were looking for him, he lived in the dark and relied on his lawyer to pay bills, bring groceries, and deal with a publisher who never knew what happened to their best-selling writer…

“Another working vacation.”

That’s how Serge Storms described the trip down Florida’s east coast when his sidekick, Coleman, questioned their intentions. This vacation, however, was unique, in that they’d never done it before. This trip was entirely literary, looking for landmarks of Florida writers. Harrison, Thompson, Hurston, those were the easy ones. McGuane, Rawlings, so many of them. And then there was the one Serge could never find: A guy who’d written a trilogy, then disappeared.

A guy by name of Kenny Reese.

Here’s something new: A Serge Storms novel by author Tim Dorsey that isn’t All Chaos, All the Time. Instead, Dorsey’s done something different, and it’s quite refreshing: There’s a calmer timeline inside “The Pope of Palm Beach” that takes readers back and forth, 50 years to the present, inside several characters’ lives.

One of those, of course, is Storms, who is 6 years old in some parts of the book and present age in others; regular readers of this series will be delighted with this childhood peek at Little Serge, and a kid called “Seymour.” Alas — heavy sigh — the best character here is killed before we’re fully able to get to know him.

If you’re mourning the loss of the chaos — don’t. Dorsey offers plenty of that for fans, as well as Serge’s usual creative revenge, but there’s a full story in the way first, and that’s okay. You’ll still love “The Pope of Palm Beach,” so reach back for it.

By Tim Dorsey

c. 2018, William Morrow


337 pages