It was the mystery novels of P.J. Parrish that first got me interested in visiting Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Florida. The books' protagonist, Louis Kincaid, lived in a rundown cottage on the beach on Captiva.
Then I discovered Randy Wayne White's novels set among the same barrier islands in south west Florida. My fascination grew.
Driving over the causeway toward Sanibel last week, I found it hard to believe I was finally here. The water beyond the white sand on either side of the causeway was a creamy turquoise colour.
The islands were much less rugged than I had imagined, although I'm sure parts of them are. The magnificent homes on Captiva are anything but rustic.
The narrow main street on Sanibel, called Periwinkle Way, was a steady stream of sightseers in cars, or people of every age leisurely peddling rented bicycles (the ideal way to get around). One lone traffic cop at the four corners kept everything moving smoothly.
The air was warm and moist, the vegetation tropical. Cactus and palm trees abounded, and the hibiscus bushes were in full bloom.
On Sanibel there is a bar named after Randy Wayne White's fictional character, Doc Ford: "Doc Ford's Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille." That definitely deserved a visit.
I can tell you now that the crab cakes there are simply scrumptious. The proprietors also sell White's books and souvenirs. I kept expecting to see Doc Ford come though the door. His endearing, hippie sidekick Tomlinson too, I hoped.