Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ronald G. Shafer, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.


This dissertation examines the Doc Ford series of mystery novels written by Randy Wayne White (1950-) along with his four volumes of essays. White’s literary output is largely unexplored; he is the subject of only one significant critical study, Maurice O’Sullivan’s “Ecological Noir,” a chapter in Crime Fiction and the Sunshine State (1997), a collection of essays about mystery writers who set their fiction in the state of Florida. With his graceful prose, intricate plots, skillful integration of science and detection, and humor, Randy Wayne White has become a richly rewarding guide to American life in contemporary times. I first examine White’s rise as a writer, from his days as a regular essayist for Outdoor Magazine and Men’s Health, while making a living as a Florida fishing guide, to his success as a popular novelist whose last four novels have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List. My biographical sketch of White also explores his literary influences, including John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and John D. MacDonald. I then attempt to place White’s work in the larger context of American mystery and detective fiction, suggesting links between his novels and the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John D. MacDonald, and other writers of the American Noir tradition. Next I explore White’s major achievement—his integration of science into the detective genre. I trace his use of the biological organism as the essential model for human and societal life and behavior. After exploring how White connects biological phenomena to the social, and in particular, the criminal behavior of human beings, I examine another major theme in his fiction: the importance of the spiritual in contemporary life. Having explored White’s two major themes, I then discuss his position as a moralist and social critic of contemporary America.