Panhandlers: Stories Masterfully Portray Florida Setting
Having moved to Tamarindo from Florida in 1999, Nic Schuck cut short his stay here to help his traveling buddy get back to Florida safely after an unfortunate accident. Nic returned to Pensacola to begin teaching and started writing his first novel. “Native Moments” was a fictional account of his time in Costa Rica, with Tamarindo and surrounding area as its primary backdrop. The 2016 successful and popular publication of “Native Moments” has given Nic bragging rights as “local color” in Tamarindo. Since that time Schuck has assembled 12 of his short stories, written over the past decade, and retooled them in a more thematic format of a novel, “Panhandlers”.
As its name conveys, the novel is set in the Florida Panhandle, that east-west ribbon of land just below the Alabama border, stretching south into the Gulf of Mexico. Each story stands on its own, while most are connected by recurring themes and characters, particularly Hank Ackerman and the fictional town of Sullivan. But the real main character of this novel may be the Panhandle itself, an area in the deep south of the U.S., steeped in generations of poverty and tradition. Nearly everyone dreams of getting out but few actually succeed. Many of those who work do so for minimum wage or by freelancing for spot jobs. And so there are get-rich-quick schemes, be they cockfight circles, dogfight rings, drug deals or petty theft. A six-pack of beer or a joint can offer quick escape too. All these elements appear in “Panhandlers,” as well as that other great escape, surfing.
The real main character of this novel may be the Panhandle itself, steeped in generations of poverty and tradition.
Nic Schuck is simply portraying an accurate scene in his novel, not a dismal one. There is a camaraderie among the characters, an allegiance. He scores a bullseye describing the Sullivan pace of life, in part through his conversations and colloquialisms. He told me the idea for the title was a kind of tribute to James Joyce’s “Dubliners.” I would say the homage has been a masterful one.
“Panhandlers” is available at Bookstore of the Waves in Playa Tamarindo.