When former CITATIONS editor Phil Panitz was the Ventura County Bar Association president in 2004, his President’s Messages described some of his exploits: allegedly driving 16,000 miles in a single week in a North Carolina rental car, standing in the winner’s circle at a PGA tournament, living for a month in Paris and – my personal favorite, driving Widow Jones’s ( ) 1968 Plymouth Fury from Muncie, Indiana to “somewhere in New Hampshire” – via Daytona Beach.

Had he extended the detour 400 miles beyond Daytona Beach, Phil may have reached Key West, the locale of his first novel. There, protagonist Jackson Fischer, running away from something, snags a bartending gig at the Blue Monkey, on a  side street away from the tourists. “Fish” shares the novel with a beautiful woman also running from something, a low life detective, kindly giants, a treacherous bad guy and a mysterious Maserati.

While the book could have used a few more rounds of editing out clichés and cleaning up typos and the like, that’s my only criticism. By the time I’d finished the first page, I’d forgotten all about Phil Panitz the tax litigator; this is just another tale told by an omniscient narrator. It provides a wealth of detail that’s credible and never boring, and the dialog is just plain fun. The plot is definitely generic, but that’s a good thing; this is a book to read on vacation or after a mind-numbing day at the office, when entertainment is more satisfying than deep thinking.

The back cover says this is Phil’s “first” novel. I’m looking forward to the second one. $9.99 for the Kindle version; $21.60 for the hardcover.

Wendy Lascher is an appellate lawyer, a partner at Ventura’s Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP, and editor of CITATIONS. The 2004 President’s Messages are available in the CITATIONS section of the website.

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