Local author Robert Earl’s novel The Miami Contingent isn’t just a work of fiction set in the world he knows; it’s a cautionary tale crafted from a personal experience he was lucky to survive. He hopes the message will benefit others.
Earl, 61, freely admits that the book may not be for everyone and states in its introduction: “This is a peephole into a gritty, brutal, realistic, no-holds barred trek through the mean streets of Miami’s forbidden neighborhoods…”
The main character of the book is 11-yearold Renee Jenkins, a vivacious, bright girl living in a Miami neighborhood where it is not unusual to hold a nine-millimeter Glock pistol while answering the door and where little girls like Renee shop for heroin for their mothers. As she maneuvers her way through the asphalt jungle of Miami’s dangerous Overtown section, Renee bravely attempts to find happiness amid a world consumed with death, despair, drugs, and pain.
“I aspired to write it because nobody talked about this side of Miami, really,” Earl said. “It’s always the palm trees and the beaches and the mansions and the glorified part of South Florida. The ordinary working people, we don’t exist — we’re invisible. People all over the country don’t see Miami as a city; they see it as Miami Beach. Even shows like Miami Vice didn’t show the real crime; they showed the high fashion crime, the cartels and the glamorized drug dealers. I wanted to show the real Miami.”
Earl wove his tale about fictional characters’ lives around actual historical events such as the Arthur McDuffie riots and Hurricane Andrew to make it even more realistic. He said that the plot in The Miami Contingent was full of surprises, even for himself as he wrote it, and that the characters seemed to come alive for him. The results exceeded his expectations.
“I was surprised myself,” Earl said. “Everybody tells me that I did a good job with it.”
He said that he never imagined when he was younger that he might end up writing a book.
“It was the furthest thing from my mind,” Earl said. “I always like to read. I like to write and be creative — come up with ideas.” He took a writing class at FIU because he was driven by the urge to write.
He started the book in 2000 and wrote 20 pages, then put it aside because “life got in the way.” Undaunted, he resumed work on the book in 2012 and took another class at the University of Miami.
“I finished it in 2014,” Earl said.“I took my time writing it and rewriting it.”
But it’s not just a book for him. Having survived the problems he describes, he hopes to reach young people with his message. He went to Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School for Black History Month and spoke to an auditorium filled with about 300 students.
“I’m using this as a platform to give back to the community,” Earl said. “I go to schools and talk to the students about drugs — being inspirational. I talk to them about my life, about being on drugs and overcoming it, about doing something with my life. I talk to them so that they don’t end up wasting 15 or 20 years of their lives. I tell them they can stay in school and be a doctor or a lawyer or anything.”
Earl said that his writing is given power by his own life experiences.
“It’s good that we’re afflicted sometimes, because that comes out in your writing,” Earl said. “You get your heart broken, be betrayed; you don’t like it when it’s happening, but you can really write from your heart when it happens to you.”
He currently works as a real estate agent with Blue Waters Realty, but plans to continue his writing efforts.
“I think I should write an altogether different book for No. 2, then come back and write a sequel to the first book,” he said offering a bit of advice. “The best way to write is to be yourself, because that’s going to be your voice. Write what you know.”
The Miami Contingent is published by Archway Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster. It can be ordered at area bookstores or at www.amazon.com/Miami-Contingent-Robert-Earl/dp/1480809535/.