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South Beach, Calle Ocho and the expensive waterfront mansions in Coral Gables have featured in numerous TV police dramas. The city’s mix of wealth, beauty and danger has made Miami irresistible to film makers such as Brian De Palma (Scarface) and Mike Nichols (Birdcage). Writers, too, have been inspired by Miami’s frontier spirit, gothic qualities and criminal underbelly. It’s literary pedigree stretches back to Robert Frost, America’s poet laureate, who came here in the 1940s.


Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard (1990)

Later turned into a movie of the same name, Get Shorty, is one of many books by Leonard set in Miami. The novel follows the crimes and misadventures of Chili Palmer, a Miami loan shark with a complicated professional life and a burning ambition to become a Hollywood movie producer. Chili stumbles his way though a series of hilarious episodes from Miami to Los Angeles, ending up on the set of his first movie.

Miami Noir edited by Les Standiford (2006)

This anthology probes Miami’s unique status as the harbinger of America’s future. “The truth is that Miami, though naturally lovely, is a frontier town, perched on the border between the known and the rarely before experienced,” writes Les Standiford. “We are not only on the edge of the continent, we are to this country what New York was in Ellis Island’s heyday, what the West Coast was in the middle of the 20th century.”

How to Leave Hialeah by Jennine Capo Crucet (2009)

Cuban-American writer Jennine Capo Crucet was born in Hialeah, Miami’s most notorious precinct, in 1981 and records her experiences growing up there in this book. One critic says Crucet has done for Miami what James Joyce did for Dublin. Evoking the passion, closeness and struggles of Miami’s Hispanic community, this book also shot Crucet into the literary limelight. Essential reading for anyone who wants to feel Miami’s Cuban heartbeat.


Scarface (1983)

This crime thriller directed by Brian De Palmer is regarded as an American classic. The film tells the story of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) who arrives in Miami penniless but rises to become one of its most powerful gangsters. Scarface, celebrated for its bad language, local colour and graphic violence, has been widely imitated.

Miami Vice (1984–1990)

Although early viewers were enthralled by the unorthodox tactics employed detective duo Crockett and Tubbs, the real star of this police drama was Miami itself – from the high-rise splendor of Downtown to the shabby chic of South Beach. No matter how cheesy the dialogue, Miami Vice did portray the city’s growing problem with gang violence, drug importation and police corruption.

Burn Notice (2007–2013)

This lightweight espionage series introduced the sunshiny affluence of Miami to a younger audience. When American spy Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) finds himself surplus to requirements, or burned, he retreats to Miami to plot his revenge and replenish his coffers with a series of daring operations which see him take on drug traffickers, arms dealers and local mobsters.