Tom Levine fishes for readers by telling tall tales

Fisherman turned author

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  • | 9:00 a.m. May 14, 2015
Photo by: Allison Olcsvay - Tom Levine sets up shop at a table just outside Cigarz on the Avenue in Winter Park, where he sells his eccentric novels.
Photo by: Allison Olcsvay - Tom Levine sets up shop at a table just outside Cigarz on the Avenue in Winter Park, where he sells his eccentric novels.
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Tom Levine writes for the same reason he fishes: to keep eating.

“This is what I do to avoid having a real job,” he joked one recent drizzly afternoon in Winter Park, where he frequently sets up shop to sell his self-published short story collections and novels.

A lifelong fisherman, Levine’s words weave a tale of adventure, love and companionship in and around the pristine and sometimes not-so-pristine waters of Central Florida and beyond, opening the reader’s imagination in surprising ways.

Part Hiaasen, part Hemingway, Levine shares within the pages of his short story collections, “Bite Me!” and “Bass Fishing in Outer Space,” a deeply rooted love for Florida and all its failings alongside an indomitable passion for globe-trotting.

Tom Levine will be signing his books from 12-2 p.m. on May 16 at the Writer’s Block bookstore, 124 Welbourne Ave. in Winter Park. Call 407-335-4192 for more information.

His writing career spawned from the classic fisherman’s need to tell of his adventures, either in truths or half-truths.

“Fishing is a need for me,” he said. “I’ve got to fish. It’s a wonderful thing, in order to keep doing it, I write about it.”

Whether he’s tramping through streams and grasslands barefoot or taking a fishing lesson from his sons, Levine shares his stories with candor and a generous sense of humor.

Levine began writing for outdoors and sporting magazines such as “Florida Sportsman” and “Gulfcoast Angler” but at the encouragement of friends and editors, he decided to compile his tales into his first collection of stories in 2002.

Determined to make money on his books, he took to the road, selling them door-to-door in small town business districts and umbrella-to-umbrella in beach towns all over Florida.

Levine sells his books with the confidence of someone with mouths to feed back home, and his efforts are paying off.

“Selling books is just another form of fishing,” Levine said.

According to his latest calculations, he’s sold as many as 30,000 copies.

Of course his pitch and personal guarantee that “this will be the best book you’ve ever read” must be hard to resist.

One of his proudest moments, he says, was recently selling a book to his personal news hero, Ted Koppel.

Levine can be found set up outside Palmano’s on Park Avenue near Lyman Avenue almost every weekend fall through spring, selling and signing books with his customary flair.

When he’s not in town, his books can be found locally at Writer’s Block and Miller’s Hardware.

Saddened by the pace of development in Central Florida since he first arrived as a child in the ’60s, Levine has fought his own battle against the powers that be in words and deeds.

His book “Paradise Interrupted” tells the mostly true story of one such fight to save his beloved Econlockhatchee River from development.

As if his activism weren’t enough, Levine made a few unsuccessful attempts at politicking in the 2000s, running for both mayor of Orlando and City Council.

Undaunted, he continues his fight, sharing his passion with anyone who will listen and marching barefoot through his favorite haunts, fishing and keeping a watchful eye on things.

An Orlando original, Levine intends to keep at least one foot in the water for as long as possible, bringing back stories to beguile his readers along the way.

His fourth book, “The Last Opus of Hector Berlioz,” is out now and as Levine says: “You better read it!”