FL Books & Authors

I read all kinds of books: novels, biographies, history, self-help, cookbooks, and more.  On this page, I feature Florida-interest books and authors that I recommend are well worth reading.

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ON LAKE WORTH

by Beverly Mustaine (1999)

On Lake Worth With over 200 fascinating photographs, this 128-page book illustrates the rich history of the City of Lake Worth, Florida from its beginning as a small settlement around Lake Worth, named for Major General William Jenkins Worth, to a bustling community alive with energy. Author Beverly Mustaine provides a fascinating photographic tour that chronicles the community’s past, its early pioneers, and rare photos, most of which were previously unpublished. Images of Flagler’s hotels in the early pioneer days, the 1928 hurricane that devastated the area, and scenes of World War II, as seen from the shores of Lake Worth, are included in this collection. Beverly Mustaine is a professional artist/designer and the curator and historian of the Museum of the City of Lake Worth. A native of Florida, she is actively involved in the preservation of her community’s past.

Find On Lake Worth in a library near you on Worldcat.

Buy On Lake Worth at Amazon.com.

Buy On Lake Worth from the City of Lake Worth.

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My favorite living Florida author is Matthew Pearl:

Matthew grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School. He now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but often visits his family here in South Florida. Matthew Pearl is the author of the mystery novels The Dante Club, The Last Dickens and The Poe Shadow. His books have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and have been translated into more than 30 languages. His non-fiction writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and Slate.com. His next novel is due out in early 2012.

The Dante Club: “In 1865 Boston, a small group of literary geniuses puts the finishing touches on America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and prepares to unveil the remarkable visions of Dante to the New World. The powerful old guard of Harvard College wants to keep Dante out—believing that the infiltration of such foreign superstitions onto our bookshelves would prove as corrupting as the foreign immigrants invading Boston harbor. The members of the Dante Club—poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and publisher J. T. Fields —endure the intimidation of their fellow Boston Brahmins for a sacred literary cause, an endeavor that has sustained Longfellow in the hellish aftermath of his wife’s tragic death by fire. But the plans of the Dante Club come to a screeching halt when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only the members of the Dante Club realize that the style and form of the killings are stolen directly from Dante’s Inferno and its singular account of Hell’s punishments. With the police baffled, lives endangered and Dante’s literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find a way to stop the killer. The brunt of the burden falls to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose unique literacy in both poetry and medicine continues to pull him into the center of the struggle. An outcast policeman, Nicholas Rey, the first and only black member of the Boston police department, places his future on the line after discovering the secrets of the Dante Club. Together, they find the key to the murders where they least expect it: closer than they could have imagined.”

The Last Dickens: “In 1870 Boston, when news of Charles Dickens’s untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields & Osgood, partner James Osgood sends his trusted clerk Daniel Sand to await Dickens’s unfinished novel–The Mystery of Edwin Drood. But when Daniel’s body is discovered by the docks and the manuscript is nowhere to be found, Osgood must embark on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel that will save his venerable business and reveal Daniel’s killer. Danger and intrigue abound on the journey, for which Osgood has chosen Rebecca Sand, Daniel’s older sister, to help clear her brother’s name and achieve their singular mission. As they attempt to uncover Dickens’s final mystery, Osgood and Rebecca find themselves racing the clock through a dangerous web of literary lions and drug dealers, sadistic thugs and blue bloods, and competing members of the inner circle. They soon realize that understanding Dickens’s lost ending is a matter of life and death, and the hidden key to stopping a murderous mastermind.”

The Poe Shadow: “The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. But none of this deters a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark. Quentin, an ardent admirer, discovers that Poe’s last days are riddled with vital unanswered questions – that the police may be covering up. Just when Poe’s death seems destined to remain a mystery, inspiration strikes – in the form of Poe’s own stories. Quentin realizes he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe’s death: the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of Poe’s tales of crime and detection. In short order, Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving international political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade and the lost secrets of Poe’s final hours. With his own future hanging in the balance, Quentin Clark must turn master investigator himself to unchain his now imperiled fate from that of Poe.”

Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, says: “Matthew Pearl is the new shining star of literary fiction – a heady, inventive and immensely gifted author. With intricate plots, classical themes, and erudite characters…What’s not to love?”

Matthew Pearl’s excellent website: http://www.matthewpearl.com

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CONDOMINIUM

by John D. MacDonald (1977)

Condominium is the quintessential Florida “beach read” – a disaster thriller about a monster hurricane hitting a Florida island, and what happens to all of those shoddy high-rise condos and clueless condo commandos when “the big one” hits. John D. MacDonald filled this exciting story with lots of stereotypical Florida characters, scheming bankers and unscrupulous real estate developers. The climax at a hurricane party in the tallest high-rise of them all is priceless! The cheezy 1980 TV movie Condominium was based on MacDonald’s novel, and starred Dan Haggerty, Barbara Eden and a dozen other “celebrities”.  Here’s a 10-minute video preview of the movie:

John D. MacDonald was a prolific writer of crime and suspense novels, many of them set in his adopted home state of Florida. In 1962, MacDonald was named a Grandmaster of the Mystery Writers of America, and in 1980, he won the American Book Award. Fellow author and pop-culture icon Stephen King praised MacDonald as “the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”

Preview and buy Condominium on Amazon.com.

Find Condominium in a library near you at Worldcat.

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CROSS CREEK

by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1942)

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who lived in the tiny North Florida hamlet of Cross Creek near Gainesville from 1928 until her death in 1953. Cross Creek is an autobiographical account of Rawlings’ life and sometimes complicated relationships with her neighbors at Cross Creek. It was chosen by the Book-of-the-Month Club and was released in a special armed forces edition and sent to servicemen during World War II. Cross Creek was made into a Hollywood movie of the same title in 1983, starring Mary Steenburgen.

I recently read Cross Creek for the first time and can highly recommend this book. It is a journey back in time to “old” Florida, back when it was still a sleepy southern state of orange groves, dirt roads, “Crackers” and critters. Rawlings’ intimate stories about her neighbors provide a unique portrait of “real life” in rural Florida in the 1930’s and 40’s. Her gritty and unvarnished portrayal of her neighbors got her into a lot of trouble at Cross Creek.  Rawlings was threatened with violence and even death, and was sued for libel.  Her book is definitely not “politically correct” by today’s standards, especially its content relating to race, sex and civil rights.  I was most struck by Rawlings’ stories about her black neighbors and employees. On the one hand, Rawlings was kind, protective and even affectionate with her black employees and neighbors, yet she reveals a condescending rascism that was all too common in those times, and even today.

You can visit Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek home, which has been restored to its 1930’s and 40’s appearance, and which is now the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic Site and State Park:

 

Preview Cross Creek at Google Books.

Locate Cross Creek in a library near you at Worldcat.

Read more about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at Wikipedia.

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MARGARET’S STORY

by author Eugenia Price is Florida’s “Gone With The Wind

April 12, 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.  Florida was the location of some of the most compelling events and personal stories of that momentous era.

If you are interested in reading one of the best historical novels about Florida during the Civil War era, Margaret’s Story by author Eugenia Price is Florida’s “Gone With The Wind“.  Although technically a novel, it is a meticulously researched and true account of the lives of Colonel Lewis Fleming, his wife Margaret Seton Fleming and their large and aristocratic extended family.

Lewis Fleming was the scion of an aristocratic Irish-American family, the descendants of the Barons Slane of Ireland and of the fabulously wealthy Fatio family of Switzerland, London and Spanish Florida. His first wife was Augustina Cortes, a Cuban descendant of Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador of Aztec Mexico.  His second wife, Margaret Seton, was the daughter of the wealthy Mayor of Fernandina and a descendant of the high noble Seton’s and kings of Scotland.

At the start of the Civil War, the Fleming’s lived in a grand mansion on their 1000-acre Hibernia Plantation on Fleming Island on the St. John’s River, west of St. Augustine. Four of the Fleming’s sons fought for the Confederacy during the war.  Widowed and then driven from her home by Union troops, Margaret and her daughters spent the remainder of the Civil War nursing the wounded and sick at a Confederate military hospital at Lake City.

I won’t spoil the suspense by revealing any more of their story, but it is a real “page turner”. It’s all high style and high drama from cover to cover.

Find a copy of Margaret’s Story in a library near you on Worldcat.

Read other reviews and buy Margaret’s Story on Amazon.com.

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