July, 2010 – Summertime, a Time for Great Books

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Cultural Corner

 

Summertime, a Time for Great Books

 

By Marla E. Schwartz

 

There’s no doubt that summertime in Florida is literally just as scorching to our outsides as well as it is to our insides. It’s easy to find a way to cool down on the outside, you can jump in a pool or stay in the air conditioning – but cooling down on the inside is another matter. So when you’re sipping on a tall glass of cold water or something a bit harder, keep in mind that summer reading is every bit as indispensable to sustain us during these seemingly endless sweltering days. There are multitudes of authors and books to choose from but this list focuses on work by Floridians or books that engage Florida in their plot twists.

 

If you belong to a book club where monthly selections are suggested ahead of time, that’s terrific. If not, check out some of the following local groups. The Readers’ Lane Book Club (www.readerslane.net) has locations in Miramar and Pembroke Pines. Miami’s Euphoria Book Club members try to focus on themes dealing with African-American women; to enroll email Patricia at euphoriabookclub@yahoo.com. You can also join JORKOR (Coming Together) a book club for women living in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. This club focuses on social and political books affecting the lives of women of color. Contact woc_bookclub@hotmail.com for more information. And in Palm Beach County, check out the Spanish River Book Club. This group recently featured guest authors (who live in Boca Raton and were featured in last month’s issue of AW), Deborah and Joel Shlian where they answered questions about their fourth novel Rabbit in the Moon. You can get more information about the Shlian’s at, www.shlian.com, and if you’re interested in joining this book club, send an email to, spanishriverbookclub@yahoo.com. This group is discussing the book House Rules in August.

 

And it goes without saying that reading in the summertime begs a visit to Key West for its annual Hemingway Days Festival. The festival takes place July 20-25th and celebrates all that surrounds the great literary genius of Ernest Hemingway and the ever-lasting affect his presence has had on this Florida city. The most well-known event highlighting the festival is the Sloppy Joe’s Hemingway Look-Alike Contestwhere gentlemen from come far and near to compete for the exalted title of looking like the man whose zest for life seems incomparable to many of us. Other exciting events surrounding the celebration of Hemingway’s memory include the gathered Papas as they compete in the ‘Running of the Bulls’ tribute on Saturday afternoon, a three-day marlin tournament, daily tours of Hemingway’s house, the Sloppy Joe’s Arm Wrestling Contest and a Caribbean street fair.

 

The literary highlight of the festival is the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. Lorian, the author’s granddaughter (and herself a celebrated author, memoirist and nature writer), announces the winners at this event which takes places at Casa Antigua, 314 Simonton Street, which is where the original Papa stayed during his first trip to Key West. Go to HemingwayDays.Org for further information. This years’ festival is commemorating the 110th anniversary of Ernest’s July 21st birth. And it turns out that the Spanish-Colonial home at 907 Whitehead Street where Hemingway lived wasn’t named an official Literary Landmark until this past March. Hemingway aficionados would most certainly had hoped this would’ve happened years ago, and some swear of course, it had happened a long time ago, but finally this home, where the author lived for nine years, the most prolific of his writing life, has been given this honor, making it the eighth literary landmark in Key West, including the former home of Tennessee Williams.

 

It just so happens that Lorian’s brother John Hemingway recently published his poignant memoir Strange Tribe: A Family Memoir. John was born in Miami, and currently lives in Montreal, Canada. He attended UCLA and eventually moved to Italy to pursue his own writing career. Lorain wrote about her father, Dr. Gregory (Gloria) Hemingway in her 1999 book Walk on Water: A Memoir and John appeared at the 2009 Miami Book Fair International in order to speak about his current tome, which speaks volumes about what it was like for him growing up in both Florida and Montana with a schizophrenic mother and a bipolar, cross-dressing father who ultimately had a sex-change. The book examines the difficulties in life that both his father and grandfather experienced.(Let’s cross our fingers that this marvelously talented and very kind man finds his way back to South FL!) The book portrays the comparisons and struggles that his father and grandfather had and how similar they really were.

 

“It was after my dad had just died and I was traveling from Milan, where I lived, to Miami for his funeral. The stewardess on the flight was handing out copies of the local paper, Il Corriere della Sera, and on the front page there was an article about my dad written by their NY correspondent,” John said. “She was calling my dad’s death in the woman’s ward of the Miami Dade County Women’s correctional facility a “disgrace” to the image of my grandfather and saying that there could be no connection between the two. At the time I hadn’t started to do the research for my book, Strange Tribe, but I remember thinking that this woman didn’t know what the hell she was talking about! I knew that there was a much deeper connection between these two than either the general public or scholars were aware of. It was then that, subconsciously at least, I knew that I would have to write this book.”

 

John is currently working on a collection of short stories. “I’ve already published three of them and I hope to have about ten or fifteen when I’m finished, perhaps this fall,” he said. “I don’t have a title for this collection. I usually think of a title when I’m finished writing.” What is he reading right now? “I highly recommend Jeff Lindsay, he’s a great writer and also family – married as he is to Hilary Hemingway, one of my cousins,” he said.

 

Authors residing in the state of Florida

 

Jane Alison: The Sisters Antipodes (2009) {Mariner Books, part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, released the book in paperback this past April}; Natives and Exotics (2005); The Marriage of the Sea (2003); The Love-Artist (2001).

 

Jane, originally from Canberra, Australia is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Miami and lives in South Beach. Her deeply affecting memoir The Sisters Antipodes is about two families with similar lives that meet, tear each other apart and rebuild. Jane is currently working on her fifth book. “So far it’s untitled, but it’s inspired by the obsession that world-renowned modernist architect Le Corbusier had with fellow designer Eileen Gray. I expect it to be completed within the year.”

 

Liz Balmaseda: Sweet Mary (2009) {Released June 2010 in Paperback}; Waking Up in America (1999) {with Pedro Jose Greer, Jr}; I Am My Father’s Daughter (2007) {with Maria Elena Salinas}.

 

This Cuban born woman is a resident of Miami and is a former columnist for The Miami Herald and a journalist for The Palm Beach Post. She has received two Pulitzer Prizes, the first in 1993 for her commentary on the plight of Haitian refugees and the Cuban-American population, her second in 2001 for reporting on the federal raid involving the refugee boy Elián González. She recently was honored with the Hispanic Heritage Award in writing excellence at the Kennedy Center in our nation’s capital. Her novel Sweet Mary is based on a true story about the life of fictional Miamian Mary Guevara who is erroneously accused of being a cocaine queen and how she seeks justice by searching for the real culprit. Last summer Gloria Estefan (Andy Garcia was in the house) hosted a party at the Eden Roc to celebrate the release of Liz’s debut novel. And now that it’s released in paperback, it’s a perfect choice for your summer bookshelf.

 

Edna Buchanan: Legally Dead (2008); Love Kills (2007); Carr: Five Years of Rape and Murder (1979); The Corpse Had a Familiar Face: Covering Miami, America’s Hottest Beat (1991); Never Let Them See You Cry: More from Miami, America’s Hottest Beat (1992); Vice: Life and Death on the Streets of Miami (1992).

 

Born in Paterson, NJ and a Miami resident for years, Edna is a celebrated American mystery writer of seventeen novels and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Her most recent novel Legally Dead has just been released in paperback and is about the life of U.S. Deputy Marshall Michael Venturi as he attempts to transport a mobster into the Federal Witness Protection Program. The mobster commits an armored car robbery, and Venturi’s life is forever changed as he tries to make his way out of this mess. He hopes an old friend in Florida can help him out.

 

Joy Fielding: The Wild Zone (February 2010); Still Life (2009); Charley’s Web (2008).

 

Joy resides in both Toronto and Palm Beach, FL and is the highly successful author of nineteen novels, seven of them taking place in Florida, including her most recently published book The Wild Zone. It revolves around the lives of two brothers who are enjoying a night out at their favorite South Beach bar. They see a woman drinking alone and place a bet on which one of them will be able to seduce her. The story soon takes a treacherous turn. You can also turn to her 2008 novel Charley’s Web for more Florida intrigue. Charley is a popular columnist for the Palm Beach Post who becomes unwittingly becomes involved in a mystery where she is placed in a situation in which she must save her son who is being targeted by a convicted child killer.

 

Carl Hiaasen: Star Island (July 27 2010); Scat (2009); Nature Girl (2006); Paradise Screwed (published in 2001, June 2009, new edition); Kick Ass (1999, 10th Anniversary Edition now available).

 

Carl, who was born in Plantation and lives in Miami has set all of his books in Florida. His name is most recognizable as the author of Strip Tease that was subsequently turned into a movie starring Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds. His new book Star Island is about a slightly competent, unmanageable pop-singer who is hounded by the paparazzo. He began writing for The Miami Herald in 1976 and you can check out his regular column at, http://www.miamiherald.com/424/index.html where he’s recently written about the BP oil spill and more. The majority of his novels have been classified as environmental thrillers and he and his wife are very active in community/charity events and have made great progress in altering people to environment concerns in the state of Florida. In 2008 his bestseller Lucky You was adapted for the stage, with music written by Loudon Wainright III and premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In addition to writing, Hiaasen also does speaking engagements and lectures. For more information go to, www.carlhiaasen.com.

 

Stephen King: Blockade Billy (April 2010);The Talisman: Vol. 1: The Road of Trials(May 2010); American Vampire Vol. 1 (March 2010), Full Dark, No Stars (Nov. 2010); Ur (2010);Under the Dome (2009); Stephen King Goes To The Movies (2009); Road Rage (2009); Duma Key (2008).

 

Stephen King is famous for his remarkably prolific output of the most exceptional horror stories ever written situated in his home state of Maine. He has penned more than fifty internationally bestselling books. He and his wife Tabitha reside in Bangor during the summer and spend the remainder of their time in Sarasota, Florida. They have three children, and one of them, their daughter Naomi, is a permanent resident of Florida, making her home in Plantation, where she is a minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church of River of Grass.Stephen’s most recent novel Blockade Billy is about William Blakely, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, whose name has been mysteriously expunged from the record books. Stephen’s book The Talisman: Vol. 1: The Road of Trials, co-written with Peter Straub is a graphic novel about thirteen-year-old Jack Sawyer’s journey to find the magical Talisman that holds the secret to saving his mother’s life. King’s American Vampire Vol. 1 is the first in a new graphic novel series in which he’ll co-author the first five books with Scott Snyder. The main character is a feral vampire whose story stretches from the wild west through America’s ascension into a superpower. King’s novel Duma Key mostly takes places on this fictional reef located near Sarasota. The story revolves around Edgar Freemantle who is in a construction accident and moves to Duma Key when he inexplicably begins to create dreamlike paintings that predict the future.

 

Jeff Lindsay: Dexter is Delicious (Hardback, September 2010/Paperback, August 2011); Dexter by Design (2008); Dexter Omnibus (2008); Dexter in the Dark (2007); Dearly Devoted Dexter (2005); Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004).

 

This extraordinary writer was born and raised in Miami and follows a highly regulated daily writing schedule at his home office in Cape Coral, FL where he lives with wife, Hilary Hemingway and their three children. Jeff’s first book in his deftly created Dexter series is Darkly Dreaming Dexter and is the basis for Showtime’s number one rated series, Dexter. The marvelous actor who brings Dexter to life is the mesmerizing Michael C. Hall, who portrayed David Fisher on the hit HBO drama, Six Feet Under. Jeff created the very first ‘loveable’ serial killer in the history of literature in his character of sociopathic vigilante Dexter Morgan. His book Dexter by Design debuted at #8 on the New York Times Bestseller List last September. And for all you fans who cannot get enough of Lindsay’s work, don’t worry, there’s more to come! “The book I’m finishing now is about cannibalism, called Dexter is Delicious. That’s one of my favorite titles,” Jeff said. “I was recently in Australia (on a book tour for Dexter by Design which was released in Australia in February 2009) and they’re crazy about him and want him to visit Australia. So I thought that Dexter Down Under would be a good title.” If you’re lucky, you can catch Lindsay at future book fairs or during his many visits to Miami at Books and Books in Coral Gables.

 

Brad Meltzer: The Inner Circle (January 2011); Heroes for My Son (May 2010); The Book of Lies (2008); The Book of Fate (2006).

 

Brad grew up in Brooklyn, NY but moved to South Florida when he was still a youngster and attended N. Miami Beach Senior High School. This down-to-earth man is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Book of Fate, as well as the bestsellers The Tenth Justice, Dead Even, The First Counsel, The Millionaires, The Zero Game, and The Book of Lies. He lives with his wife Cori and their three children right in our own backyard of Aventura where he scooped ice cream for four years at the Haagen Dazs in Aventura Mall and where he’s now known for coaching Little League games in which his children participate. You’ll have to wait a few more months to read his next thriller, so if you haven’t yet read his book Heroes for My Son, it’s a must read for inclusion in your summer reading list. I highly recommend you check out these websites for this book, heroesformyson.com/the-book, www.facebook.com/HeroesforMySon, and make sure to send out your own ‘Heroes’ video he has created to the special people in your life. This book makes a perfect gift for anyone with an upcoming special celebration. The idea for writing this book took came to Brad a number of years ago. “It began the night my first son was born. I was stuck at a red light, and I remember looking up at the black sky and thinking of this baby boy we were just blessed with,” he explained. “That’s when I asked myself this question for the very first time: what kind of man did I want my son to be? The book was just a list of silly platitudes until a friend of mine told me this story about the Wright Brothers. Every day Orville and Wilbur Wright went out to fly their plane and they’d bring enough materials for multiple crashes. That way, when they crashed, they could rebuild the plane and try again. Think about it a moment: every time they went out every time – they knew they were going to fail. But that’s what they did: Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild. And that’s why they finally took off. I loved that story. And that’s the kind of story I wanted my son to hear: a story that wouldn’t lecture to him, but would show him that if he was determined…if he wasn’t afraid to fail…if he had persistence the impossible becomes possible. Since that time, I’ve been collecting heroes for this book, which has been one of the most rewarding projects of my life.”Make sure you go to Brad’s website and read his blog because this is where he encourages people to send him list of their heroes. “If you have one, please send him or her along,” he insists. “I have a daughter and I’ve been working on her (book of heroes) ever since the day she was born,” Brad said. “And she asks everyday, ‘where’s my book?’ So Heroes For My Daughter is coming soon.” Brad’s website is: www.bradmeltzer.com.

 

James Paterson: Cross Fire (November 2010); Battle for Shadowland (October 2010);  Don’t Blink (September 2010); The Postcard Killers (August 2010); Demons and Druids (July 2010); Private (June 2010); 9th Judgment (April 2010); Fang (March 2010); Worst Case (February 2010).

 

James was born in Newburgh, New York but lives in Palm Beach with his family. He has written sixty-five novels in thirty-three years, has had nineteen consecutive #1 New York Timesbestselling novels and holds the New York Times record for most Hardcover Fiction bestselling titles by a single author (48 total), which is also a Guinness World Record. He’s most known for his Alex Cross and Maximum Ride series. His two summer releases, Demons and Druids and The Postcard Killers will no doubt thrill all his fans. Demons and Druids is the third book in his Daniel X Series in which the young protagonist finds himself with a secret power that creates objects out of thin air. The Postcard Killers, co-authored with Swedish writer Liza Marklund is a crime novel about a young American couple murdered while vacationing in Europe. For more information go to www.jamespaterson.com.

 

Authors that include South Florida in their books.

 

Betsy Carter: The Puzzle King (2009); Nothing To Fall Back On (2008); Swim to Me (2007); The Orange Blossom Special (2005).

 

Although Betsy was born and currently resides in NYC, she spent her formative years in Miami. Because she was exposed to the colors, unique splendor and unusual qualities (Seminole Indians wrestling alligators behind gas stations) that make this city so combustible she has written about Florida in all of her books, except her most recent one, The Puzzle King. This historical novel takes place in New York and Kaiserlautern, a small town in Germany. Her official website for the book, www.betsycarter.net, includes a Q & A with the author in which she discusses why she didn’t include Florida in this book and where she came up with the idea for it. “The story of The Puzzle King has been kicking around all of my live,” she said. “It’s based on the history and mythology of my family. My parents were German Jews who narrowly escaped Hitler through the heroic efforts of my great aunt and uncle.” She thought her great uncle Morris Einson, whom the character of Simon Phelps in the novel is loosely based upon, invented monopoly, but discovered he really made his fortune, enabling him to save the lives of her parents and others, by creating jigsaw puzzles out of cardboard. But just because Florida isn’t a main theme in this book, is certainly is mentioned in the book when the character of Seema, trying to cover up the fact that her boyfriend is married, and lies to her family, telling them that she and her boyfriend were spending time in either Havana or Florida. And once you’ve devoured this historical novel, make sure you read her other books. Her memoir, Nothing To Fall Back On was a national bestseller; Swim to Me is a whacky and fun story about a young girl named Delores Walker who leaves the Bronx for Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida and becomes the featured mermaid in an underwater show, and The Orange Blossom Special spans twenty-years, beginning in 1958 when widowed Tessie Lockhart decides to leave Carbondale, Illinois and reserves two seats, one for herself and the other for her teenage daughter Dinah, on a passenger train to Gainesville, Florida. Betsyis a contributing editor of O: The Oprah Magazine and writes for Good Housekeeping, New York, and AARP and has been an editor at Esquire, Newsweek, Harper’s Bazaar and was the founding editor of New York Woman.

 

Patricia Cornwell: “Kay Scarpetta” series Book of the Dead (2007), Scarpetta (2008), The Scarpetta Factor (Released October 2009); “At Risk / Win Garano” seriesAt Risk (2006) {originally a serialization for The New York Times} debuted on the Lifetime Channel April 10, 2010 and The Front (2008) which was also adapted to television on the Lifetime Channel on April 17, 2010.

 

Cornwell, crime novelist extraordinaire, was born in Miami and currently lives in Massachusetts. Her series of novels featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta basically takes this character from her home in Florida to Virginia, back in Florida, returning to Virginia, moving back to Florida taking a job as the head of the National Forensic Academy in Hollywood then relocating to Charleston, South Carolina, then moving to Massachusetts and now in The Scarpetta Factor is working in NYC. She’s currently a senior forensic analyst for CNN and her boss creates a TV show called The Scarpetta Factor. It’s about Kay’s so-called mythical ability to solve her cases. Cornwell recently spoke privately with Angelina Jolie to discuss writing a film script as a vehicle for this Academy-Award winning actress to star in where she’ll portray Scarpetta for the big screen. For more information go to www.patriciacornwell.com.

 

For those book lovers looking for more to read once summer is over, the next Miami Book Fair International takes place November 14-21 at Miami Dade College. Many of the author’s in this summer reading series appeared at last year’s (or previous ones) fair, but confirmed authors for this year’s highly anticipated literary extravaganza haven’t been announced yet. This information will ultimately be accessible at www.miamibookfair.com.

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Marla E. SchwartzA native of Toledo, OH and a graduate ofKent State, Marla E. Schwartzis aSenior Writerfor Miami Living Magazineand is alsofreelance writerforLighthouse Point Magazine. Her photographs have appeared in numerous Ohio publications, as well as inMiami Living, The Miami Herald, The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post. She has had numerous plays published and produced around the country.  Her short play,America’s Working?was produced in Los Angeles at both theFirst Stage and theLone Star EnsembleTheater companies, in Florida atLynn Universityand then at an off-Broadway playhouse in NYC. Her piece,The Lunch Time Café, was a finalist for the Heideman Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville. Feel free to contact herat:meschwartz1@hotmail.com.