From swamp to society destination to urban blight, Miami Beach has held a singular fascination for Americans for nearly 100 years. Here Armbruster examines the allure, liberally quoting from eyewitnesses through the decades and capturing much of the spirit of the beach in numerous photographs. These depict, for example, a pristine Miami Beach, before it became a holiday mecca; renowned gangsters Al Capone, with his fitness trainer, and Meyer Lansky, whose neighbors, Armbruster reports, never needed homeowner's insurance; antipreservation movement protestors, holding signs with slogans like ``Deco Shmeco''; and a mid-century poster for the Churchill Apartment Hotel advertising its ``Gentile Clientele.'' From the 1920s through the 1960s, despite brief setbacks due to hurricanes and national economic depressions, Miami Beach was a social watering hole, a glitzy place full of nightclubs and casinos (Lenny Bruce said it was ``where neon went to die''). But in the '70s it went into steep decline, due in large part to its image as a rest stop for the elderly en route to their final destination. Recently, however, Miami Beach has been rejuvenated, so to speak, and Armbruster predicts a continuation of the resurrection, if not a return to the beach's former glory.