An inviting tour through Florida’s personality and the colorful characters that make it up.

OH, FLORIDA!

HOW AMERICA'S WEIRDEST STATE INFLUENCES THE REST OF THE COUNTRY

A chronicle of the eccentric, enigmatic nature of the state of Florida.

The history, culture, and citizenry of the Sunshine State have a less-than-savory reputation. Referred to by W. Somerset Maugham as “a sunny place for shady people,” Florida is a land of contradiction, a home to every variety of hustler, player, and exploitation artist, as well as Disney World. As Tampa Bay Times reporter, author, and native Floridian Pittman (The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid, 2012) points out in his unique and charming book that is part history, part travelogue, and part memoir, Florida is truly a one-of-a-kind state whose eccentricities can at times seem like parody. (There are innumerable anecdotes and factoids provided by the author to quote from, but perhaps it’s easier to mention the popular Twitter handle “Florida Man,” which shares bizarre news stories that capture a slice of the state’s oddball flavor.) However, Florida’s rakish reputation belies the state’s cultural and political clout. For every story like the naked man high on “bath salts” who brutally attacked a homeless person on a Miami highway in 2012, there are others like the case of Florida resident Terri Schiavo, whose medical condition sparked a national debate on end-of-life care—not to mention Florida’s infamous role tipping the 2000 presidential election. Pittman is smart to trace these extremes through Floridian history without making claims to a cause or common character trait that could explain away the strangeness that binds them. Like any good journalist, the author allows his deeply researched collection of Floridiana, which covers real estate, guns, politics, tourism, the elderly, and much more, to speak for itself. Though Pittman’s argument of Florida’s singular importance is disputable, he provides ample evidence to prove that the history of Florida’s endearingly cavalier spirit continues to live on.

An inviting tour through Florida’s personality and the colorful characters that make it up.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07120-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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