Every state has its peculiarities, but Florida has an abundance like no other.
On the surface, the Sunshine State evokes images of Disney World, retirement communities, and palm-studded beaches. But as St. Pete Beach resident Wright (Sociology/Univ. of Central Florida) notes in his first book, “in Florida, nothing is ever quite as it seems. Every story has a back story, every point a counterpoint, every ugliness a contrary scene of sublime beauty. Whenever Florida purports to be one thing, it turns out to be another.” Divided into four parts—history, economy, people/politics, and environment—the book amply demonstrates that the last place to find the truth is in the brochures and mass media. Consider Florida’s prominent retirement community, the Villages. Overwhelmingly white and conservative, the area is billed as a sedate pocket to retire and play golf, but the author dispels the myths, fleshing out an entirely different picture: a wild underside featuring “rampant sexual conquest,” a thriving black market in Viagra, golf cart DUIs, and senior bar brawls. “A local gynecologist said that she treated more cases of herpes and HPV in The Villages than she ever did during her stint in Miami,” writes the author. In a state highlighted by its prized orange orchards, good luck finding a Florida-grown orange at the stores, which sell only California imports. Why? Because Florida’s oranges are harvested strictly for its lucrative orange juice industry. And if you think that jug of OJ is fresh-squeezed as advertised, think again; as part of its manufacture, the juice sits in massive tanks for up to a year before bottling. Studded with “factoids, oddments, stories, and back stories,” Wright’s book chronicles his travels throughout this odd state uncovering everything from the truth behind the infamous “hanging chads” of the 2000 election to wild pig attacks and notorious con men.
As the author writes in a passage that easily describes his book, “the news here is never boring. Tragic and disturbing? Often. Zany and funny? Regularly. Just plain weird? Most of the time. But boring? Never.”