South of Orlando, Florida was opened up in the nearly exclusive control of big dreamers. . . Frequently [they] were of as uncertain substance as the real estate they held."" This is, in the main, a familiar view of the Sunshine State, its underwater lots, promotional gimmickry, and ever-ready immigrants; its poachers, moonshiners, rum-runners, and drug-smugglers. Plus: ""the symbiosis between Florida crime and Florida real estate""--and the alliance of government with both. (See, of late, David Nolan's Fifty Feet in Paradise.) What Rothchild supplies is a personal element that can be hackneyed in its own post-Sixties confessional fashion--how he came to cover the 1972 Republican convention, instead holed up and spaced out in a Miami mansion with poolside radicals and luscious Susan (the teenage nymph who turned out to be a divorced mother of two, with a trust fund). But Rothchild also has on tap childhood recollections of ""homesteading"" in St. Petersburg--where the waterfront ""was a dynamic reproductive culture in which a small bit of substance could produce more."" And he and Susan subsequently settled in at scruffy, swampy, mosquito-infested Everglades City, seeing it give ground in seven years to condo development, environmentalists (like Rothchild and Marjory Stonemen Douglas) notwithstanding. ""It is, I think, the national perception of Florida as the answer to discomfort that makes it popular only on comfortable terms."" The pair returned to Miami ""in the knowledge. . . that a spectator who lingers is part of the spectacle""--and there Rothchild concentrates on a murky tangle of CIA/Mafia, terrorist/drug machinations (in which he got ignominiously involved). Readers will respond according to their prior exposure to the various tacky or seamy sides of south Florida, and their tolerance for repetitive social comment without much style.