Monthly Archives: December 2006

BOOK BEAT 24 – Charles Sobczak

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   December 27, 2006-January 2, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

When Sanibel realtor Charles Sobczak founded Indigo Press to publish his first novel, Six Mornings on Sanibel (1999), he was issued ten ISBN numbers. Sobczak has managed the risks and rewards of self-publishing so well that he will soon have to apply for more. As 2006 comes to a close, he has now five books in print plus two special editions. And this inventive author is a long way from running out of ideas, whether for the books themselves or for marketing them effectively.

Six Mornings, which has sold an astounding 21,000 copies, tells of the therapeutic interaction between Carl, a long-time Sanibel resident now in his twilight years, and Richard, a burnt-out alcoholic Midwesterner reluctantly on vacation. The recently-widowed older man needs someone to listen to his tales; the vacationer needs to redirect his life and recommit to the values he once held as a young man. The interchange presents fishing lessons and life lessons that, along with the Sanibel setting, move both men toward spiritual restoration.

Sobczak’s second novel, Way Under Contract, has much more of a satirical bite. It has been labeled a black comedy about the real estate business, particularly as it exists down here in Southwest Florida. Sobczak crafts into a compelling narrative the many quirks of the business while ultimately encouraging a more respectful attitude toward the world we live in. In 2001, this book won the Patrick D. Smith Literary Award, which is given by the Florida Historical Association for a book that depicts some aspect of Florida life in a most effective way. It, too, has sold quite well over the years, aided in 2004 by the coincidence of a phenomenon named Hurricane Charley, which brought special interest to the regional real estate market and to the fragility of this man-made Paradise.

Rhythm of the Tides is a compilation of Sobczak’s newspaper columns, along with selected short stories, essays, and poetry. It is a kind of Charles Sobczak sampler, and thus a good way to become familiar with the concerns and techniques of this versatile writer as they have developed over the years. Sobczak has packaged his first three books together in a bound collection called Island Writings. This collection is published in a general edition and a special Sanibel Island edition.

In 2003 came A Choice of Angels. This novel grows, in part, out of a visit Sobczak and his wife made to Istanbul in 2001. It centers on a romance that invited a clash of cultures, as a young Muslim woman who is an international exchange student meets the son of a Baptist minister at a small Georgia college. The damage caused by religious intolerance is treated with subtlety and precision in this exploration of contemporary political and religious issues. Though the manuscript was completed before 9/11, it seems as if the book speaks to that event and its aftermath. The author weaves background and foreground together skillfully, always making sure that the authenticity of his characters is not sacrificed to the need for exposition. 

Alligators, Sharks, & Panthers is Charles Sobczak’s most recent effort. Published last month, its theme is in its subtitle: “Deadly Encounters with Florida’s Top Predator – Man.” This, Sobczak’s first book-length piece of nonfiction, is a compendium of information on the confrontations between humans and other predators in our state. The book unfolds in brief sections, alternating fact-laden chunks with chunks of narration that illustrate these confrontations, most often revealing how they either were man-provoked or provoked by human ignorance.

Each of the major predators named in the title gets a separate chapter, and each chapter follows the same pattern. First comes an exposition on the animal itself: its nature, its evolution, its situation in Florida in the 21st century. This information is followed by a miscellany of stories – often news items – and warnings that underscore Sobczaks’ theme. The fourth chapter is on man, figured as the planet’s unwitting destroyer. In chapter five, the ecological problems that human activities bring to our home state are outlined in detail. As the book progresses, Sobczak presents more and more information about what we can do to alleviate these problems.

Finally, the book is an impassioned plea for understanding and action. Amazingly, it sold 1,200 copies in its first thirty days in print! Environmentalists and conservationists are, of course, buying the book. But so are tourists and teenage boys.

One thing that distinguishes Charles Sobczak from most self-published authors is his marketing savvy. His books do not stay in storage, and they do not remain secrets. He knows how to promote them, and he is not lazy about putting in the necessary effort to get them to and through the distributors and stores and into the hands of readers. But these efforts would not succeed if the books themselves were not worthy of attention. So far, with 34,000 Indigo Press books sold, he is batting 100%.

You can find and order Sobczak’s books in most area bookstores and online. They are usually well-stocked in Mina Hemingway’s Florida Bookstore at the Pavilion Shopping Center. Also, see

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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BOOK BEAT 23 – Marilyn Grant Hall

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   December 20-26, 2006

by Philip K. Jason

When Marilyn Grant Hall was a young girl growing up in Vancouver, she was fascinated by the stories of the noble Scottish family from which she had sprung. As a teenager, several visits to Scotland allowed her to become familiar with the domain of her ancestor, the Earl of Seafield, who was once Chancellor of Scotland. Visits to Cullen House and Castle Grant brought her into contact with relatives who were the heirs to these great estates that are part of Scotland’s glorious past. Over and over, Marilyn heard stories of the indomitable courage of her Scots forebears, especially during the time of Bonnie Prince Charles’s failed attempt to reclaim the Scottish and English thrones for the House of Stuart. After imagining and re-imagining it for decades, Marilyn Grant Hall finally concluded her task of recapturing the turmoil and valor of the times in her sprawling historical novel, Tartan Thunder.

Part of what made the novel possible was the encouragement of relatives who gave her full access to private libraries holding important records, including journals and letters dating back to 1746. These resources, as well as repeated visits to key sites, allowed Marilyn to graft her imagination upon a clear understanding of the history itself, and especially on its effect upon real individuals, families, and clans. Indeed, the novel focuses on the cruel English reprisals after the Scots defeat at Culloden (Marilyn has toured the battlefield). The novel also alerts readers to the uniqueness and importance of Scotland’s clan structure and of the English determination to destroy the clans.

As a young woman, Marilyn moved to San Francisco, soon afterwards determining to become a U. S. citizen. Her dedication to the goal of writing this novel stayed with her, but its completion was postponed many decades. She was busy living life, a life shaped for many years by a husband’s career in the film industry. About ten years ago, Marilyn contracted multiple sclerosis. The disease affected her mobility, but not her ability to continue planning the fictional version of her ancestors’ world. About four years ago, she made the full commitment to this project, and it was finally published by Authorhouse just about a year ago.

Tartan Thunder is built upon a series of passionate romances, a flood of action, and a theme of divided and sometimes confused loyalties. In the Royalist’s defeat of the Jacobite uprising, affiliated clans sometimes turned against one another, other clans were wracked by internal conflicts, and even family households were torn apart by one or another individual’s real or suspected sympathies with “the enemy.” A second act takes place in the port at Bristol, as the fugitives from English punishment prepare to set sail for that new frontier across the ocean – North America. Readers are left to imagine these characters’ attempts to make new lives for themselves, without all the advantages of wealth and titles.

The author has assembled an imposing cast of personages through which to tell her tale. Handsome warriors, gorgeous ladies, menacing villains, the spice of sex, and a sure crafting of action and setting make this first novel a good bet for screen treatment. In fact, Marilyn has held onto the media rights and hopes to find investors who will help her do just that – bring the novel to the movie screen. 

.I met this vivacious newcomer to Naples at The Carlisle, where she has resided for the last half year since relocating from Palm Desert, California. As we spoke, I couldn’t help but be moved by her enthusiasm for the glories of the past that she has successfully portrayed. Marilyn Grant Hall is so thoroughly infected by the writer’s bug that she has already ready begun working on a sequel called Tartan Passage.

Tartan Thunder is available from as well as from online booksellers. Autographed copies can be obtained from the author by contacting her at (239) 514-8265.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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BOOK BEAT 22 – Book Briefs

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   December 13-19, 2006

 “Local Talent sparkles in literary gems of 2006”

by Philip K. Jason

When I began the “Book Beat” column in mid-July, I worried about whether it was sustainable on a weekly basis. Was it really possible to find enough news about Naples-area authors, books, and book-related events? Now, five months into the column, I am finding it almost impossible to keep abreast of all that Naples area writers are doing. So, in the interest of catching up as 2006 begins to wane, let me call attention to several titles that deserve at least brief mention.

Journey to Venland, by Chad Willis, is planned as the first in his “The Prophecy of Rhodan” series. Willis’s novella is in the fantasy mode and thus is set in the expected “long ago and far away.” Willis moved to Naples after graduating high school to take a job and work his way through college. While pursuing his A.A. from Edison and his B.A. in history from FGCU, Willis discovered that while people like to read fantasy literature, many are not able to commit to the extreme length of many of the works in that genre. He decided to develop fantasy stories in a shorter format that are plot driven and easy to read. In Journey to Venland, a prophecy from the distant past begins to shape the present and the future, threatening a kingdom. And this prophecy informs the mission of a young stable-hand, whose success or failure not only will determine the destiny of the kingdom, but also that of the world. Willis has received positive responses from readers of this first book, and “can’t wait until people get to read the other two books. The story only gets better.” Available from

Against the Stream, by Neapolitan Ralph A. Leonard, is a loving biography of the author’s adventurous brother – a man who broke the rules, did things his way, and disappeared at sea. Leonard doesn’t necessarily hold his brother Don up to be a role model, but he does capture the appeal of the individual who is self-defined and independent. By not playing it safe, Don Leonard held onto his freedom. Ralph Leonard lays out all the known facts about brother Don’s sometimes dubious enterprises and his strange disappearance in 1993, but he cannot solve the mystery. The book, published by Chapel Hill Press, will appeal to those who love the life of the sea. Family photos accompany the narrative. Buy your copy from

Carol Jean Tremblay’s The Old Man and the C has some of the appeal of a shaggy dog story as it pays playful homage to Southwest Florida’s Hemingway industry. Old Charlie, in his dilapidated rowboat, is a dreamer. He longs for a big catch, something to bolster his reputation and his ego. When a local bait shop announces a fishing contest, Charlie sees his big chance. The old fisherman’s adventure is gracefully developed by the author and leads to something of a surprise ending. This humorous children’s tale, geared at readers age 6-10, is published by Pineapple Press. It is attractively illustrated by Angela Donato. Tremblay, who lives part of the year in Quebec, has written many books on teaching English for Quebecois. She also maintains a home on Marco Island. Available from the publisher, most local bookstores, and

Prudy Taylor Board’s Remembering Fort Myers: The City of Palms, from History Press, selects from the most intriguing historical articles written by Board about her dear home town. Many of these pieces first appeared in the News-Press and in Lee Living.  They include “How Fort Myers Got Its Name,” “The Battle of Fort Myers-1865,” “A Pioneer’s Thanksgiving – 1909,” “The Birth of a Hospital: Lee Memorial – 1916,” and “The Edison Legacy: 1884-Present.” Other stories about the history of Fort Myers bring us closer to the present. These include “George Sanders: Developer of the Edison Mall – 1965.” Each essay is at once delightful and informative. Board’s passion for her subjects comes through, and she demonstrates over and over her reporter’s eye for significant detail. Her book is available online and in most local book stores. A companion volume, Remembering Lee County, is about to appear. Board will be speaking about freelancing and writing local and regional history at the Naples Writers’ Conference in February.

The most surprising new book to find my desk this month is actually from across the state in Margate. But I couldn’t leave it out. It is James Boring’s sequence of poems called Condo, a truly brilliant portrait of condo life among the South Florida elderly. Generally, the poems are titled by the unit of the speaker’s residence, but each has a more revealing title as well, like “Sentinel,” or “The Widowed Second Wife” or “Unburied.” One of the best is “The Nightly Pick Up,” about the all too regular ambulance visits. Boring skillfully reduces lifetimes to brief stanzas, penetrating the joys, fears, and frustrations of these typical yet sharply individualized voices. Each piece is a gem, and the cumulative effect of the series is powerful and eerie. You can order the book from or by writing the author at

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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BOOK BEAT 21 – L.C. Goldman

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   December 6-12, 2006

by Philip K. Jason

L. C. Goldman is making a huge hit with his new novel, aptly titled A Big Hit in Pelican Bay. Real estate brokers are already buying them up for their agents and clients. The novel has great story hooks to get readers turning the pages. But Goldman’s own story is plenty interesting, too. 

Brooklyn-born Louis C. Goldman, who recently turned seventy-nine, was a standout athlete at Brooklyn’s Erasmus High and at Arizona State University. At ASU, he was the first freshman to play quarterback for the varsity team. He had a Hollywood screen test with Warner Brothers in 1946, played in summer stock in Monroe, New York, and was the lead singer and the drummer in a three-piece jazz group.

Lou came from a show business background. His father played with the Paul Whiteman band, making the vaudeville circuit with George Burns, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor, and George Raft.

However, Goldman’s eventual career was not in show business but in the advertising game. For forty years, he worked with such clients as Joseph E. Seagram, Ralph Lauren, Perrier Jouet Champagne, Yves St. Laurent, Schenley Distillers, Armitron Watches, and other top brands. It was in advertising that Goldman learned the art of the hook – how to grab someone’s attention immediately. His writing style is influenced by advertising techniques. Goldman’s dialogue often includes sentences that have a “kicker” at the end. It is also a spare style with nothing wasted.

After retirement, Goldman decided to leave his home in Manhattan – and a second home in Easthampton – behind. He checked out his college town and Florida’s east coast, but in 1991 he settled in Naples. Like so many others, he found it paradise and he’s been here ever since. Goldman has been busy with golf, the Men’s Forum at Pelican Bay, and several organizations including Planned Parenthood. L. C. Goldman has also been busy writing novels.

The first, And the Peace Came Tumbling Down, is a story of terrorism in the Middle East.  Published in 2002, it seems uncannily up to date.

Published by Airleaf, Goldman’s new novel, A Big Hit in Pelican Bay, revolves around a major Chicago crime family soldier who turns informer. Housed in Pelican Bay by the Federal Witness Protection Program, he is pursued by an assassination team from Chicago who have a million dollar contract to eliminate him. This successful man and woman team have already bumped off five federal witnesses in Chicago. An old, warn-out Chicago detective is set on the trail of the assassination team, and he discovers that they may have a contract on the witness hiding out in Pelican Bay. Naturally, he must come to Pelican Bay to pursue these open cases.  Readers will be challenged to anticipate the outcome, and they’ll have a great time along the way.

Goldman has used his well-honed promotional skills to set up signings at a wide variety of venues. You can find him at SunTrust Bank in Pelican Bay on December 8 from 1-3pm, at the Pavilion Publix on December 9 from 3-7pm, and at The Phil on December 14 from 11:30am to 1:30pm. (Why not? He has a scene set there.) The local media have become fascinated with this book, and so a lot of ink has and will be spilled bringing it to readers’ attention. Indeed, over 200 books were sold at the launch event at Barnes and Noble last month. It’s hot. Find out why.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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