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 authorhouse.com.
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 chapelhillpress.com.
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 amazon.com
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 amazon.com or by writing the author at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.