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 indigopress.net.

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 pjason@aol.com.

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Filed under Authors and Books, Book Beat, Florida Authors

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