Tag Archives: Caribbean

By land or by sea, commit to your big adventure before it’s too late

The Adventures of Three Old Geezers: The Bright Idea, by Richard Perron. Amazon CreateSpace. 129 pages. Trade paperback $15.00.

This heartwarming and entertaining book, a fictionalized memoir, is the first of two by a conflicted Naples, Florida resident. Both have the same main title. The extended title for the second book is “Up, Up, and Away.” What’s the conflict? On one page the author tells as what’s wrong with the wealthier classes who enjoy this resort town and what’s silly about those in the gated communities who foolishly think they have purchased security. Elsewhere, readers learn how much Mr. Perron truly enjoys Naples and all the delights that it has to offer. 

He presents himself as a man ready to work through his bucket list, which would mean taking some chances and breaking his routines. Curmudgeon? Maybe, but finally a perceptive and good-humored one. Richard (AKA Captain Richard) has the “bright idea” of “borrowing” a luxury sailboat from a gone-north snowbird and, with his buddies Frank and Bill, going on an adventure trip to the Caribbean. These aging gentlemen want to wake themselves up, and that’s exactly what they do. No more stagnation.

Richard has enough boat savvy, and enough self-confidence, to take the captain’s role, parceling out subordinate tasks to his buddies. He also is willing to risk getting caught by the yacht club’s security – but of course this doesn’t happen.

After gaining some understanding of the boat’s technology and figuring out what provisions they need, the three adventurers are on their way.

They enjoy the beauty of the night skies, and they face the danger of storms. But they find out, if they didn’t know it before, what Jean Paul Sartre pointed out: “Hell is other people.” Yes, they meet some of those hellish people.

First stop, a psychologically necessary one, is Key West. After all, this unconventional “party town” will help them loosen up their lifestyles. Richard notes the contrast between Key West and “the anal-retentive city of Naples.” The three adventurers visit Richard’s friend Harry, a Key West resident who shows them around. They also make a stop at nearby Stock Island where they purchase fuel and other provisions. The Key West section has wonderful, engaging scenes of relatively harmless, hedonistic pleasure. It’s a good starting point for what’s to come.

Richard Perron

Their next destination is the Turks and Caicos Islands, but they are stopped by a government vessel, either Coast Guard or DEA. Richard easily answers a few questions and receives the admonition to “have a good day and stay safe.” They have a great onboard party that night and take turns keeping watch. A near-brush with an oil tanker rattles them a bit.

Now cruising the Atlantic, they put up the sails (saving fuel) and land a huge tuna, which they turn into a feast. Then they head into the Caribbean Sea. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 28, 2019 Bonita Springs and Venice editions of Florida Weekly, as well as the December 4 Fort Myers edition and the December 5 Naples and Charlotte County editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Three Old Geezers

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Character is destiny for Macomber’s Commander Wake

“Honor Bound,” by Robert N. Macomber. Pineapple Press. 392 pages. $21.95.

Robert N. Macomber’s ongoing fictional representation of later 19th century U. S. government maritime enterprise dazzles in its mix of historical fact and imaginative embellishment.  Mr. Macomber now presents the valiant and often unruly intelligence officer, Commander Peter Wake, in a satisfying new blend of romantic and life-threatening adventures. 

This, the ninth title in the “Honor Series,” finds Wake essentially abandoning an espionage mission regarding Spanish naval preparedness. Why? Cynda Saunders, a woman he first met during the Civil War, comes upon the present scene (in 1888), crossing Wake’s path in St. Augustine. She is determined to find her teenage son, Luke, who is missing on a treasure-hunt adventure in the Caribbean and possibly in bad company.

 The Commander feels “honor bound” to help her, given her distress and their former acquaintance. That she is powerfully attractive seals the deal. Wake, as ever in the company of his trusty aide Sean Rork, rounds up a team of eccentric characters to assist Cynda. The most notable of this group is ethnologist Cornelius (Corny) Rathburn; however, the Bahamian Seminole and the Polish-Haitian soldier (who joins the group later) are not far behind. The team must seek out the Condor, the schooner on which Luke has found employment (or perhaps enslavement).  The schooner’s master, Captain Kingston, may be up to no good.

Robert N. Macomber

As the story develops, readers enter a murky world in which revolutionary forces are challenging established European governments in Russia and elsewhere.  More than one person they encounter is, like Peter Wake when on assignment, a covert intelligence agent probing for information and advantage. It may seem odd that the setting for this activity involves such places as Key West, Nassau, Andros Island, Great Inagua Island, Haiti, and other Caribbean locations. However, Robert Macomber’s extrapolations from historical sources are remarkably convincing. . . .

To read this review in its entirely, as it appears in the May 4, 2011 edition of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 5 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Robert Macomber 2

PDF version: Macomber pdf-1 and Macomber pdf-2

See also: Florida Weekly – Robert Macomber

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When Jews Were Pirates

This review appears in the April 2010 issue of the (Jewish Federation of Collier County) Federation Star.

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, by Edward Kritzler. Anchor Books. 324 pages. $15.

The Renaissance in Europe is notable for many advances in science and literature, as well as for the ongoing discovery, exploration, and colonization of lands far across the seas. The history of diaspora Judaism is one aspect of Renaissance history, and for the most part it is a tragic story. Beginning with the Spanish Inquisition, which threatened Jewish existence through execution or forced conversion, this period brings with it the peculiar and largely unknown story of Jewish participation in the exploration, settling, and economic development of the New World.

The colorful story that Edward Kritzler tells is of “Iberian Jews, disguised as Christians, who pioneered the New World as explorers, conquistadors, cowboys, and pirates, transformed sugar cultivation into an agro-industry that they introduced to the Caribbean, and created the first trade network spanning the seven seas.” The hidden Jews did all this within the unstable environment of a Central and South America where European powers – principally Spain, Portugal, Holland, and England – fought for dominance, the Jewish adventurers alternately finding favor and scorn with various monarchs and colonial officials over a period of about 180 years.

Expert businessmen, the Jews of the Sephardic Diaspora, victims of expulsion, sharpened their talents as traders to assure their survival. They helped make kings rich, and they often provided them with valuable intelligence. They also waged their own battles as tradesmen-pirates, amassing personal wealth and influence far beyond their numbers. By the middle of the 17th century, the end of the story Kritzler tells, the Jews of the New World (and the Old), had established themselves in New Amsterdam (soon to be New York) and elsewhere as citizens with sufficient rights to flourish as admitted and practicing Jews – if not the full rights accorded to other peoples.    

Moshe and Abraham Cohen Henriques; Menasseh ben Israel; Samuel Palache (“the pirate rabbi”); Sinan, the Jewish captain of Barbarossa’s pirate fleet; and Peruvian silver tycoon Manuel Batista Perez are among the many colorful figures treated by Kritzler in this exciting, enlightening, and often humorous study.

If Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean has a fault, it is in its too-muchness. The material is fascinating, and a significant portion of Kritzler’s findings derive from his diligent discovery of previously overlooked documents in Jamaica and elsewhere. However, so much information is crammed into each page, let alone each chapter, that it is difficult to absorb. Sometimes the larger story and its meaning are overwhelmed by the barrage of details.

But information overload is a small price to pay for the treasure that Edward Kritzler offers. Of the many themes arcing through his book, the most important may be that although Jews, hidden and open, were almost always in a state of technical illegality and therefore vulnerable to arrest and worse, “When Jewish expertise was needed, prejudice took a backseat to expediency. . . .” So what else is new? Next time you’re cruising the Caribbean, bring along this book.

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Morris’s “Baja Florida” Goes Down Easy

Ex-Gator, ex-Dolphin (as in football, folks), and all-around sensitive tough guy, Zack Chasteen is – in this fifth novel in Bob Morris’s series – an adventurous do-gooder, exonerated ex-con, and dedicated family man all at once. I love the big guy. You’ve got to love a guy who can get away with naming his daughter Shula. I want to go fishing with him, down a few brews, and hear his stories. Luckily, I can do the later between the covers of a book (or, more and more likely these days, on the screen of a Kindle).

Winter Park resident Bob Morris, a fourth-generation Floridian, has founded a new para-nation: Bermuda to the north, the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands to the south, and Florida as the anchor – the island of the mind with water on three sides. Baja means a lot of things, including “lower” and “dropped from.” It’s a region to which, for all its internal variety, Morris gives a startling continuity. An accomplished travel and entertainment writer (“National Geographic Traveler,” “ Bon Appetit,” “Caribbean Travel & Life”) Bob Morris writes with authority not only about resort destinations, but also about less visited and less homogenized places near, along, and well off the coast of the Sunshine State. 

Chasteen’s Palm Nursery is headquarters, and Zack’s old friend, Mickey Ryser, finds him there. Mickey, who is both enormously wealthy and deathly ill, persuades Zack to track down Jen, a daughter whom he had more or less abandoned when she was a toddler some twenty years ago. He needs to reunite with her before he dies. In fact, he has already set a private detective on the case, but the man has disappeared and won’t respond to Mickey’s calls.

The full review is available in the February 25-March 3, 2010 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly. Click here for the online version: Florida Weekly – Bob Morris. It also appears in the March 10-16 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly.

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