Tag Archives: Everglades

A lesson in Florida’s fresh water crisis worth reading and understanding

“Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida,” by John M. Dunn. University Press of Florida. 272 pages. Hardcover $24.95.

Mr. Dunn, an experienced journalist, educator, and water advocate, puts the Florida particulars of the world-wide fresh water crisis before readers in an accessible, well-researched, and well-balanced study. The information is, in fact, horrifying. The warnings have been around for so long, people of good will have worked so diligently, and yet for a host of reasons the steps taken have often been misguided or insufficient. 

There is a war going on between those who use and abuse fresh water selfishly and those who truly recognize that the clock is ticking. While local jurisdictions issue building permits nonstop and new communities spring up overnight fed by new roads and hooked to the water infrastructure, their inevitable paved over appeal threatens the water supply by blocking drainage into the soil, while the sheer number of new users threatens it even further.

This battle rages almost everywhere. In Florida, the issues are complicated by the invasions of stupidity and greed that have crippled irreplaceable ecological wonders, most notably the Everglades. “Big Sugar,” dependent on the astronomical use of fertilizers that pollute the waters and overcharge plant growth while harming wildlife, threatens whatever is in its way. Lawyers and lobbyists prevail.

John Dunn – Credit SusanDunn

Reading through this book is a pleasure because of its carefully structured chapters and subchapters. Though the material is abundant and often complex, the packaging is extremely reader-friendly. Readers can set their own pace, and there is just enough repetition of key concepts and issues to create emphasis with the downside of tedium.

Here’s an example of concept clarification:

When one washes a car, most of the water eventually rejoins the aquifer. So that water is used, but not consumed. Some of the water evaporates, and some is relocated through the stormwater system. That water is used and consumed. Such distinctions run through the book, building a lexicon of critical terminology.

Running through the many chapters, more prominent in some than in others, is a well-turned geological history of Florida. This history, voiced eloquently and vividly by Mr. Dunn, is essential background for his detailed treatment of our recent centuries: Florida from the Industrial Revolution to the present time. Many of the most consequential chapters involve attempts to re-engineer the flow of water through the state, from Lake Okeechobee downward: attempts that have had questionable intended consequences and dangerous – indeed calamitous – unintended consequences. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in May 8, 2019 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the May 9 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach editions, and the May 16 Venice edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Drying Up

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Set in Southwest Florida, Harry Brock Mystery rises above the crowd

An Anecdotal Death, by Kinley Roby. Five Star Publishing. 310 pages. Hardcover $25.95.

The tenth “Harry Brock Mystery” finds the game warden turned detective continuing to ply his trade in and near the Southwest Florida town of Avola. The place names Tequesta County and Avola allow Mr. Roby some imaginative space; many readers will quickly identify the setting’s originals as Collier County and Naples. More important than this identification is Mr. Roby’s worshipful perspective on the natural beauty and vulnerability of a patch of Florida wilderness that seems to be receding as the burgeoning town advances. Harry Brock works in both worlds, but he makes his home in a remote, simple dwelling on the edge of the Everglades.  AnAnecdotalDeathFront

The beautiful and wealthy Meredith Winters has summoned Harry to discover whether or not her missing husband, Amos Lansbury, is alive or dead. While the Coast Guard had rendered the verdict that Lansbury had died in a diving accident during a fishing expedition with several friends, no corpse has been discovered. Meredith has a feeling that Amos was murdered.

Touching base with his friends in the sheriff’s department, Harry worries about their reluctance to open an investigation. It soon becomes clear that political concerns are at work. When two more of Lansbury’s diving buddies turn up dead, it is hard to call the pattern a mere coincidence, especially since the common dominator seems to be that all worked in a very rough political campaign for a seat in the state senate. When a fourth campaign worker, not part of the diving activity, is found dead – the question becomes: who suffered so mightily from the outcome of the senate race that he (or she) has a serial score to settle.

Soon enough, Harry is nearly a victim, suggesting that the killer finds Harry too close to figuring things out.

As the investigation moves along, Harry’s personal life becomes just as much a center of interest as his professional one. He is meeting many divorced and widowed women in the course of the investigation, women connected with the victims in one way or another. Author Roby goes a bit overboard in describing each one, as well as Meredith and her secretary, as a surprisingly beautiful specimen of femininity. Or is that perception only Harry’s, a consequence of his own situation, appetites, and tendency to idealize?

Roby

Roby

Harry’s two failed marriages, and his impasse with his present love, have left him lonely and longing. Meredith throws herself at him, and there is plenty of flirtation in his sequence of investigatory interviews. Hey, whatever Harry’s got, I want some.

His emotional state is also colored by the growing fragility of his best friend and mentor, Tucker Labeau, whose residence on Bartram’s Hammock, a state nature preserve, is near Harry’s. The winding waterway named Puc Puggy Creek is for Harry something like Thoreau’s Walden Pond and its surrounding woods: a place to get back to basics. The profound friendship between the two men is based in part on their deep mutual respect for the natural world and a desire for self-reliance. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 9, 2015 Naples Florida Weekly and also the Punta Gord/Port Charlotte edition, click here: Florida Weeky – Anecdotal Death.

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Naples guidebook geared to kids colors facts with fun

A (Mostly) Kids’ Guide to Naples, Marco Island & The Everglades, by Karen T. Bartlett. Mostly Kids’ Guides LLC. 80 pages. $18.95.

There’s nothing square about this 8 X 8 inch high-energy book. It’s the hip answer to youngsters who visit Naples and say, “I’m bored. What are we going to do?” The book features snappy page design, a full color palette, lively text, plus attractive photographs and other illustrations. Mostly, it just explodes with delicious information about this corner of Southwest Florida with a focus on children’s activities. Feedback from the Naples tourism industry has been exuberant, and the author-publisher already has plans for other regional Kids’ Guide books. KidsGuide2015_Final_FRONT_Cover

The guide begins with a colorful burst of images tied to interesting facts about some of the area’s hallmark critters and plant life. Then we are off on a romp that samples fun at the beaches (all five of them) and continues with an exploration of places that make nature education and preservation fun: the Conservancy, the Naples Zoo, and the Shy Wolf Sanctuary among them.

Everywhere, the text offers a child-friendly voice with good natured wit. Ms. Bartlett bills herself as the “Adventurer in Chief,” and no child, parent, or grandparent will deny the powerful appeal of her upbeat, lighthearted guidance.

What else is on the kids’ tour? Well, there is the Naples Bay / Tin City area, a ride on the Naples Princess, the shops on Fifth Avenue South (with a lingering glance at Regina’s Ice Cream Pavilion), the dog-friendly Third Street Shops, the various city and county parks, the Naples Depot Museum, the Naples Botanical Gardens, the Galisano Children’s Museum, the Florida Sports Park, and many other close-in destinations.

Then the book opens to a wider view, introducing highlights in and near Immokalee, including the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Roberts Ranch. Ms. Bartlett teases her readers with fascinating bits of Native American history along the way.

Bartlett

Bartlett

Marco Island receives attention for its shelling and other beaches, along with tempting descriptions of parasailing, helicopter trips, and waverunner fun. Readers younger and older are invited to visit Keewaydin Island and Cape Romano. Look out for the gopher tortoises and spiny tail iguanas. Don’t miss the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the triangular fish that “looks like a bat with warts, with lipstick-colored lips.” Go on a fishing trip. Visit Mackle Park.

Then get ready for the Everglades.

Airboats on the river of grass, alligators, manatees, Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, hammocks you don’t sleep in, Billie Swamp Safari, Skunk Ape Headquarters, Everglades City and its historical museum, Big Cypress National Preserve, Collier Seminole State Park, Clyde Butscher’s gallery, and countless varieties of beautiful birds – is there no end to this place for family’s to enjoy while they learn?

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 25, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 26 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here  Florida Weekly – Bartlett 1 and here Florida Weekly – Bartlett 2 

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White’s 20th Doc Ford adventure is one of the best

Night Moves, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 368 pages. $26.95.

In 1945, five Navy torpedo bombers called Avengers took off from Fort Lauderdale and disappeared on a mission named Flight 19. The planes and fourteen men vanished, to become transformed into legend and into the search objective of many treasure hunters and other adventurers who’d want credit, fame, and who knows what else by solving the mystery.

Now, almost seventy years later, Doc Ford, his drug-enhanced ethereal buddy Tomlinson, and veteran pilot Dan Futch are flying over the Everglades to test Dan’s theory of where the planes went down. A mechanical failure leads do an emergency landing, after which Dan discovers that the seaplane was sabotaged to fail. NIGHTMOVEScover

Who would want to do such a thing? Is someone simply after Dan Futch? Or are there people who would like to see this particular quest fail? Why? Are there competitors who hope to claim discovery rights for the long-gone aircraft? Or is the saboteur actually after Tomlinson, who has been tempting fate by romancing the gorgeous, semi-crazed Cressa Arturo, a wealthy married woman on the edge of divorce?

But wait, Tomlinson has also made an enemy of Kondo Ogbay, a Haitian narcotics overlord. Could Ogbay have arranged the mechanical breakdown to injure or kill Tomlinson? Or just to threaten him?

Whatever is going on in Doc Ford’s world, a lot of it is being surreptitiously photographed.

WhiteAuthorPhotobyWendyWebb

As the pursuit of evidence about the missing Avengers moves forward, the plot population grows. We meet a jet-set assassin with at least two names who alternately snubs, threatens, and befriends Doc Ford. This handsome, dashing fellow, at once Brazilian and Germanic, is a history buff who would greatly enjoy being in on the Flight 19 search action. Mr. White skillfully builds the grudging respect that Doc and this elite killer (a kind of alter ego for Doc) have for one another.

Night Moves has a wide range of integrated details that enrich the readers’ sense of context and culture without being ultimately necessary to the plot. Information about a Native American Bone Field in the Everglades, concerns about illegal fishing techniques, and even a narrative thread that exploits the increase in the region’s population of large exotic snakes all show Randy Wayne White’s skills in weaving a hugely interesting tapestry of environmental and atmospheric complexity. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 27, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the March 28 Naples edition, the April 11 Charlotte County edition, and the May 2 Palm Beach County/Jupiter edition, click here Florida Weekly – Night Moves 1 and here Florida Weekly – Night Moves 2

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Jonathon King’s “Max Freeman” series continues to excel

Midnight Guardians, by Jonathon King. Open Road. E-book. $9.99.

This sixth and newest novel in Jonathon King’s “Max Freeman” series picks up in the wake of Max’s girlfriend’s crippling injury. Broward County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sherry Richards’ loss of a leg is something about which Max can’t help but feel responsible (see Acts of Nature in which the calamity occurs), and he is doing all he can to redeem himself and assist in the psychological healing that Sherry needs. Not that she admits to any needs. An independent and courageous woman, she is struggling to get on with her life, which means mainly her job. Stubbornly refusing assistance as much as she possibly can, Sherry makes it difficult for Max to know how to do and say the right things to nourish their relationship. 

She has taken on the assignment of counseling Marty Booker, a fellow officer who just lost both legs in what seemed to be a routine traffic stop. However, it turns out the Booker might have been set up – possibly for even more than the double-amputation.

Meanwhile, Max’s old Philadelphia friend and principal employer, well-healed attorney Billy Manchester, has something for Max to investigate. Billy’s client, Luz Carmen, is a young woman who works for a medical equipment supplier that she suspects is involved in Medicare and Medicaid fraud. She feels certain that her younger brother, Andres, has been drawn into the gang that is making the false medical claims. She wants to save Andres, who is essentially a delivery boy, while bringing the masterminds to justice. Though Luz had insisted on seeking a safe place to discuss this matter, she and Max barely escape being victims of a drive-by shooting. Was it just a prank? Or was someone following Luz?

Billy insists that Max keep an eye on her.

Jonathon King

Through the device of having several chapters explore the thoughts of Marty Booker, Mr. King offers another center of interest and also a series of steps to the realization that rogue policemen are in on dealing and abusing illegal drugs. A shadowy fellow nick-named the Brown Man, with whom Max has had past encounters, is found to be straddling the criminal world, moving from the drug trade to  the more white collar fraud enterprise. Marty had been trying to separate himself from the steroid-using police gang before his “accident.”

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the December 22-28, 2010 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and in the December 23-29 issue of the Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Jonathon King pdf

[only the Naples edition carries the additional material on e-book publication]

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BOOK BEAT 51 – Jonathon King

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   August 1-7, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Jonathon King has become, in a very short time, one of the premier crime novelists among the exceptionally talented group writing in and about Florida. His terrain includes the densely populated counties of South Florida and the sparsely populated, mysterious Everglades. King has just brought out his fifth “Max Freeman” novel, after a brief escape from Max with the recent and masterful “Eye of Vengeance.” Max’s return in “Acts of Nature” brings the protagonist fully into the ferocity of Florida’s most powerful natural menace – the hurricane. Or is that menace human nature? The title lets us take our pick.

Unlike most crime fiction, “Acts of Nature” does not attach the hero to a particular investigation. But as in some of the best of the genre, trouble finds him anyway.

The plot involves a triangulation of destinies, and the narrative technique finds King alternating three story lines until they inevitably intersect and explode.

The first story line involves a shared vacation between private investigator Max Freeman and his girlfriend, Sherry Richards, who is a detective with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Desiring an uninterrupted escape, Sherry leaves no contact information as the two decide to nurture a relationship that has engaged King’s readers through several books. After some time at Max’s Everglades cabin, the two seek out a remote fishing camp to continue their cautious embrace of the area’s allure. They lose contact with the fact that a tropical storm has turned into a serious hurricane speedily bearing down on the Glades.

The second story has to do with a pair of security operatives for an oil company. These men, Harmon and Shields, are hired guns performing the kind of deniable dirty tricks that corporate success requires in the unstable world of international politics. When we first meet them, they are liberating a computerized analysis device from a pump room in Venezuela.

Harmon is an especially credible and memorable character, whose skills, background, personal traits, and home life King sketches with vividness and efficiency. 

The third track concerns three low-lifes from the Ten Thousand Islands area. The leader is an ex-con, Buck, who runs salvage operations (burglaries) as mentor to two teenagers who do the heavy lifting. It’s a pretty slick operation, looting empty homes in gated communities across South Florida and fencing the goods. When the hurricane strikes, Buck is convinced that there will be easy pickings at the damaged fishing retreats in the Everglades. He assumes that the owners will first attend to their primary homes before checking on the condition of these remote properties.

King nails the lingo of the teenagers and builds a compelling portrait of their milieu, their relationship to one another, and their interaction with the thirtyish Buck. Theirs is a sad story, but it is related with zest and with the kind of telling details that pull the reader in.

Through short, fast-paced chapters, King draws in the net that holds his three stories until they become one. The complications include a serious injury to Sherry Richards, an injury that becomes life-threatening due to the pair’s isolation and the wreckage created by the hurricane. As King fashions their responses to this predicament, he artfully deepens the characterizations of both Sherry and Max while ratcheting up the suspense.

“Acts of Nature,” published by Dutton, is a not only a sharp-edged thriller, but an album of American types and of America’s moral malaise.

King’s new readers will want to go back to the beginning of the Max Freeman series – the award-winning “The Blue Edge of Midnight” – and follow the ongoing Freeman saga. King’s committed followers will enjoy this new Freeman adventure, but are likely to hope that the walk-on part assigned to Palm Beach lawyer Billy Manchester, Max’s main source of employment and frequent benefactor, is enlarged in the next outing. And all followers of Florida crime fiction will chuckle at the affectionate passing reference to Jim Born, who really is a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as well as a stalwart member of the Florida crime fiction tribe.

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.

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