Tag Archives: Florida Keys

Renowned scientists offer keys to The Keys

Geology of the Florida Keys, by Eugene A. Shinn and Barbara H. Lidz. University Press of Florida. 160 pages. Hardcover  $34.95.

How did the Florida Keys come into existence? What forces continue to work upon this island chain and the countless neighboring coral reefs? What threatens these geological marvels? Such broad questions and many narrower ones are explored and tentatively answered in this handsome volume.  Although the study attempts to be “as nontechnical as possible,” it is nonetheless a major challenge even for the committed student who has at least a general background in geology.  

The authors do not attempt a full geological history of the processes leading to the present situation; however, most readers will be content with engaging only the last 130,000 years!

Before the hard science begins, readers are presented with a multifaceted overview of the Keys. This synopsis includes social history, scientific interest and research, demographic change, freshwater intrusions on the environment, and the short-lived period of oil exploration.

Then the authors plunge into the intricate and interactive processes, particularly how the shifts in sea elevation and movement affect the sedimentary activity. The formation and character of limestone is the key factor in understanding the geology of the Keys.

The chapter on data gathering and mapmaking is filled with interesting details about data collection and the technology of measuring structural characteristic by using explosives, bursts of air, and high voltage pulses. In this chapter readers will also find a detailed definition of “what is a reef?”

The following chapter examines “Major Geomorphic Topographies,” include the area known as White Bank. Throughout, the effects of rising sea levels over time is discussed and regularly underscored.

The next two chapters engage, respectively, the “Western Terminus of the Reef Tract” and, of great interest for future planning, “Coral Health, or Lack Thereof.” In the latter, the authors examine the various factors affecting climate change and the likely outcomes to the keys and reefs of such change.

A final chapter reproduces a geological/biological field trip, setting a model for hands-on experience that productively interfaces with studying professional scientific literature. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the February 8, 2018 Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Geology of the Florida Keys

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Ecologically informed guidebook for southern Florida is a landmark success

An Ecotourist’s Guide to the Everglades & the Florida Keys, by Robert Silk. Foreword by Clyde Butscher. University Press of Florida. 216 pages. Trade paperback $16.95.

Because Robert Silk is both knowledgeable and passionate about his subject, there was a good chance that his book would be a success. Add the long years of experience that Mr. Silk has spent sharpening his craft as a writer, and the result is something like a minor masterpiece. Though written for the breed of tourist recently defined as eco-aware or eco-sensitive, Mr. Silk’s well planned and fact filled guide can be a source of knowledge, entertainment, and inspiration to anyone interested in the wide open spaces of South Florida and Southwest Florida. Together, these coast edged sections of the peninsula and the inlands that connect them are given the encompassing name “southern Florida” by Mr. Silk. ourists_Guide_to_the_Everglades_and_the_Florida_Keys_RGB

As the author helps us imaginatively discover the vast protected areas available for our relaxed exploration, he provides the context of water management and mismanagement that has led to the various restoration projects that are renewing the health of these collaborative ecosystems: the swamplands and forests of the Everglades, and the string of islands collectively known as the Florida Keys. These distinct systems depend on one another and complete one another while maintaining experiential uniqueness for the visitor.



Robert Silk selects for us the optimum times of the year for our ecotourist adventures, while letting us know that any time will do if it’s all that we have: just be ready for the extreme heat, the regular downpours, and the ferocious mosquitos if you explore during the summer months.

He prepares for us the strong points of each public site, covering national and state parks, preserves, and animal refuges, whether large, small, or almost secret. Mr. Silk also attends to the private businesses that live off and accessorize these public natural wonders: restaurants, camps, bike rentals, and rentals of small, arm-powered craft. He offers his favorites and shares which ones others favor, always providing contact information. . . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 13, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 14 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Robert Silk

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Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye

The Big Finish, by James W. Hall. Minotaur Books. 304 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

The cover flap announces that this book is the series finale, but I can’t believe it. It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend. James W. Hall’s Thorn novels have long been such a central, exemplary, and yet distinctive part of the Florida mystery tradition that many readers will be going through separation anxiety. Mr. Hall, please say it isn’t so.  BigFinish,The

The current of ecological concerns that has gained strength over the series reaches flood stage in “The Big Finish,” the title perhaps a spoof on expectations in life and art. Thorn’s son, Flynn Moss, whom he and the readers have only recently met, is in trouble. Flynn – or someone – has reached out to Thorn about criminal practices in the North Carolina pig farming industry.

Thorn’s son, a member of the underground environmental activist organization known as ELF, has been working to expose and destroy a major player in this industry. At least four kinds of evil are running wild in this remote town. One is the exploitation of workers through intimidation. Another is the cruelty to the piglets crowded together and pumped up for sale to slaughterhouses. Yet another is incredible pollution from mismanagement of the toxic waste from the pigs.

Finally, there is the secretive nurturing of a plant with “downward hanging trumpet-shaped blooms” from which a dangerous drug is produced.  Some of Dobbins’ workers “had tragically succumbed to an overdose of the trumpet flower’s pollen. Losing a well-trained man was always a setback, but it was the unlucky cost of doing the kind of business he was engaged in.” Such is the moral code of Webb Dobbins. This drug business is supporting the hog farm, which is staggering under enormous debts.

Thorn sets out with a plan to partner with his old detective buddy Sugarman, but from the beginning the mission is compromised by a scheming, unstable former FBI agent, Madeline Cruz. This woman has her own plans and motives and is manipulating Thorn, understanding his need to rescue his son at all costs. She is suspicious of Sugarman’s new girlfriend, Tina, who is along on the ride to North Carolina. Cruz suspects Tina of criminal activity.

James W. Hall

James W. Hall

So, Thorn’s mission has grown far more complicated and desperate. He perceives the trouble signs, but feels he has to play this game out in order to find Flynn. Cruz admits (or perhaps lies once more) that the plan is to use Thorn as bait to draw out suspects in a big government operation.

Other characters provide further complications.

X-88 is a rock of a man who served at Railford in the same cell block with Manny Obrero, a drug dealer who had been Madeline Cruz’s husband. Manny has connected X-88 to Madeline, so X is now part of her enterprise and enjoying the company of her daughter, Pixie. Am I going too fast? Here’s more: X-88 murders Sugarman’s deceitful girlfriend Tina by forcing three hamburger patties down her throat to suffocate her.

Murder by force feeding. Something like how they fatten pigs. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 21, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 22 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Big Finish

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“Southern Comfort,” by Fern Michaels

Fern Michaels is a writing machine. Best known for the Sisterhood and Godmothers series, she has over 75 million books in print and is still going strong. Though she grew up in Hastings, Pennsylvania, Ms. Michaels moved to South Carolina in 1993. She has continued to flourish as a best-selling author, adopting the American South and making it the setting for some of her recent works. Southern Comfort is not only one of her latest novels (she writes so many that several can be “new” at the same time), but perhaps also a way of talking about Fern Michaels’ relationship with her adopted home territory. 

Southern Comfort is part mystery, part romance – with the romance element trumping the mystery plot. Though essentially a novel for women, it includes several well-drawn male characters and avoids being defined as solely or merely a read for women. Set primarily in Miami and the Florida Keys, it features a mysterious mansion on Mango Key, a retired police officer who has become a best-selling author, a prominent Florida family, and a group of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.

One of these agents is Kate Rush, an attractive and dedicated woman who finds that she has denied too much of her personality and zest for life in the routines and petty politics of her job. The last straw is the cruel, demeaning behavior of her superior, Lawrence Tyler, whose insolence and mean-spirited manner drive her (and others) to leave the agency. Agent Tyler, son of Florida’s governor, is a man of many weaknesses and insecurities who overcompensates by bullying others. Readers wonder if he has any redeeming qualities.

Kate decides to return to her native Miami and finish up a doctorate program she has put on hold. Coincidentally, her friend and DEA coworker Sandra Martin takes a similar path and joins Kate at the University of Miami. It stretches probability and does nothing to advance the plot when both women emerge less than a year later with Ph.D. degrees. However, it does get them to Miami and within range of a DEA office that is looking into what might be a major case. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears at SouthernLitReview.com, click here: Southern Comfort, by Fern Michaels « Southern Literary Review

To find all my Southern Literary Review contributions, click here: Philip K. Jason « Southern Literary Review

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