Tag Archives: St. Augustine

A highly original time-shifting thriller rendered in gorgeous prose

The Shimmer, by Carsten Stroud. Mira Books. 304 pages. Hardcover $26.99.

Here is a daring, magnetic, and brilliantly constructed novel that takes readers places they’ve never been. Well, you may have traveled to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and New Orleans – but you will not have encountered the kind of time-travel orchestration of action that Mr. Stroud has managed to portray with such power and authoritative detail. “Authoritative” is the right word. These places and what happens in them – and then unhappens – are so compellingly imagined that you will believe what can’t be true.  

The narrative begins with a high-speed chase episode that is unforgettable – and it gains momentum from there.

In the present, Florida Highway Patrol’s Sergeant Jack Redding pursues a serial killer, a kind of time traveling femme fatale, who back in 1957 was sought by his grandfather, Clete Redding, of the Jacksonville police. The cycles of pursuit and escape follow this evil spirit known as Selena, Diana, and by several other names as well. Her lifetime is extended by time shifts that involve riding a time-bending force called The Shimmer. To catch her, one must follow her. Time markers in the Selena story go back to 1914.

Carsten Stroud photo credit Linda Mair

One aspect of the plot premise is the possibility that the damage Selena has done can be undone by adjustments in – or to – time. However, these adjustments – if made by entering through the wrong temporal portal – can have disastrous unintended consequences. Characters travel into the past to shape (reshape?) the future, but the outcomes of their efforts, even if in pursuit of justice, are unpredictable.

Mr. Stroud builds a fascinating logic of cause and effect that keeps readers hooked while it keeps them guessing. As the characters slide (or shimmer) from the world we share to the world adjusted by time travel, our belief in them is carried over to our belief in what they experience and hold true.

Can a tragedy that occurs on the Matanzas Inlet bridge along Florida’s route A1A be wiped away by a time shift back to before the bride was built? If so, what other time-bound occurrences will be altered? . . .

To enjoy the full review, as it appears in the July 11, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 12 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Shimmer

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Silents were golden in St. Augustine for two dazzling decades

Silent Films in St. Augustine, by Thomas Graham. University Press of Florida. 198 pages. Hardcover $24.95.

This totally engaging, compact treatment of early U. S. film history is packed with a lot of information and a lot of fun. Before Hollywood was crowned the movie capital, St. Augustine was right up there. Over 120 movies were filmed in whole or part in St. Augustine, revealing the talents of major producers, directors, and actors. The fledging silent film industry made St. Augustine sizzle in the winter, when film makers and performers escaped the unpleasant New York weather to enjoy themselves in a town that seemed to have been created to provide the kind of scenic beauty cameramen feasted on. 

Though the span of St. Augustine’s life as a home to the film industry ran from 1906-1926, its heyday was much briefer. Mr. Graham can survey the first 11 years in a single chapter. The core years were 1912-1919, last few years of this period undermined by World War I.  There was at least one good year with many productions in the early 1920’s, but the fade had begun. New York film industry investors were moving west, as was the talent pool for movie making.

While it lasted, the comings and goings of the film people brought a great deal of excitement to St. Augustine’s residents and visitors. Most of the films needed “extras” for crowd scenes and brief walk-on parts. Even more fun than having the camera look your way would be the follow-up thrill of seeing yourself and your fellow townspeople on the screen when the move was shown. St. Augustinians got a kick from their brush with fame.

Graham

And the brush with fame included being in the company of notable performers and other celebrity movie folks. You might get to open a door, in real life or screen life, for Ethel Barrymore, or Norma Talmadge. You might have to avoid staring too hard at that iconic vamp, Theda Bara. You may have laughed at Oliver Hardy, either on-screen or in person.

You could mix with, or at least hear gossip about, the heads of studios or their senior staffers. People who could write stories, design costumes, or turn St. Augustine into almost anyplace you could imagine. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 6, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly as well as the September 7  Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Silent Films in St. Augustine

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Murder mystery in an old mansion plumbed by a new brand of sleuth

Chasing Shadows, by Karen Harper. Mira. 384 pages. Paperback $7.99.

The portions of thirty years that Karen Harper has spent in Naples allows her to provide a taste of this desirable Florida town, though the plot is developed primarily in and near St. Augustine. The first novel in Ms. Harper’s Southern Shores series, “Chasing Shadows” introduces a powerfully engaging protagonist, Claire Britten, the recently divorced mother of a young daughter. chasingshadowsfrontcover

Claire is trying to establish her Clear Path business as a forensic psychologist. Offering her services in a case tried in the Collier County Courthouse, she impresses the opposing lawyer so fully that he asks her to work for him on a case in St. Augustine. After struggling with this decision, Claire decides to leave young Lexi with Aunt Darcy, Claire’s sister, and assist the persistent and extremely handsome lawyer, Nick Markwood, with his case. Her interviews are designed to draw out information useful at trial, where she can be called upon to give expert testimony.

Claire has an intuitive knack, as well as the training, to understand people’s behavior and its foundations. She can draw people out and “read” them.

She is also a woman with health problems. She suffers from narcolepsy complicated by cataplexy. Her life can run smoothly if she remains disciplined, getting sufficient rest and following a regimen of carefully balanced and timed medications. Going off-routine is seriously disabling.

Once the groundwork of the novel is established in Naples, Nick’s murder case in St. Augustine takes over. The deceased, Francine Montgomery, was the owner of the gorgeous old mansion called Shadowlawn. Her mysterious death – was it an accidental overdose, murder, or suicide – leaves the future of Shadowlawn in doubt. Various people have a stake in the outcome, include Francine’s daughter Jasmine – a suspect who is Mark’s client.

Harper

Harper

Shadowlawn had fallen on hard times and was likely to be sold or perhaps given to the public in some manner. There was also some hope that private fundraising efforts could save it. What will happen to those whose livelihood and identity has been connected to the seemingly haunted place if it comes under new ownership or becomes a public entity?

Those potentially vulnerable people include Neil, the “inside man” and overall estate manager; Bronco, the “outside man” concerned with the grounds; and Dr. Win Jackson, who has plans to expand his museum and produce a film about Shadowlawn; and, of course Jasmine – the heiress. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the November 30, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 1 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Chasing Shadows

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Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writer’s Conference 2016

 SEPTEMBER 15-17

http://fhbookfest.com/

PO Box 4011
St. Augustine, FL 32085-4011
info@fhbookfest.com

Friday, Sept. 16 offers a day of workshops dedicated to the working writer committed to improving his or her craft through face-to-face guidance by writing professionals. Whether you’re a veteran or an emerging talent looking for that spark of inspiration and feedback on your writing, the FHBF Writers Conference can help you.

Two sessions run concurrently in each time slot.

Friday Writers Conference Schedule

9:00                                                     Michael Morris                        Joe Gisondi

10:00                                                   John Dufresne                         Brad & Darlyn Kuhn

11-12:30                                              Lunch & Keynote by Susanna Daniel

12:30                                                   Susanna Daniel Signing

1:00                                                     Roy Peter Clark                      Jennie Jarvis

2:00                                                     Terry Griffin                           Cecilia Milanes

3:00                                                     Peter Meinke                           John Henry Fleming

4:00                                                     Robin Lippincott

5:00-5:30                                           Book Signings

Lecture Titles & Descriptions

Michael Morris: “Creating Characters Who Stand the Test of Time”

The workshop will focus on character development, capturing oral history and research for fiction, with an emphasis on the historical genre.

Joe Gisondi:Finding Bigfoot & Developing Scenes”

Gisondi, author of Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot and a professor of journalism, traveled to eight locations across the country, trekking into swamps, mountains, state parks, and remote woods with people in search of bigfoot as well as fame, fortune, adventure, and shared camaraderie. In this session, he’ll show you how to develop scenes before, during and after you’ve spent time in a locale through research, interviews and observations.

John Dufresne: “How to let the necessity of plot guide your writing.”

Brad & Darlyn Kuhn: “Bookstores & Beyond: Marketing in the Age of Amazon”

Learn how to brand yourself and sell your work from two writers who make a living at it.

 Susanna Daniel: “My Fictional Floridians: Point of View and Narrative Shape”

An author’s choice of point of view not only helms a narrative, but determines how that narrative will be imagined by the reader and how it will make the reader feel. Susanna Daniel will discuss how point of view shapes character, structure, and language in each of her three novels, and how to access the most vivid, astute, and compelling point of view in your own work.

Roy Peter Clark:  “Writing Tools:  50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer”

Based upon a book by that title, Roy Peter Clark will reveal the secrets of the writing process, from nuts and bolts to special effects to blueprints for stories to useful habits. These tools are proven to spark an immediate improvement in your prose.

 Jennie Jarvis:  “Crafting the Character Arc”

Many writers think that, just because they have their basic structure in place, their stories are destined to succeed. The problem with many narratives, however, can often come in those places between the plot points. While many books on the craft of writing state that characters need to be three dimensional and change, a beginning writer isn’t always sure how to turn these rather conceptual ideas into something a bit more concrete. Join award winning author and professor Jennie Jarvis as she details a step-by-step practical guide for beginning writers to use in order to ensure they create characters both dynamic and engaging.

Terrell Griffin: “From Self-Published Author to Number One National Best Seller: The Art and Craft of Writing a Mystery Novel”

Cecilia Milanes:  “Our American Lives: Fact/Fiction/Film and Craft”

Peter Meinke:  “The Writing Life:  Habits, Attitude, Luck and Poems”

Join Florida Poet Laureate Peter Meinke as he reads various poems “about” writing, talks about his writing habits, and describes his experiences during a long career.

John Henry Fleming: “Storybrain: What Recent Discoveries in Neuroscience Mean for Fiction Writers”

For the first time, thanks to recent scientific developments, we’re getting a real-time look at how the brain responds to stories. The results are fascinating and surprising; what do they mean for fiction writers? How might our new understanding of the brain influence the craft of fiction? In this session, you’ll learn new ways of thinking about your stories and gain craft advice to help you create a vivid and meaningful experience in the minds of your readers.

Robin Lippincott: “A Good Title is Not Hard to Find”

As a teacher of fiction writing for many years, it has been my experience that a lot of writers aren’t very good at titling their work, and yet the significance of a compelling title that fits cannot be underestimated. In this lecture, I’ll examine why titles are so important, and also some guidelines by which to avoid bad titles, as well as how to create effective and meaningful titles. Along the way, we’ll look at some good (and even great) examples, as well as some bad ones.

For Book Festival dimension and registration, click on link given above. 

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Unwelcome changes open door to redemption in a small Florida town

Heart of Palm, by Laura Lee Smith. Grove Press. 496 pages. Trade paperback $16.00.

This is the one I’ve been waiting for. The big surprise. A debut novel set in Florida that has it all: family, community, dreams, secrets, the best kind of local color, tragedy, humor, hatred, compassion. Love. Change. HOPCoverArt

It’s 2008. Arla Bolton Bravo, of the fashionable St. Augustine Boltons, is sixty-two years old. Her no-account husband Dean, who fathered their four children, has been long gone. When she chose Dean without even considering more appropriate suitors, her parents could hardly bear the disgrace. The Bravos were riff-raff, troublemakers.

When handsome, reckless Dean took Arla to the moonshine town of Utina, just outside of St. Augustine but culturally light-years away, the fulfillment of a promise that Arla had carried into her eighteenth year – the promise of being truly special – was poisoned. When he accidentally severed her foot during a boating frolic, their relationship was double-doomed. How could they survive her handicap and his guilt?

How could they, Dean and his older sons in particular, survive the accidental death of the youngest child, Will, whom Dean had egged on to drink himself silly as a proof of manhood? It wasn’t long after that disaster that Dean took off.

Arla had purchased a local restaurant, Uncle Henry’s Bar and Grill, and Frank had been its nonstop manager for two decades. It was a modest success, enough to keep them going what with the oldest child – troubled, unmarried Sofia – coming in early each morning to scour the place from the crud and spills of the day before. Uncle Henry’s was notable for its beautiful view along the Intercoastal Waterway. When its next door rival, Morgan’s Fish Camp and Fry House, burned down, Frank hired Morgan Moore to assist him and put Morgan’s most popular items on the menu.

Frank had a pile of deferred dreams, but he never seemed to be able to go beyond meeting his family responsibilities. One of those dreams had died when Carson had stolen the beautiful Elizabeth whom Frank had adored in high school.

Laura Lee Smith

Laura Lee Smith

Carson, his older brother, was much more ambitious. He had pieced together some education and credentials, eventually opening up a financial management firm. Until the economy went south, he was doing well, but then he slipped into pushing hollow new investments to pay the promised income of those already gone bad. He hated himself for running a Ponzi scheme and frantically sought a way to dig out of the hole.

The way comes. An Atlanta-based real estate development company has its eye on the combined properties of Morgan and the Bravos, which include Uncle Henry’s as well as  Arla’s dilapidated but imposingly-sized home that Dean had incongruously named Aberdeen. The fear of change depresses Arla and her dependent forty-three year old daughter, and to some extent Frank – so fully identified with Uncle Henry’s. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 7, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly; the January 8 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions; and the January 29 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition, click here Florida Weekly – L.L. Smith 1 and here Florida Weekly – L.L.Smith 2

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Florida Heritage Book Festival – St. Augustine

St. Johns County Convention Center at
Renaissance World Golf Village Resort
500 S. Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, FL 32092 

September 13 & 14, 2012  / http://www.fhbookfest.com/

Featuring Jeff Lindsay (keynoter)

Steve Berry

Diana Abu-Jaber

Edna Buchanan (honoree)

–And many others

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“Strangers” blueprints a mansion of evil

“Strangers,” by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press. 322 pages. $24.95 Hardcover, $14.95 Trade Pbk.

“Strangers” is the sixth novel in Ms. Evans’ Faye Longchamp mystery series. But now the fortyish protagonist is Dr. Faye Longchamp-Mantooth, eight months pregnant and finally possessing her doctorate in archeology. With her husband, Joe, she has founded an archeological consulting firm. Their first significant job brings them to St. Augustine, Florida to work for Daniel and Suzanne Wrather. 

Suzanne has inherited an important historical house, Dunkirk Manor, part of which is now a bed and breakfast . The Wrathers are considering additional changes, including installing a swimming pool. Faye will advise them about excavating the rear gardens in compliance with local preservation ordinances.  Not only does this lavish estate capture the atmosphere of the decades between its establishment in 1889 and its heyday in the roaring twenties, it also woven into St. Augustine’s longer history, which began in 1565.

Before long, Faye and Joe are involved in mysteries of the distant and recent past as well as a new mystery that opens up almost upon their arrival.

As Faye’s staffers sift through the garden areas, they discover tiles that edged a buried swimming pool. Under some of those tiles are belongings of the manor’s former owners – Raymond and Allyce Dunkirk. In the attic, Faye finds interesting curios of the past, along with the journal of a Spanish priest who had been among the explorer-settlers of the 16th century.  Old weapons, tools, toys, coins, and other items accumulate to give clues about the heyday of Dunkirk Manor and the centuries-old history of St. Augustine.

Also working for the present owners is a beautiful, intelligent young woman named Glynis Smithson. This ardent preservationist and conservationist is the daughter of a major local real estate developer, and her concerns are in direct conflict with her father’s. Manipulative Alan finds a new boyfriend for Glynis, a man whose values echo his own. However, the relationship between Glynis and Lex is a disaster. When both are discovered to be missing, “Strangers” shifts into high gear.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the Palm Beach Gardens edition and other editions of Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Mary Anna Evans

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