From murder to smuggling to talkiní trash: new local books hit shelves
It's new-book time, of sorts, with three new local volumes by local authors out in print. Enjoy!
Longboat Key mystery author H. Terrell "Terry" Griffin has penned a new Matt Royal mystery, "Murder Key." The body count is high on Longboat Key as a gang of smugglers start killing people. Retired attorney Royal starts to investigate when the bullets start flying toward him.
The whole story revolves around Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island and Sarasota in this fast-paced mystery that is, in my opinion, as good as anything New York Times bestseller Randy Wayne White has penned. And Terry has a keen grasp of the problems Anna Maria Islanders face with insurance and taxes and the ambiance we all love. Consider this excerpt:
"When you cross the Longboat Pass Bridge onto Anna Maria Island, you leave New Florida and pass into Old Florida. The state has changed drastically in the past 20 years, and what's left of the Florida of my childhood is sequestered into little enclaves like Anna Maria Island.
"The big condos have not yet invaded, and there are still places where working people can afford to live. The bars are not as trendy, they're louder, more real somehow. Small motels run by the same owners for a generation cling to the beaches, their guests returning year after year.
"But taxes keep rising, and the mom and pop places are beginning to dry up. For some reason, not apparent to the average person, Florida mandates that property be taxed at a rate that reflects its highest and best use. If a 40-year-old motel with 20 rooms could legally be turned into a high-rise condominium with 20 units, it'll be taxed at the condo rate.
"This obtuse tax philosophy was driving the mom and pop beach motels out of business. All along the coast, the owners were selling their property to condo developers. Fewer hotel rooms meant fewer tourists, and the gift shops and restaurants that depended on visitors for their livelihood were being forced to close.
"The reality of the onerous tax structure is that it signals the imminent death of the Florida of my childhood. It's turning the state into Baby Boomer Heaven.
"Reality is not something that Florida politicians recognize, so Old Florida is slowly dying, its demise hurried along by developers and the tax man. It'll all be gone soon, and those of us who love the state will be poorer in spirit."
Terry, himself a semi-retired attorney, knows from what he speaks, since he is a multi-generation Floridian.
He'll be signing copies of "Murder Key," his second novel, from 1-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at Whistle Stop, 3234 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach. Stop in and say hi - and, hopefully, enjoy the read.
My old buddy Stan Zimmerman has just finished a new book, his third, "A History of Smuggling in Florida: Rumrunners and Cocaine Cowboys."
From Ponce de Leon's trafficking in slaves to the governor's wife, Columba Bush, forgetting to declare $19,000 in clothes and jewelry upon her return from France - much to the embarrassment of Jeb - Stan has pulled together all sorts of not-so-nice facts about Florida's past.
And west Florida was not unscathed in the smuggling realm, as Stan reports of the wild times in the 1980s.
"The majority of Cortezians were not smugglers. But they knew what was happening. ‘The smuggling was a silent backdrop to their lives,' wrote Ben Green in his book ‘Finestkind.' ‘They heard the boats coming in at odd hours, saw the new vans and Lincoln Continentals parked in front of Junior's house, and gazed suspiciously at the burned-our derelicts who descended on Cortez like locusts hoping to get a job on a fishing boat and get in on a few runs.'
"The new wealth could not be concealed. Old fishermen's shacks along the west coast sported new porches and new vans were parked in new garages. New boats, new motors, new clothes, gold jewelry, all on a $10,000 fisherman's income. But because many of these men and women lived in small fishing villages like Cortez, Steinhatchee and Everglades City, the sudden wealth was mostly invisible. To the fishing families, it seemed a long-overdue bonanza, a payoff for decades of hard and dangerous toil on the water."
Stan will be signing copies of "A History of Smuggling" from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at Circle Books, 478 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands.
Longboat Key author Robert Gussin has just released his new novel, "Trash Talk," an unlikely mix of environmentalism and athleticism which takes place in Sarasota.
The Sarasota Environmentalist Society is sponsoring a national convention on garbage and its impact on society, he writes. The organizers decide to give the seminars a catchy phrase, and decide "Trash talk" is a good title.
Unfortunately for the group - but fortunately for readers - a recent dictate by most of the professional sports organizations has ordered all athletes to participate in ongoing education programs. Since every sports figure figures he's an expert in "talking trash" to his opponents, the pros decide the conference is perfect for them.
The result is a hilarious mix of the likes of Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen, all taking place in our part of the world.
Here' a chance for you to become a writer, although try to steer clear of the mystery aspects in this effort.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has completed a draft plan for management of manatees in Florida.
You can get a copy of the draft plan by going to the FWC Web site, MyFWC.com, and click on "imperiled species."
According to Kipp Frohlich, the leader of FWC's imperiled species management section, "The first draft incorporated extensive public input. We are looking to the people of Florida to let us know if it meets their expectations for manatee recovery and management."
The FWC said that Dr. John E. Reynolds III, Mote Marine Laboratory manatee research program manager and chairman of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, said "manatee counts have increased in recent years. Since the 1980s, Reynolds has been counting manatees which congregate around power plants. Mote Marine staff have members been conducting aerial surveys since 1985. FWC, along with several other entities, also conducts counts and aerial surveys. Those surveys document habitat-use patterns, seasonal distribution and relative abundance of manatees, according to Mote.
"Keeping track of the number of Florida manatees is vitally important so scientists know whether to classify the manatee as endangered or threatened. The fact that the manatee does not merit classification as endangered is a tribute to the commitment made to manatee conservation during the past 30 years, this effort has few parallels in conservation biology," Frohlich said.
The key element that will probably - no, not probably, has - prompted the most controversy is the section of the management plan that states that manatee populations have reached levels sufficient to allow a 30-percent population decline and remain sustainable.
FWC points to successes in rehabilitating injured manatees as part of the reason for the declassification from "endangered" to "threatened."
Comments on the draft management plan may be made through Jan. 11. Mail your thoughts to Manatee Management Plan Comments, DHSC, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 S. Meridian St., Mail Station 6A, Tallahassee FL 32399-1600, or e-mail to