Monday, May 29, 2023

South Florida By the Book

These classics elevate beach reading to a whole new level.


by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, who once famously lived in Key West, has to be on this list, and we like this novel (the movie bears no resemblance, although we love Bogie and Bacall) for its tale of a boat captain forced to run contraband between Cuba and Florida to makes ends meet. Danger, adventure and the Cuban Revolution meet in the ultimate romance of the Florida Keys. It has it all. Plus, it’s by The Man himself.


by Peter Matthiessen

This tour de force by the late Peter Matthiessen (which was once a trilogy but reimagined into one novel) explores the legendary killing of the notorious outlaw and planter Edgar J. Watson in Chokoloskee, Florida. It weaves a spell of that time when this part of Florida was the last American frontier, full of secrets and mystery, the unknowable and the imagined.


by Edna Buchanan

A legendary reporter (and Pulitzer Prize winner) on the police beat for the Miami Herald in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Edna Buchanan offers a synopsis of crimes she covered in that period with a hard-edged reporter’s eye for detail and brevity, and a backstory of her own. She brings Miami alive in the heyday of cocaine cowboys and the rich and exotic tapestry of an international city that still has a romance all its own. This is a Miami classic, and required reading for anyone with a fascination with trouble in paradise.


by Tom McGuane

Some consider this brilliant early novel from Tom McGuane to be one of his best—part thriller written with a “heartbroken humor,” part homage to the Keys in the days when the Keys were more crazy than expensive. It’s a story about maverick Tom Skelton, who is also a thinker (“It’s just that when you realize that everyone dies you become a terrible kind of purist”), the characters at the end of the world—and a love letter to these islands in the stream.


by Joan Didion

Of course Joan Didion, fierce social observer, essayist and brilliant novelist, had to dissect Miami. Goodreads encapsulates this book nicely: “As Didion follows Miami’s drift into a Third World capital, she also locates its position in the secret history of the Cold War, from the Bay of Pigs to the Reagan doctrine and from the Kennedy assassination to the Watergate break-in. Miami is not just a portrait of a city, but a masterly study of immigration and exile, passion, hypocrisy, and political violence.”

This story is from the July/August 2021 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

Marie Speed
Marie Speed
Marie Speed is group editor of all JES publications, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Worth Avenue, Mizner’s Dream and the annual publication for the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. She also oversees editorial operations of the company’s Salt Lake City magazines. Her community involvement has ranged from work with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce to a longtime board member position at Caridad Center. She is also on the George Snow Scholarship Fund review committee. She is a past officer of the Florida Magazine Association and a member of Class XVII of Leadership Florida. In her spare time, Marie enjoys South Florida’s natural world through hiking and kayaking, and she is an avid reader and an enthusiastic cook.

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