Book Review
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Local New Arrivals Have Hit the Editor's Desk

By Mark Howell

"A Key West Family's History and a Man's Journey" by L. Ben "Benny" Roberts (Lulu, $14.95)

A note attached to the review copy of this book by Benny Roberts explained that, "When I was 13 years old, my first supervisor at The Key West Citizen was Mr. Raiford Roberts who was in charge of the home delivery newsboys. After working for a while I quit to maintain my school studies. However, when I was 15 to 16 I again went to work for The Citizen as a news stand delivery driver and continued until graduation in 1957. My last job, ironically, was also with a newspaper, as vice president of distribution for an international company, the National Enquirer in Lantana, Fla."

The picture on the front cover of Benny's book is taken from a photo portrait of him by the late Citizen photographer Don Pinder, which was once displayed at the East Martello and titled "Juvenile."

This book is the result of the author's lifelong dedication to researching his family's genealogy to "find my roots before our family came to Key West." The story stretches from 1840 through 1960 and beyond and it is adorned with photos, even recipes.

The early chapters have titles such as "Sailing from Ireland," "Old Stories," "Childhood and Polio." Later ones include "Dissolving a Family" and "Earning Money." Then come "Four Wives," "My Four Children" and "My Twin Murdered."

Get your own copy; ours is a keeper. And it's signed. (For $20, you can get a signed one, too; email

"The Art of Wooden Boat Repair" by Allen Cody Taube (Granny Apple Publishing, $19.95)

Writer, screenwriter, Solares Hill contributor, shipwright, wooden Schooner captain, longtime Key Wester and infamous sailing adventurer Capt. Al has written and illustrated a book on wooden boat repair, a sustainable, renewable process. Instead of throwing that old boat away, fix it, save it, restore it and sail it again, he says. "By repairing a wooden boat with integrity, dedication and a lot of hard work you can turn it into your dream of sailing the sea." His book is subtitled "A Boatwright's Secret Tricks of the Trade," which tells you all you need to know right there. Clearly written with 100 of the author's own illustrations (plus a cover designed by his Conch-born son Cody), this really is a classic already. Find out more at TheArtOfWooden

"The Butterfly Tattoo" by Bill Craig (Absolutely Amazing eBooks, $3.99)

Can Bill Craig write more mysteries in a year than the creator of The Shadow?

Craig is a prodigious creator of original paperbacks plus e-books such as his Joe Collins series set right here in the Florida Keys. (He recently wrote an essay for Solares Hill on what it's like to compose Keys scenes up in frost-bound Indiana where he lives.) His latest mystery series featuring Joe Collins fits the Absolutely Amazing eBooks lineup tighter than OJ's glove, to coin a befitting phrase.

First book in the series is "The Butterfly Tattoo," an action-adventure involving the death of young women who share a lepidopteran tat. When it comes to taking on the bad guys, Collins and his partner Doris Linacre pull no punches.

Craig started writing when he hit 40. That was when he set out to break the record of pulp author Walter B. Gibson for writing the most mystery works in a single year. So we can count on seeing more books from Bill in this hot series.

"Prize Winners" by Dale Dapkins (Absolutely Amazing eBooks, $3.99)

One of the most prestigious literary prizes in America is the annual Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. When the granddaughter of Nobel Prize-winner Ernest Hemingway launched the contest back in 1981, she and her fellow judges sat in a Lower Keys cottage reading the few dozen entries.

Today, the contest draws more than 1,200 entries from around the world.

Dale Dapkins is a two-time winner, having received the grand prize in 1999 and again in 2000. This affords him a unique status, being that the current rules only allow a writer to win once.

A self-taught author, Dapkins published his first novel, "American Broccoli and Dr. Breast," in 1988. He's known for inventing a literary genre that he calls "social science fiction."

This latest collection of short stories contains his "Alpaca Potato," the winner of the Lorian Hemingway competition, and is one of a growing list of science fiction titles brought to market by this publisher.