Book Review
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Bennigan's Key, Nest of Vipers and Land of the Coral Seas

"Deception" by John Floyd (Dogwood Press, $24.95)

An author who can be relied on to write great, exciting short stories is a challenge to find. So when we read John Floyd's first three collections of short stories ("Rainbow's End," "Midnight" and "Clockwork") we compared him to two great short-story authors, J.D. Salinger and Edgar Allan Poe. With his latest page turner, "Deception," he still stands with that elite.

The title, like those of his other collections, is descriptive of the theme. Some of our favorite characters from the earlier books reappear, such as Angela Potts, the former, now-retired fifth-grade school teacher of a bungling Sheriff, Charles "Chunky" Jones. Miss Potts is a sleuth herself who wisely points the sheriff in the right direction. Their relationship -- and the banter -- bring energy to the tale's telling and abundant entertainment to the reader.

A terrific story in "Deception" is a longish one called "Redemption." It has a western setting filled with, well, deception: former enemies, murder and intrigue. In "Bennigan's Key" the main character, paranoid to say the least, turns a dream vacation into nothing but death. Then there's the one called "Blackjack Road," in which a suicide-heading character defensively prevents a murder. And there's the story about the pathetic Frankie Nestor, which turns out to be highly inspirational as well.

John M. Floyd is a native of Mississippi, an engineer by education and an Air Force veteran. He's also a teacher of creative writing who happens to compliment his students with, "You've taught me far more than I ever taught you."

-- Reviewed by David and Nancy Beckwith, authors of the Will and Betsy Black adventure series

"Key West: A Passion for Cuba's Liberty" by Alejandro F. Pascual (Ediciones Universal, $20)

Spain called Key West a "nest of vipers." But the Cuban freedom fighters knew differently. So writes Alejandro Pascual, born in Cardenas, Cuba in 1950, who left for the United States in 1964, served as a consultant to the New Jersey State Dept. of Education until 1979, then took off in a VW camper for Patagonia, researching 18 Latin American countries on the way.

He retired to Key West in 2006 and volunteered at the San Carlos Institute. "Many visitors asked me questions I couldn't answer," he tells us, so he began to look into our local history. "The story was so wonderful I kept looking for more." He came out with "Cuba y el Cayo Hueso de Ayer" in 2011, when "two ladies from Key West asked if I'd do it in English as they wanted their children and grandchildren to read this history."

Alex has done it well. Copiously illustrated, his 112 pages of "Key West: Passion for Cuba's Liberty" tell what those with a blood link to the story need to know. While writing this English version, he came across a couple of original sources that mean the new book has 50 percent more material than the Spanish original. News to us was the depth of the Cuban relationship to tobacco, which became a mainstay of our own history in Key West. "I've always been at odds with the thought that civilization came from Europe," writes Alex. "The Taino Indians of Cuba gave modern languages three words that attest to the contrary: hammock, barbecue and tobacco." The first time a European came in contact with tobacco smoking was in 1492, when Columbus on his initial voyage landed in Cuba and his men found a village where they observed a native "taking in smoke from dry leaves wrapped like a musket." The French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot, began to keep an eye out for vessels coming into Lisbon from the Americas with their curious cargo. He became fascinated with sniffing and smoking tobacco leaves and helped spread the practice among the French aristocracy. "Now you know where the word nicotine comes from," explains this latest book in the Key West canon.

-- Reviewed

by Mark Howell

Book News:

"The Land of the Coral Seas" by Ryan O'Brien (Amazon Kindle, $9.99)

Ryan O'Brien lives on his cruising catamaran Christine in the Florida Keys with his wife and coauthor, Christine, and golden retriever, Creek. "The Land of Coral Seas" is the second book in his Land of Whoo young adult series. Michael Henry and Savannah James continue their adventure, thinking they'll enjoy the rest of their summer vacation until an urgent message arrives from King Vincent. Now they must assemble a team from two different worlds -- it includes their favorite dragon, Cornelius -- and venture on to the land of coral seas.

O'Brien graduated from Eastern Washington University with a degree in radio and television management and psychology, with a passion for photography and writing. He loves telling stories about the Pacific Northwest and South Florida.

"Eaten By The Tiger: Surrendering to an Empowered Life" by Emile Allen, M.D. (Inspire on Purpose, $21.99)

One day, as Dr. Emile Allen of Boca Raton was operating to save a woman's life, he barely escaped being electrocuted and nearly died. He remembered hearing a voice telling him: "I'm not ready for you yet. You have more work to do." He had no way of knowing the challenges he'd face or how many times he'd hear those words.

Now living with a brain injury, this talented surgeon was tossed into a world where he had to struggle just to do such simple things such as counting change at the grocery store or reading a book. The event not only changed his career but also his identity and capabilities.

His new book is a collection of stories and insights acquired through personal experiences as a surgeon, son and patient that helped get him through the paralysis of emotional and physical loss. "Eaten By The Tiger" gives readers a second chance at life.

Dr. Allen is a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. He completed his general surgery internship and urology residency at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.