Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Learning: True Crime Florida

Gilbert King was awarded the Pulitzer Prize April 15, 2013, for his book Devil in the Grove 

Christine and I popped over to the University of Central Florida for the UCF Book Festival Saturday. A host of authors and vendors were on hand, and I met several local scribes.

We didn't plan carefully. We just popped over to get a taste of the events, but we managed to be browsing when a panel with true crime authors kicked off at the campus Barnes & Noble.

It was an interesting session featuring three authors who'd penned books on Florida crime.

 The diversity of local law breaking proved intriguing and rivals Louisiana's, I believe.

Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times was on hand to review his account of orchid smuggling and the fallout when a rare Peruvian orchid turned up at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.

Apparently the twists and intrigues were greater than he expected at the outset, and the characters were as colorful as the flowers involved.

I saw Adaptation once upon a time, but apparently that was just the tip of the stamen.

Pittman said the man who discovered the rare orchid asked that it be named for him, and that was like hanging out a sign that said come indict me. Raids, court cases, international incidents and more fallout followed.

A darker crime is the focus of Trout from The Orlando Sentinel's Jeff Kunerth. He actually began the book as part of a master's program, and chose to focus on teens and the issues about trying juveniles as adults.

The account focuses on a 1991 murder at a store called Trout Auto Parts. Three teens were forever linked by a murder for hire scheme that unfortunately cost the wrong man his life.

Kunerth spoke of prison interviews with the three men, now approaching middle age, and of trying to discern the truth from the various accounts.

The non-Floridian of the group was Gilbert King, author of a historic true crime account from Lake County.

Devil in the Grove explores a 1949 case that eventually brought Thurgood Marshall to Florida to face the Ku Klux Klan and other dangers swirling around rape allegations against young African American men. It was a time when orange growing was big business, a brutal Southern sheriff ruled the county with an iron hand and the Klan active and brutal.

King spoke of drives deep into rural Georgia and other research efforts including FBI files and more.

As panels do, this one made me want to read all three books, and it gave me a little more perspective on Sunshine State crime.

It really is Carl Hiaasen and John D. MacDonald country.


Charles Gramlich said...

Love me some JDM set in that area.

Sidney said...

Yeah, MacDonald was great.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...