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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #233  (Vol. 5, No. 37)  This edition is for the week of September 6--12, 2004.

LA FLORIDIANA
Double Book Review: "Tangled And Dark" by Patty G. Henderson
"Florida Curiosities" by David Grimes and Tom Becnel. Plus...Happy Anniversary Sunshine Skyway
 by Will Moriaty
THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"Napoleon Dynamite"
 by Mike Smith
THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Guided By Voices CD review
 by Terence Nuzum
"The Rock and Soul Revue" concert review by guest reviewer Michael Smith
ODDSERVATIONS
Oddservations Spotlight: Largo's Comic World owner Pat Potter
 by Andy Lalino
COUCH POTATO
Chappelle's Show....Fanzine Memoirs
  by Vinnie Blesi
DEADGUY'S DEMENTIA
Powerless
 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott
NICHOLAS REX
A Rant About Bush
 by Nick King
MATT'S RAIL
The Yankees Suck....Latest Kerry Rumor....Masters of Horror
 by Mike Smith
MIKE'S RANT
Happy Birthday....The Shame of The Yankees....Why Even Try....Is That A Guarantee?....What?....Meet The Beatles, Part 33
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
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Archives 2000
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Home
Double Book Review Bonus!
 "Tangled and Dark"
by Patty G. Henderson
 "Florida Curiosities" by David Grimes and Tom Becnel
Plus, a special update:
 Happy Anniversary Sunshine Skyway

Within a one-week period several weeks ago, I acquired two very dissimilar Florida-based books. One of them a work of fiction in a mystery/supernatural vein by Tampa writer Patty G. Henderson and the other a non-fiction Florida travelogue of sorts by authors/journalists David Grimes and Tom Becnel.

As I had organized these two books along with other Florida-based books that I intend to read and review for this publication, I noticed that the two books were exactly the same width and thickness. As I tend to put stock into coincidences, I thought to myself, "hmmmmm.... why not a double book review?"

So, for the first time in this column, you the reader hopefully benefit by my oft-times illusions of grandeur concerning coincident and kismet!

Tangled and Dark "Tangled and Dark"
by Patty G. Henderson
2004, Bella Books, Tallahassee, FL., 232 pp.

One of the most vivid and memorable impressions that my mind has on file is that of viewing the western sky at twilight along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, Florida on a clear, crisp winter's evening, particularly in the month of December. The clarity and definition of the solid black silhouettes of the buildings, palms and tree line in the foreground of cobalt blue skies with Venus rising and the hovering lights of aircraft on approach to Tampa International Aircraft is almost a sacred optical memory that this eight stretch mile of roadway has blessed me with over the past four decades.

Tampa author Patty G. Henderson manages to illustrate such magical imagery in her novel "Tangled and Dark". This is Ms. Henderson's third book, and the second to feature her Tampa-based character Brenda Strange, P.I., who was initially featured in the novel "The Burning of Her Sin". Ms. Henderson's first book was "Blood Scent'", an erotic vampire romance novel. In addition to these three books, Ms. Henderson also edits the online fiction magazine "Flash Fantastic" which is shown in our own publication.

In my forays into Florida-noir, I have never read a supernatural romance based mystery novel (although one of Randy Wayne White's offerings has came pretty close on the supernatural though) before, so this was a first time experience for me.

"Tangled and Dark" truly lives up to its title. You dare not skip chapters because too much happens here that you need to make note of in order to have a fulfilling trip on the "Patty G. Henderson Express". The premise of the story is about the presumed drowning death of Paula Drakes. As it turns out, Drakes, an activist in the Tampa Gay and Lesbian community, was the lover of Tampa socialite Joan Davis. Both the Tampa Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation believe that Drakes died in a diving accident. Brenda Strange, a Princess Di look-alike private investigator with psychic and intuitive abilities does not believe this. Through supernatural means she believes that Drakes was murdered and Strange will stop at nothing to ensure that her assailant be brought to justice.

Strange lives in a house called Malfour, which is inhabited by the spirits of Carlotta and Angelique. Their antics demand the services of paranormal investigator Susan Christie, initially much to Strange's chagrin. Christie is astonished at the intensity of paranormal activity in the old mansion and it becomes apparent to her that Strange is in large part a lightning rod of sorts for these ghostly manifestations.

In her efforts to get to the truth of Drakes' death, Strange begins to notice that several people close to Drakes have had vivid dreams of a sea creature that stalks them and when they awaken from their slumber they are shocked to discover wet seaweed in their bedrooms or other parts of their homes! Strange digs deeper and through a web search reads in this very column (PCR #100) about a bi-pedal sea creature that was sighted along the Gulf Coast in the late 1940s that was nicknamed "Ole Three-Toes".

Is there a connection between the death of Paula Drakes and the disturbing dreams of her close friends and acquaintances? Has "Ole Three-Toes" made a reprise in the Tampa Bay area after a half-century appearance?

If you want a good mystery book to curl up with while the weather is beastly outside or after the sun sets and the shadows grow into diamond skies, this is the ticket. As mentioned above, Henderson writes in a very moody and impressionable manner while interlacing her story telling with complex character sub plots. Even the Michelle L. Corby cover art of a Cabbage Palm in the Florida sunset evokes a powerful image. Will says, "Check it out!"

Florida Curiosities "Florida Curiosities - -
Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff"
by David Grimes and Tom Becnel
2003, The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT., 198 pp.

"I Like My Women A Little on the Trashy Side" are lyrics to a song by country recording artists The Confederate Railroad. And being the Florida native redneck son, "I Like My Florida A Little on the Tacky Side" pretty much sums up my cracker mantra.

Florida was at its best before Disney and Korporate Amerika moved in, shoved character and individualism out and reduced the Sunshine State to a generic, overgrown and sterile collection of strip malls, convenience stores, home improvement centers, mega-gasoline vendors and half-block sized chain pharmacies and Wal Mart Super Centers.

No, Florida was at its best when rugged individualism with a little bit of imagination and peckerwood entrepreneurs created the mom and pop roadside tourist attraction. When good old boys like Tom Gaskins, a denizen of a swamp along the Fish Eating Creek down Okeechobee way, had the world's only collection dedicated to Cypress knees. When serpentariums, wax museums, Castle Dracula, sky rides, aquatariums, goofy golf, and even a turpentine mill were commonplace was when Florida was at its unique best.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune writers David Grimes and Tom Becnel do a superb job of presenting a glimpse at what little character and uniqueness are still left in the state with this humorous and informative guide to "quirky characters, roadside oddities and other offbeat stuff". The cover alone with a wood carving of a Gorton's fishernan wannabe, a 15' tall Statue of Liberty along a roadside, pink flamingos and a station wagon for a bait shack with a giant shrimp on top of it had me sold (the back cover even has a Truly Nolen car done up in customary yellow with black mouse ears)!

All y'all have probably heard of the Plant City Strawberry Festival, the Zellwood Corn Festival and maybe even the St. Joe Kumquat Festival, but did y'all know that there is a Chumuckla Redneck Festival? Sho' nuff! People from as far as Dothan, Alabama and Fort Walton Beach visit this small town northeast of Pensacola for its annual "Redneck Parade" where all you need is to contribute one dollar and a food item for charity in order to participate. Don't forget to buy yourself a set of Bubba Teeth at one of Chumuckla's fine convenience stores for the event.

Y'all have also probably heard of Florida's Skunk Ape, the stinky bi-pedal critter (not to be confused with "Ole Three Toes") that roams the backwoods and bogs of the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. Well, I bet y'all ain't heard of the "Bardin Booger" (remember - - in "Crackerspeak" a "booger" also means a ghost or a menacing creature. Just like a "haint" is the Crackerspeak version of a haunted house). Bardin is a small town located northwest of Palatka where the Booger allegedly roamed through the woods carrying a lantern and stealing laundry off clotheslines. There is even a song in honor of the Booger and a photo of the elusive critter posing on the town's CSX tracks!

Other stories in this delightful collection include a graveyard for carousel horses; a phone booth that serves as a police station; worm fiddlin'; a love-bug festival; bike week; glow-in-the dark bicycles; nazi invasions; alligator farms; Snooty the Manatee; "Macbeth in the Buff; boiled peanuts; Spook Hill; a phosphate museum; Salvador Dali; old cigars; sponge diving and "Top Ten Things You'll Never Hear a Florida Cracker Say ("I'll take Shakespeare for a thousand, Alex" amongst them). Sorta gives ya chill bumps, don't it?

For the Florida cracker and transplant alike this a wonderful read and a compliment to any Florida book collection


LA FLORIDIANA UPDATE...

Happy Anniversary Sunshine Skyway!
Monday September 6, 2004 marked the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Sunshine Skyway bridge and causeway to the motoring public. Prior to the opening of the bridge, it took motorists sometimes up to four days to travel from Pinellas to Manatee County. To resolve that, the Bee Line Ferry offered sevice from Pinellas Point in St. Petersburg down to Piney Point in Manatee County from the 1920's until traffic was allowed on the bridge. The Bee Line operated four ferries, one capable of handling up to 40 automobiles. Once the Skyway opened on September 6, 1954, the ferry line ceased operation.

For more information on the Skyway, consult with the Monday September 6, 2004 BayLife edition of the Tampa Tribune, and link to three previous stories on the Bee Line and Sunshine Skyway from this column in PCR editions 170, 171 and 172.


"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.