Books In Brief

Nostalgic Florida: Iconic Art of the Sunshine State” 

by Doug Alderson

Pineapple Press, 2022

From bathing beauty postcards to toothy gator ashtrays, Alderson’s thoroughly researched, amply illustrated book takes readers on a rollicking ride through Florida history in an entertaining study of its artwork. This pictorial history offers sections on Romantic Florida, Funny Florida, Florida’s Bathing Beauties and Working Florida. He also covers more serious art, such as that produced by the Florida Highwaymen, twenty-six African Americans who weren’t accepted into art galleries and instead sold their work along roadways.

Florida’s promotional art often includes the iconic alligator, flamingoes, oranges, palm trees, Mickey Mouse, and beautiful, young, scantily-clad women—never the wrinkled retirees who populate much of the state. Postcards and tourist promotions portray Florida unrealistically, the “huckertism . . . overlooked because it is so commonplace.” Examples include Fountain of Youth brand of Florida Water perfume ads in the 1880s showing an old man becoming youthful again, and tourism brochures assuring Northerners that the Florida climate is perfectly temperate—ignoring the sweltering summers. Alderson even uncovers a “puckish anti-growth group” in the 1970s and 1980s that produced “an annual Calamity Calendar that marked disastrous events” such as hurricanes, love bugs, roach infestations, and red tide—a humorous attempt to discourage more people from moving to the state.

This book would make a fun addition to a personal library or a great gift for birthdays or Christmas.

Alderson is a Florida naturalist and writer. His fifteen award-winning books include America’s Alligator, Wild Florida Waters, Waters Less Traveled, New Dawn for the Kissimmee River, Encounters with Florida’s Endangered Wildlife and A New Guide to Old Florida Attractions.

The Saints of Swallow Hillby Donna Everhart

Kensington Books, 2022

This novel stands out for its historical setting in the turpentine camps of Georgia, an industry that has faded away and most of us know little about. After a tragic death occurs, Rae Lynn disguises herself as a man named Ray so she can get work in a camp called Swallow Hill. The job is brutal, but she does her best to match the men’s output. Like all good novels, there’s a villain: Crow, the woods rider who makes sure each worker meets quota—and when they don’t, he confines them to a sweatbox without food or water. For contrast and conflict, Ballard treats his crew well. He’s a man who “knew how to get along and didn’t get worked up over things.”

And there’s Dellwood Reese, a new boss man who chooses Ballard rather than Crow as a role model. When Crow confronts Reese and asks, “You ain’t one a them lowly nigra lovers, are you?” Dell backs away and does his best to avoid trouble. Like most during the Great Depression, he just wants to work. There’s a touch of romance too. This one is a page-turner that does an excellent job of capturing the essence of an era.

Everhard’s other award-winning titles include The Education of Dixie Dupree, The Forgiving Kind, The Moonshiner’s Daughter, and The Road to Bittersweet. Born and raised in Raleigh, she resides in Dunn, North Carolina.

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  1. I love these vintage postcards. So cool!

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