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VANISHING FLORIDA: A Personal Guide to Sights Rarely Seen
by David Warner
River City Publishing, 2001
ISBN: 0-913515-49-3 Paper
 
 
“I’m drinking a beer in Pete’s Bar at Neptune Beach, thinking back on my wild and woolly youth at the Jacksonville beaches and Ponte Vedra where I visited my grandparents.” Thus begins David Warner’s unique and insightful book, Vanishing Florida.

Warner doesn’t drink beer in just any bar. Pete’s is the oldest in Duval County, where the smoke, pool tables and memories go back to WWII. He takes his reader down highway A1A on a memorable journey.

With Warner, we meet Leicester Hemingway, the spitin’ image of his brother Ernest, at a bar in Bimini, then at his home on Biscayne Bay. An interesting character in his own right, Les Hemingway comes to life through Warner’s words.

The author is at home in Key West with short story writer Peter Taylor and poet and biographer John Brinnin and famous playwright Tennessee Williams.  “I’m drinking a beer at the fifty-year-old Crescent Club on Siesta Key, the oldest saloon in town, thinking back on my life in Sarasota.” Thus David Warner continues his saga about his Florida of the old days, when John D. MacDonald was writing about the place in a novel called “Condominium” and when his literary mentor and my own, Borden Deal, was pulling stunts in and around Sarasota.

He writes about the Friday Writer’s Club of which I was once a member when I wrote soap opera scripts in Sarasota and writes about my old boss, Irving Vendig, who was the creator of a long-running show called “The Edge of Night.” He writes about Vendig and MacDonald, about Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist MacKinlay Kantor, likable old Dick Glendinning, all of whom started having lunch every Friday at the Plaza Restaurant in 1952.

With a loving touch, Warner profiles MacDonald and Deal. He learns from Deal that the man from Pontotoc, Miss., who lived in Alabama for a long time before moving on to Sarasota, that he was the author of the enormously popular pornographic novels penned by “Anonymous” in the 1970s and ‘80s. After Deal’s death, in a self-written obituary in the local newspaper, he revealed his authorship to the world.

Warner chronicles Deal’s interesting life, his writing of "The Other Room" and “Dunbar’s Cove” and “Bluegrass,” his courage and his foolheartyness, and his love of a sip of Jack Daniels. There are many other tales in Warner’s Vanishing Florida, stories of Jack Kerouac in St. Petersburg during his last years, the Captain’s Table at Cedar Key, Yankeetown, Steinhatchee where it’s still 1940 on the lonely streets, Panacea, Carrabelle with its rusty trawlers and Harry’s Bar, and Apalachicola and the Gibson Inn and the Oasis which has been just that for sailors and fishermen, tired writers and good old women looking for a place to rest, or somebody to fight.

Warner’s Florida is the same as Jimmy Buffett’s, an out-of-the-way place worth taking the time to find, to hide, have a slow cool drink, and enjoy. It’s the Spiritualist camp at Cassadega or the awning-covered streets of DeLand or the gators deep in the Everglades. It’s worth the time and the effort. If you want a good visit to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings country, savor David Warner’s “Vanishing Florida,” then revisit W.C. at the B&B, a place like Fowler’s Bluff that need more than one look-see.


Wayne Greenhaw
Southern Scribe Reviews

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