Footprints in the Sand: Books with a Florida Setting


During my Saturday morning radio show I occasionally mention a favorite book or two that I’ve read over the past month. I received a couple of emails this week that asked me why I stopped doing that. I love it when listeners or readers give me an idea for another on-air piece or article.Footprints-in-the-Sand-FMB-ColumnI absolutely love just about anything in print that uses Florida as a base. My favorite genre are fictional mysteries and the addiction began many years ago when I read my first John D. MacDonald Travis McGee novel. McGee is a “salvage consultant” based out of Fort Lauderdale who returns property lost by others for a fifty-percent cut. While the action and the unfolding of the mysteries are interesting, its MacDonald’s keen view of Florida and its eclectic population that comes out through McGee that I like best. The first book, The Deep Blue Goodbye, was released in 1964 and the last in the series, The Lonely Silver Rain in 1984, just before the author’s death. Even after all these years I still enjoy reading them.

I have many close seconds. All are mystery writers that mostly use Florida as a setting for their novels.

A sampling of well-loved Florida literature. Photo by Rob Modys.

James W. Hall’s books, with his fictional character Thorn, are must-reads for Florida Keys fans. Start them in order with Under Cover of Daylight because the author sometimes returns previous characters to the storyline.

Carl Hiaasen. His mysteries are fictional, but he says that many of his characters and humorous situations are drawn right from the crime reports he used to write about for the Miami Herald. My favorite to this day is Tourist Season. I’ve never laughed so hard while reading a book.

Our very own Randy Wayne White is of course on the list. White began his fictional mystery novels right here on Sanibel Island with his central character, a marine biologist named Doc Ford. His first book, of what has become a long series, was Sanibel Flats. Recognize the name Doc Ford? Yes the character is the inspiration for the local restaurants by the same name.

I’m also a fan of historical books, both non-fiction and historical novels. At the top of my list is A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith. Historical fiction novels just don’t get much better than this one. I’ve read it several times and I learn something new about the settling of early Florida each time.

Also on my list are The Swamp by Michael Grunwald, The Gulf by Jack E. Davis and Last Train To Paradise by Les Standiford. The latter is quite timely at this writing. It’s about Henry Flagler and the extension of his railroad from the Florida mainland down to Key West. Then along comes the monster Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

Books can be an expensive hobby. I know because my wife and I are bookaholics. I read a couple a month, while she reads at least one a week. If you haven’t tried electronic books, you should. The cost is generally less per edition and they will work on most computers and tablets that you may already own.

For not much more than the cost of three or four hardback book editions you could purchase a Kindle. They are very popular and easy to use. I personally like the feel of a real book, but I must confess, I have downloaded a few hard-to-get titles on my iPad.

There are also free public libraries all across Lee County where you can borrow books to read at no charge. Fort Myers Beach has a wonderful library that was recently expanded and renovated in 2012. They have over 86,000 print and audiovisual titles. That’s enough to keep you busy reading for two lifetimes!


Footprints-in-the-Sand-Rob-ModysCaptain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman, retired spin & fly fishing guide and host of REEL Talk Radio on ESPN 99.3 FM from 7-10 a.m. every Saturday morning. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association. Capt. Rob also shares his fishing knowledge in a series of fishing classes at Bass Pro Shops.