Ahead of the Curve

Your Must-Reads for August

Hot books by local authors to brighten the season

BY August 7, 2018


You can’t swing a dead cat in Southwest Florida without hitting a published author. True, you (fortunately) don’t see a lot of dead cats lying around, which may make my point moot. I’m sorry, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, published authors. Summer is the perfect time to grab a book and spend some time either on the beach (pre-thunderstorm, of course) or in an air-conditioned coffee shop, giving yourself the chance to be transported by the dazzling wordplay of some of the world’s finest writers. And because our area is a haven for basically everyone, it’s also become a beacon to writers who’ve tasted phenomenal success. So much so that many have become household names. And many of them have either just released their latest offerings or are about to.

To that end, I’ve checked in with a few of our local scribes and found there’ll be plenty of words to be had this year.

First and foremost is a book by a guy we don’t tend to think of as an author, Bret Baier of Fox News. The host of Special Report with Bret Baier recently released his latest book, Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire (William Morrow, 416 pages). (Based on current international relations, three days seems to be the perfect quick timeframe for a visit to the Russian capital.) But back in May of 1988 (of which this book is about), President Reagan stood on Russian soil and gave a speech that talked about freedom, human rights and a future they could choose to embrace. The following year, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union began to fall apart. threedaysinmoscow.com

Ben Bova, who has written 139 futuristic novels and nonfiction books—and won six Hugo Awards (not to mention being the former editorial director at Omni magazine)—is obviously prolific. He’s probably written two books since you started reading this column. But his current novel, Survival (Tor Books, 322 pages), is what you might call forward-thinking. A human team is “sent to scout a few hundred light years in front of the death wave” and “encounters a civilization far in advance of our own—a civilization of machine intelligence.” It turns out these intelligent machines are totally self-sufficient and can survive death waves, gamma rays and hurtful tweets from Tomi Lahren. They’re also jerks—with zero to no interest in helping save other civilizations. And, surprise! Bova also has just completed his latest book, Power Failure, which he says will be released by Tor Books in October. benbova.com

One of the more prominent literary heroes of Southwest Florida is Randy Wayne White, best-known for his Doc Ford novels and subsequent restaurants. White recently released his latest in the Doc Ford series, Caribbean Rim (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 333 pages). Few things are better than reading about familiar places occupied by crazy characters stealing, cheating and killing. This time around, Doc is helping out an old friend who hunts sunken wrecks and who has stumbled upon something big. But he’s found himself a marked man from the Florida Division of Historical Resources (really?). And now the friend and his young assistant have disappeared, along with his cache of rare Spanish coins and a list of uncharted wreck sites. randywaynewhite.com

If you love romance and Shark Week, Ann Kidd Taylor novel The Shark Club (Penguin Books, 282 pages) was just released in paperback. It follows Maeve Donnelly, a marine biologist (not unlike Doc Ford) who has returned home to Florida and faces a decision: Should she rekindle a romance with her first love, or start something new with colleague Nicholas, who has come to town to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation? “A highly readable mix of marine science and romance, set on the picturesque beaches of South Florida,” Birmingham Magazine says. Sharks and romance? (Sharknado Shades of Grey?) Yes, please. annkiddtaylor.com

If you prefer political thrillers set in both Florida and Washington, D.C., Karna Small Bodman (who was a political insider for years, serving as White House Deputy Press Secretary and later as senior director and spokesman for the National Security Council) has a new book coming out next month titled Trust But Verify (Regnery Fiction, 256 pages). Its protagonist, Samantha Reid, is a beautiful and brilliant (of course) director of the White House Office of Homeland Security. She was enjoying a rare night away from Washington—at a charity ball in Florida, no less—when a time bomb misfires, sending guests toward the valet at a frightful pace. Ms. Reid is called back to the White House to address an unfolding situation with the Russians, only to realize she was the target of the bomb. karnabodman.com

While much of this list consists of offerings for adults, hence the murder and romance and death waves, Margaret Cardillo (a Naples native who teaches screenwriting at the University of Miami) has just released a children’s book biography titled Just Being Jackie (HarperCollins Publishers). It chronicles the life of Jackie Kennedy from young girl to first lady to activist and editor. A follow-up to her award-winning first children’s book, Just Being Audrey (about Audrey Hepburn), on which she also collaborated with illustrator Julia Denos, this book is a stunning tribute to an American icon. Even though it’s rated for ages 4 to 8 and up, its charm, intelligence and beauty make it worthy of many more “ups.” Spoiler alert: Kennedy was never a marine biologist. margaretcardillo.com

Why authors employ nom de plumes in the 21st century is itself a mystery to me, but James Lilliefors (The Leviathan Effect, Viral) also goes by the name Max Karpov, and the latter (and/or former) has just released The Children’s Game: A Thriller (Skyhorse Publishing, 384 pages). The novel follows former CIA intelligence Officer Christopher Niles as he unravels a Russian plot to launch a sophisticated propaganda operation looking to discredit and disrupt the United States and restore Russia to its glory days. Of course, at this point I should mention this is a work of fiction and in no way relates to our current political situation. maxkarpov.com

You can’t talk about Southwest Florida authors without mentioning Dr. Robin Cook (Coma, Outbreak). He’s sold nearly 400 million books worldwide. His most recent book, Charlatans (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 448 pages), just came out in paperback a few days ago. A medical thriller, it follows the new chief resident at Boston Memorial Hospital, Noah Rothhauser. Unfortunately for him, seemingly healthy patients are dying and anesthesiologist Dr. Ava London is starting to look like a problem. This book will make you want to take a shot of whiskey and bite down on a stick before any surgery. By the way, Cook has a new medical thriller coming out in December titled Pandemic, based on the gene-editing biotechnology Crispr/Cas9. As always, Cook is ahead of the game with medical technologies and making us all germophobes. robincook.com

Finally, in what might be the feel-good author story of this year, Robert Ludlum, best-known for creating the character of Jason Bourne, is releasing his latest in the series, The Bourne Nemesis (Head of Zeus Publishing, 352 pages), on Sept. 1. What makes this truly remarkable is that Ludlum died in 2001 under mysterious circumstances at his spectacular Enclave condo in Naples (the same building in which Cook owned the penthouse for years). That’s right; he’s actually deceased. This is one of the few times the term “ghostwriter” (this one being Eric Van Lustbader) makes sense to me. In fact, I may run out and buy a Ouija Board and see if I can collaborate on something new with Louisa May Alcott. robert-ludlum.com

P.S. Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie  Plum novel, Look Alive Twenty-Five (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 320 pages), hits bookstores Nov. 13. Will this be the one that gets Plum back on the big screen and makes Katherine Heigl, not to mention Trenton, New Jersey, relevant again? evanovich.com


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