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Friday, June 4, 2010


It's Friday, and that means American Woman Book Club day. Today’s guest author is mystery writer Dorothy Francis.  Dorothy, an award-winning author, writes both children’s and adult fiction.  Although a native Midwesterner now residing in Iowa, she formerly lived in Florida and has a deep love for the Florida Keys.  Visit her at www.dorothyfrancis.com.-- AP 


Since spending winters in the Florida Keys, I’ve become interested in Florida history and I try to work interesting historical details into my mysteries.  It pleased me to read that reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly wrote that I do this without overburdening a smoothly written and suspenseful tale. 

While gathering ideas for EDEN PALMS MURDER, a taxi driver at Key West International Airport told me about the Conch Republic.  I didn’t know that at one time the mayor of Key West threatened to secede from the United States.  Why?

In 1982, the United States Border Patrol set up a blockade on Highway One north of the Keys.  It stopped everyone, including Keys citizens, from driving to or from the mainland.  Keys citizens felt they were stuck in the islands like barnacles on a boat hull.  Stuck forever?  Nobody knew the answer.  Today, few Keys citizens recall the why of the blockade.

The Key West mayor flew to Miami and raised a whopper of a fuss.  The media caught him in action.  He stamped his feet.  He waved his arms.  He shouted that unless the blockade was lifted, the Florida Keys were seceding from the Union.  Then and there.

Did he have the authority to do that?  He said he did, and the Conchs were so angry they never questioned his say-so.  This mayor began the rebellion by breaking a loaf of Cuban bread over the head of an onlooker wearing a U.S. Navy uniform.  The rebellion raised this irate man from Mayor of Key West to Prime Minister of a new nation.  He named this new nation The Conch Republic—at least that’s the story he told the media.  (The word ‘conch’ is pronounced ‘conk’ like a conk on the head.)

Cops hauled the new prime minister to an officer at the navy base in Miami and he surrendered to Union Forces.  The next thing he did was to demand a billion dollars in foreign aid—said it would be used to rebuild a Conch Republic in the Keys.

Of course the man didn’t get any foreign aid, and in time the blockade came down.  Memories and tall tales of those colorful days linger to present times.  In Key West gift shops a person can buy Conch Republic flags, mugs, and other items relating to those bygone days.

Yes, I used a version of this story in EDEN PALMS MURDER.  You can find it on pages 23/24.

Thanks for stopping by to visit us, Dorothy. And remember, everyone, post a comment this week to be entered into the drawing for a copy of Photo, Snap, Shot, by Monday's guest author and crafter Joanna Campbell Slan. Stop back tomorrow to see who won. -- AP


KM Fawcett said...

What a great story. I've never heard of it before. I laughed when he "broke bread" over the Navy man's head.

shirley said...

Having spent a winter or two in Iowa I can see spending time in Florida. The book sounds fun!

boots9k at wowway dot com

Theresa N. said...

Thank goodness it didn't work, we'd be in a pickle if every city or state that had a complaint seceded.
Theresa N

Kathy said...

Mention of the Florida Keys brings back fond memories. Back in my early twenties I went on a camping trip with some University of Miami oceanography students. I forget the name of the Key but watching the sunrise on the beach was fabulous. Eden Palms Murder sounds like something I going to have to read.

Lynn Barker Steinmayer said...

We will have to get this for the library -- we have many patrons who travel in the winter time!

Lynn Marie