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Five From Florida

Sunshine State literature makes for great gift-giving

Photo: Dawn Schreiner, License: N/A

Dawn Schreiner

Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West

William McKeen Crown Publishing Group
320 pages

Anyone hoping for a serious history of Key West will be disappointed by McKeen’s book – this is a collection of drinking tales cloaked in the sheepskin of a well-researched work of nonfiction. A few Florida historians have pointed out mistakes and incorrect assumptions (such as the true origin of the nickname for Key West natives, “Conchs”), and sometimes the broad-strokes approach goes wide, as in McKeen’s assertion that all of Key West’s year-rounders are “millionaires or homeless.” On the other hand, the book takes itself a bit too seriously to be purely a rollicking chronicle of the boozy benders of Ernest Hemingway, Tom McGuane and, yes, Jimmy Buffett. But these cavils miss the point of the book. Despite its not-quite-one-nor-t’other-ness, Mile Marker Zero is an enjoyable slice of Key lime pie, replete with tangy and salacious tales about some of the more serious artists of the ’60s and ’70s who made their way down to the southernmost point of the U.S. to “take part in the literary cock-measuring contest with Papa.” Hemingway, McGuane, Hunter S. Thompson – all were significantly shaped by their time on Key West, and fans of their writing will enjoy this book.

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