Shadows Over Florida
David Goudsward, Scott T. Goudsward
Trade Paper, 210 pages, $19.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
If battling the winter doldrums is getting tough, maybe playing a game of six (very warm) degrees of separation would help. Try asking: What do Stephen King, Bo Diddley, Amelia Earhart, Jules Verne, Joan Collins, Edward Scissorhands, Burt Reynolds, and Dexter Morgan have in common? The answer is sunny, balmy Florida. It’s a point of intersection of reality and fiction: A place where stories and films are set, movies are filmed, writers and performers live and die. In Shadows Over Florida, David Goudsward and Scott T. Goudsward enthusiastically and alphabetically address the landmarks and locations that reflect the Sunshine State’s sultry sway over artists, hacks, adventurers and iconoclasts. Most belong to the horror genre; others may have just dipped their toes into its waters.
Stephen King gets multiple mentions for setting some of his tales there. Duma Key is the most obvious, but there are many other references including a biographical entry. This regards Casey Key which is “home to horror’s most iconic snow birds – Stephen and Tabitha King.” Another horror heavyweight, F. Paul Wilson, is also discussed in this index of sites. It’s tough not to be enamored of a query like: “But how can a New York mercenary battle Lovecraftian evil that controls both the creatures of the Everglades and a community of mutated rednecks?”
Given just the Bermuda Triangle alone, Florida certainly is ripe for plot plucking. The state inspired H.P. Lovecraft; and, in Nancy Kilpatrick’s short story “Teaserama,” was the backdrop for Count Dracula getting the hots for pin-up model Bettie Page. In depicting the young gorgeous Joan Collins realtor role in 1977’s locally filmed Empire of the Ants the authors have some fun. The character is described as “a shady real estate agent looking for investors in a new housing development called Dreamland Shores. But even Joan Collins will have trouble selling lots that are overrun with giant ants.”
Shadows Over Florida is detailed and comprehensive, but simultaneously breezy and easy to read. The foreword is by schlock horror maven Herschell Gordon Lewis, himself a Florida resident. The Goudsward brothers provide a respite from the winter chills through the book’s location, but also focus on the chills that horror can provide. Succumb to the palm trees, the sand, and the shadows.