Pittman, 55, will be one of the featured authors at the Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 12 with his newest book, Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country. It is a peculiar history book on the Sunshine State, including such true-life tales as the one about the woman whose career goal was mermaid and whose tail caused friction with her homeowners association when she violated the "no fins" pool policy. A Pensacola native, Pittman is the environmental reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, and the author of Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid, Manatee Insanity (named by the Florida Humanities Council one of the 21 "essential'' books for Floridians) and Paving Paradise, co-written with Matthew Waite. Pittman and his wife have two sons and live in St. Petersburg.
What's on your nightstand?
I just started You Live Once by John D. MacDonald. This year is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and my New Year's resolution was to read as many non-Travis McGee books of his this year as I can. Then I realized there were a lot, and I'm barely scratching the surface. I also try to read a fiction and a nonfiction at the same time, and so my nonfiction is Miami and the Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer, about the 1968 election and the conventions. It's interesting to look and see how politics in this nation have changed, but so many times we are in the same boat. The nation was really divided back then and there was a lot of uncertainty.
How much Mailer have you read?
This is only the second time. The writing style takes getting used to.
What was the other one you read?
Tough Guys Don't Dance. It was awful, and then he went and directed a movie based on the book that I hear was even worse. (It) put me off Mailer for a long time, even though friends have repeatedly told me I should try The Executioner's Song.
I assume John D. MacDonald was one of the writers who inspired your interests in writing and the environment.
I grew up hunting and fishing on lakes and beaches, and canoeing in Boy Scouts, but it wasn't until Travis McGee books that I realized that A) those places were special and B) they were under threat. I come from a family of thriller readers. I think it was my great-aunt who took a draw on her cigarette and said at one point, "I think you are ready for Travis McGee."
You're a much-lauded investigative reporter, so who are the reporters you make sure to keep up with?
David Barstow of the New York Times. He recently did a big thing on Trump's tax returns, and he did a great piece on Walmart paying bribes in Mexico. There's David Fahrenthold from the Washington Post, who has been doing wonderful stories on Trump's foundation, and of course, people on our staff. (From) the Miami Herald, Julie Knipe Brown, who has dug up some amazing scandals in the state prison system, and Carol Marbin Miller, who totally owns the state foster care beat.
Any other books you want to mention?
I really enjoyed Tim Dorsey's new novel, Coconut Cowboy. I'm introducing him at the festival. He has a great line how Florida is the pace car of dysfunction. He's funny.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.