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Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer

Piper Castillo

Piper Castillo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and received her English degree from Florida Atlantic University. As a community news reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers north Pinellas County. She also writes the "Nightstand" column for the Sunday book pages and thinks the only thing better than a good read is a day in the sun with her family.

Phone: (727) 445-4163


  1. What's David Jolly reading?



    David Jolly

    We recently caught up with U.S. Rep. David Jolly, 43, who is seeking a second term in Congress. Jolly, recently endorsed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, will face retired Marine Brigadier Gen. Mark Bircher of Seminole in the Republican primary in August. A former aide to longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill'' Young, Jolly received an undergraduate degree in history from Emory University and a law degree from George Mason University. He and his wife, Laura, recently moved from Indian Shores to Belleair Bluffs....

    U.S. Rep. David Jolly, 43, is seeking a second term in Congress.
  2. Discussion may lead to horse trails in Oldsmar

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Equestrians turned out in force on Tuesday to persuade the City Council to reverse a 15-year-old ordinance disallowing trail riding in Oldsmar. By the end of a 90-minute discussion, it appeared riders received a leg up when the council agreed to ask city staff to develop "requirement documents for horseback riding trails.''

    City officials are open to considering a horse trail, however, where and whether it is truly feasible has yet to be determined, said Mayor Doug Bevis....

  3. What's Shane Kuhn reading?



    Shane Kuhn

    Kuhn, 48, is best known as the author of The Intern's Handbook and Hostile Takeover, novels featuring assassin-for-hire John Lago. His newest book, The Asset, is a standalone thriller centering on Kennedy, a private airport security contractor turned counterterrorism operative. When we caught up with the author by phone on July 12, we asked him where he came up with the idea for The Asset. "It was burning a hole in my pocket. I'm a frequent air traveler and it's a world really set up for a thriller,'' he said. "I wanted to do espionage, but I wanted an everyman. A story in the vein of Three Days of the Condor. I love stories about a normal person that is put in extraordinary circumstances."...

    Shane Kuhn, author
  4. '1776' on stage proves still timely



    It has been well over 200 years since Americans declared their independence from England, yet during these days of racial unrest, Hamilton dominating Broadway, Brexit and a divisive presidential election, perhaps a history lesson with a visit thrown in by the Second Continental Congress is in order.

    Eight O'Clock Theatre is presenting 1776, The Musical, through Sunday at the Largo Cultural Center. The show, with Sherman Edwards' music, based on Peter Stone's book, takes a look at the days in Philadelphia leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the disagreements and (spoiler alert) compromises that led to the separation from the British monarchy. On stage are 26 characters. Two are women, Abigail Adams (Sadra Bostick) and Martha Jefferson (Amy Phillips), and, like this country's Founding Fathers, 24 are white men, in wigs and britches, including American icons John Adams (Dan Mason), Ben Franklin (Ben Taylor), Thomas Jefferson (Billy Masuck) and John Hancock (Jerry Slutzky)....

    Derek Baxter of Tarpon Springs soaks up perspiration while playing George Read of Delaware.
  5. Oldsmar City Council to take up horse issue

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — After horse advocates have made repeated requests in the last several months for the City Council to consider changing regulations geared toward keeping horses out of Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, the subject will be discussed when the council meets Tuesday. Vice Mayor Eric Seidel on July 5 asked that it be put on the agenda. The council heard from many residents concerned with how development in the Racetrack Road corridor has made it difficult for equestrians to find available land to exercise their horses. In June, the council received a petition from a newly formed equestrian community group with more than 300 signatures supporting public horse trails....

  6. What's Thelma Adams reading?



    Thelma Adams

    Adams realized she wanted to write a book about Josephine Marcus, recognized as wife of legendary frontiersman Wyatt Earp, when she learned Earp was buried in a Jewish cemetery. "It didn't fit. I learned it was because of Josie, who was Jewish, and I wanted to know what she was like, and that started a really long stretch of research,'' recalled Adams, 57, from her home in Hyde Park, N.Y. ...

    Thelma Adams’ “The Last Woman Standing” looks at the romance between Wyatt Earp and his wife, Josephine Marcus, as well as events like the famed gunfight at the OK Corral.
  7. Tarpon Springs performing hall unveils its upgrades with 'Annie Get Your Gun'

    Human Interest


    When Tarpon Springs residents built the high school in 1927 on Pine Street, they included an auditorium, a place for both student assemblies as well as physical education class. Little did the students know the place they learned to shoot hoops and serve volleyballs would one day double as both the city's council chamber and its performing arts center, but for almost 25 years, it has....

    Jennifer Bierchen, playing Annie, prepares to take the stage during a recent dress rehearsal for the musical Annie Get Your Gun.
  8. What's Reshonda Tate Billingsley reading?



    ReShonda Tate Billingsley

    A writer who hails from Texas, Billingsley is a winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her novels include Let the Church Say Amen (turned into a TV movie produced by Queen Latifah), I Know I've Been Changed and her most recent, The Perfect Mistress. She will be talking about and signing her new book in Tampa on Wednesday (see Book Talk). ...

    ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s newest release is “The Perfect Mistress.”
  9. What's Henry Rollins reading?



    Henry Rollins

    Although it has been years since Rollins, 55, performed in Black Flag and the Rollins Band, the former punk rock frontman is as busy — and as outspoken — as ever. When asked to discuss his thoughts on the June 22 congressional sit-in for gun law change, and that moment when the Democrats sang We Shall Overcome, Rollins said Americans should think less about the "we" and more about the "you." "You shall overcome. The 'we' will not. The 'we' is done,'' he said. "There are those who obviously don't care if 49 gays are gunned down. ... What is done in your name, in the 'we,' as Americans is pretty horrific."...

    Henry Rollins will bring his North American Spoken Word Tour to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Oct. 7.
  10. Birds of prey therapy helps lift spirit of patient with Parkinson's disease

    Human Interest


    It was quiet except for the breeze rolling through the pine trees in George C. McGough Nature Park, but Steve Dittbenner, who has lived with Parkinson's disease for most of his adult life, was not alone. In his wheelchair, he sat with Shay, a red-shouldered hawk that gripped firmly with her talons to his glove.

    In a fast moment, children came out of the Narrows Environmental Education Center and darted behind the wheelchair, causing Shay to lose her balance. With all his might, Dittbenner held his arm steady, helping the bird regain her grip....

    Steve Dittbenner is in the final stages of Parkinson's Disease, which limits his ability to walk, talk, and take care of himself. But he is uplifted by  his weekly trip to the McGough Nature Center in Largo, where he visited with a Red Shouldered Hawk named Shea on Wednesday June 8, 2016. Dittbenner, in the wheelchair, is lowered down from the van by his driver Jack Weber.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  11. What's Christopher Buehlman reading?



    Christopher Buehlman

    He's a busy guy. Buehlman, 47, holds a degree in French from Florida State University. His 2014 book, The Lesser Dead, was named best horror novel by the American Library Association. His poem Wanton received the grand prize in the Bridport Prize for Poetry competition in 2007. His play Hot Nights for the War Wives of Ithaka was performed by Jobsite Theater in 2012. And, he's funny. Seriously. Buehlman, a longtime Pinellas County resident who graduated from Northeast High, spends much of the year travelling to Renaissance festivals across the United States as Christophe the Insultor, flinging insults at audience members. ...

    Author Christopher Buehlman.
  12. What's Frank Deford reading?



    Frank Deford

    Before Deford, 77, began serving as the weekly sports commentator for National Public Radio in 1980, he was renowned for pioneering longform sportswriting in Sports Illustrated.

    Fast-forward to 2016. Deford has pared down his on-air work for NPR to once a month. "But I will always write. Writing is an infusion for me, and I think I will write until they put me in assisted living,'' said Deford, who is also well-known for penning Everybody's All-American (turned into a 1988 movie starring Jessica Lange and Dennis Quaid) and Alex: The Life of a Child (the story of his daughter, Alexandra, who died of cystic fibrosis in 1980). Add to that this month's release of I'd Know That Voice Anywhere, a collection of his NPR essays, as well as an upcoming novel Deford describes as a post-World War II family saga....

    “Writing is an infusion for me, and I think I will write until they put me in assisted living,” says Frank Deford, who is known for pioneering longform sportswriting in Sports Illustrated. Getty Images (2006)
  13. What's Matthew Carr reading?



    Matthew Carr

    This month, Carr is seeing the publication of Devils of Cardona, his historical novel set in 16th century Spain. At once, it is a murder mystery as well as a look at the Inquisition and the tensions between the Catholics and the Moriscos (Muslims) forced to convert to Christianity at the time. Carr, a journalist who holds a history degree from the University of London, is most known for his nonfiction, including The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism From the Assassination of Tsar Alexander II to Al-Qaeda and Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain. We caught up with Carr, 60, by phone from Derbyshire, England....

    Matthew Carr, a journalist who holds a history degree from the University of London, is most known for his nonfiction, including “The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism From the Assassination of Tsar Alexander II to Al-Qaeda” and “Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain.”
  14. Zipping around Oldsmar not for faint of heart (w/video)


    OLDSMAR — As I drove along busy State Road 580 heading to the new Empower Adventures zipline course behind Bicentennial Park, I thought about how peculiar it seemed that globetrotting ecotourists in places like Maui, with its lush mountains and pristine waterfalls, might be spending their Memorial Day the same way I would be spending mine in Oldsmar — taking a canopy zipline tour.

    I also was thinking about how my heart was beating double-time. It wasn't that ziplines or heights surpassing 60 feet were great fears of mine. It was more about a fear that I might have agreed to try something my body would not let me do. If I were a car, I wouldn't be a 2016 shiny sports car. I would be more a vintage oldie-but-goodie....

    Jennifer Jacobs of St. Petersburg zips over the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve at Oldsmar’s Bicentennial Park on Monday. Operated by Empower Adventures Tampa Bay, professional guides lead groups of about 10 through the course, which takes between two and three hours.
  15. Epilogue: Mitchell Harter, former Clearwater Bomber, dies at 72


    SEMINOLE — As a kid growing up in Clearwater, Mitch Harter's athletic skills landed him the nickname, "the Belmont Terror" in his neighborhood.

    As teenagers, when Mr. Harter's future wife, Marguerite, watched him on the pitcher's mound, she realized a certain look he had, one she would go on to see countless times through the decades.

    "He'd be looking straight at the batter, and he'd move his muscles a certain way while he was thinking, but it looked like some kind of grin,'' she said....

    The Clearwater Bomber-Firefighter Farm League, the Rescue Squad, were the 1961 champs. Bottom row, from left, Buddy Cofiell, Maurice Legros, Gary Coats, Bill McDermott, Harlow Boyer, Roger Gildersleeve, Jim Curran and Dennis Cason; top row, from left, Don Osborn, who headed the program; Arnie Kuypers, Mitchell Harter, Rick Ware, Royce Benefield, Skip Plage, Bill Nixon, Dennis Roberts and Danny Wells.