Here is a sampling of recent offerings by local and regional writers: Sandman, by Linda Crockett, Tom Doherty Associates, $4.95.
The central image in Linda Crockett's latest psychological thriller, is the sand castle, the biggest ever built. Crockett, who lives in St. Petersburg and has written 12 other novels, was obviously inspired by the success of Atlantis, a sand castle built on Treasure Island in 1986 that was five stories high (constructed out of 48,000 tons of sand, it made the Guinness Book of World Records). In Sandman Crockett, who worked on the Atlantis castle, writes about a similar project, this time shifting it to a mythical community near Crystal Springs, about 60 miles north of Tampa Bay. In Crockett's version, the castle is designed as a huge publicity gimmick to attract people to a new real estate development, called the Dunes, that is rising out of Central Florida's pristine swamplands.
While Crockett describes in sometimes too minute detail the construction of the castle (aficionados will be delighted), gradually what emerges are the dark and murky sides of the people building the mammoth structure. The heroine's young adopted son has real psychological hang-ups. One of the construction company's officials is a child molester. Worst of all, there are horribly corrupt and decadent creatures hiding in the deep woods around the construction site. Crockett calls them "Wetlanders," and a more disgusting group of miscreants you can't possibly imagine. They take their toll on the innocent workers and wreak general havoc. Just who or what Crockett has in mind as models for these creatures is difficult to tell, but they shed a dark shadow over the proceedings and convert Sandman into a real chiller.
Sand Castle Summer, by Carol Perry, Willowisp Press, $2.75.
Carol Perry, who lives in Madeira Beach, has also been inspired by sand castle building in her latest work of fiction for young adults. Set in the St. Petersburg Beach area, Sand Castle Summer is, however, decidedly more light-hearted than Sandman. The characters are clear-eyed, healthy high school kids whose chief worries consist of how their next dates are going to develop and what to wear on and off the construction site.
Perry's easy, graceful writing style makes reading her new book a pleasure for all ages. The difficulties of Teri, the book's 16-year-old heroine and narrator, never get so serious that you can't enjoy them. And those who love sand castles will learn even more about how to build them.
Blood Lies, by Virginia Anderson, Bantam paperback, $3.95.
This is a mature and fully developed novel by a young graduate student at the University of South Florida in Tampa who lives in the Dade City area. Anderson, who is majoring in English, has already published three other novels.
What she does best is write about horses, and Blood Lies has a lot to do with them. An experienced horsewoman herself, Anderson knows about the details of horse breeding and about the money that is involved in it. Kite, a Triple Crown winner, is at the center of the story, which is about family conflicts that involve not only possession of the valuable horse, but relationships between father and son and the son's relationship with his father's young second wife.
The plot is complex, the character development is detailed and the style is eminently readable. The central figure, Ted, the son who returns to his home more or less in disgrace, is the sort of hero-villain who makes you wonder just what a modern hero ought to be anyway. The story ends equivocally after a climactic scene that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Altogether, I would call Blood Lies an extremely good read, if a little on the somber side.
"War Bride" in Alien Sex by Rick Wilber, edited by Ellen Datlow, Dutton, $18.95.
Rick Wilber lives in Temple Terrace and edits a short story supplement for the Tampa Tribune. His science fiction story in this collection, which concentrates on the sex lives of its characters, is about a future when Earth is dominated by beings from outer space. The hero has formed an attachment with one of the women among the extra-terrestrials, which leads him to an important choice. The story actually deals with human loyalty and friendship, and there is a poignant twist at the end.
The whole collection is interesting, if a little terrifying. As in Wilber's story, the conflict between human loyalties and science in its various forms is paramount, and usually the human beings lose out. In view of what is going on in the world these days, some of these stories seem to be all too prophetic. Let's hope they are not.
No More Sleepless Nights, by Peter Hauri, Ph.D. and Shirley Linde, Ph.D. John Wiley & Sons, $19.95
Dr. Shirley Linde lives in St. Petersburg and is a highly respected science writer with a specialty in medicine. Her co-author is the director of the Mayo Clinic Insomnia Program.
No More Sleepless Nights, as the title suggests, deals with the delicate matter of how to get to sleep once you go to bed at the end of your day. If you have trouble, you are not alone. According to the authors, more than 100-million Americans have occasional problems or chronic insomnia. They include me, so I read this book with particular attention and learned a lot about sleeping that I didn't know before. I still have trouble, but at least I understand why.
The book analyzes exactly what happens to you when you go to sleep, considers why you don't sleep _ anxiety, health, lifestyle problems _ and then devotes a major portion to the things you can do to help you get to sleep. There's a chapter on "Bedtime Relaxation Techniques," for example, that I personally found helpful. There are also simple matters like room temperature, working late, and too much food or booze, that you can do something about that might _ or might not _ make going to sleep a little easier.
For anyone who does have this kind of trouble, I would recommend this book highly. It's practical, well-written and generous in the amount of help and information it purveys.
Ed Hirshberg is a professor of English at the University of South Florida.