Satirizing Florida as a haven for scheming and unscrupulous developers may be a favorite pastime of Carl Hiaasen _ and his latest imitators, S.V. Date and Tim Dorsey (see reviews on this page) _ but these guys are not the first journalists to use fiction to skewer those who would pave over the state in the name of progress. John Keasler, a humor columnist for the now defunct Miami News, also was appalled at Florida's propensity to attract the greedy. In his 1958 novel Surrounded on Three Sides, which the University Press of Florida is reprinting as part of its Florida Sand Dollar Series, he tells the story of Paul Higgins, a PR man from New York, who comes up with ingenious ways to discourage people from coming to Flat City, a fictional town in rural Florida, so that the town can keep its original charm. Here is Keasler's description of that charm:
"Passing the city limits of Flat City, Paul drove fast, looking approvingly at what he saw. He loved the unmarred greenness and the almost unreal emptiness, the pines stark against the far horizon. No car met him and no car passed. The emptiness satisfied a deep need, the quiet soothed nerves which had heard too much jangle for too long. He loved this place, at the same time understanding how it could look bleak to others . . .
Buzzards hovered. A possum was dead by the roadside. It was a place of silence, Flat County. Man had never been officially recognized here. This was still as it had been. The asphalt was merely a thin line across time. Quail rose suddenly, a half dozen; a machine noise against the quietness as they fluttered. At night the frogs croaked."