Earlier this year, Florida’s Clemency Board voted to pardon four black men unjustly accused of rape 70 years ago in Lake County. A hefty part of the push to grant the posthumous pardons was Gilbert King’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America. We recently caught up with King, whose 2018 book, Beneath a Ruthless Sun, has just been released in paperback. It is the true story of what happened in the tiny Florida town of Okahumpka after a woman was sexually assaulted. Beneath a Ruthless Sun won a 2019 Florida Book Award gold medal for nonfiction.
What’s on your nightstand?
Arthur Ashe: A Life, Son of Real Florida, Florida and When Rap Spoke Straight to God.
Aside from the fact I would read anything Ray Arsenault writes, Arthur Ashe: A Life is a thoroughly captivating biography of one of America’s greatest athletes, and it’s been fascinating to read about Ashe’s awakening to the cause of civil rights.
I’m also trying to catch up on books that have been published over the past year that I’ve been wanting to read. Lauren Groff is such a gifted writer, and she’s got me hooked again with Florida, a collection of short stories.
With all the historical research I’ve done in the state of Florida over the past 10 years, I’m consistently coming across feature stories and columns by Jeff Klinkenberg, and I’ve become such a fan of his writing. With Son of Real Florida on my nightstand, I’m so happy I won’t have to read him on microfilm anymore.
After hearing Erica Dawson speak at the Florida Book Awards a few weeks ago, I knew I wanted to read her poetry. When Rap Spoke Straight to God has had me in a trance. So lyrical and unflinching.
What author would you encourage people to read to have a greater understanding of Florida, its people and history?
Martin Dyckman (retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times) is a writer I’ve come to deeply admire throughout the course of my research in Florida. I’ve gained a great deal of insight into the political machinations in this state over the past four decades through Dyckman’s writing. He is not only a brilliant and tireless journalist, he is able to connect history with the present in ways that astonish and inspire me. Two of his books, Floridian of His Century: The Courage of Governor LeRoy Collins and Reubin O’D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics are always within reach on my desk.