In June, 1836, 24-year-old Jacob Rhett Motte, a Harvard-educated Southern gentleman trained as a surgeon, departed his hometown of Charleston to serve as an Army surgeon in wars against the Creek and Seminole Indians. Motte, who had a genuine literary flair, began keeping a journal – “While witnessing the dreadful scenes of Indian warfare, I was also impressed with the conviction that descriptions of horrible massacres, imminent and hair-breadth escapes, bloody battles, and dreadful murders have always been subjects of interest to the human mind,” he later wrote.
In the 1930s, the Federal Writers' Project paid Stetson Kennedy and Zora Neale Hurston, along with other lesser-known writers, to create driving tours of Florida. The FWP and the State of Florida jointly published the results as Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State. In Backroads of Paradise, Cathy Salustri retraces the routes these writers traveled, bringing a modern eye to the historic tours.
Mile Marker Zero tells the story of how a league of great American writers and artists found their identities in Key West and maintained their friendships over the decades, despite oceans of booze and boatloads of pot, through serial marriages and sexual escapades, in that dangerous paradise.