When author Matthew Pearl's family moved to Davie in 1980, it wasn't even Davie yet. "There was nothing out there," he says. "Just orange groves and dairy farms. My friends' parents could never find my house." Pearl was five and somehow managed to cross the wilderness every morning to the University School at Nova Southeastern, where a love of literature was instilled in him by two English teachers, Linda Winrow and Lynne Lambert. Incidentally, both are still teaching at the University School, so if you go to Pearl's reading at Book&Books, Coral Gables on Tuesday night (March 24, 8pm), you may be sitting next to one of them. According to Pearl, they come to all his Florida readings and even correct his grammatical mistakes afterward. "They were always pretty tough," he says.
Pearl's novels are something like the fantastical day-dreams of an English teacher. Each is based on hundreds of hours of research of 19th Century writers that's then woven into a highly-readable murder-mystery. His first, 2003's The Dante Club, was born out of the undergraduate thesis he wrote at Harvard--it even had the same name--but was a scholarly paper on the first American efforts to translate the work of the famous Italian poet. It wasn't until Pearl was a second-year law student that he began to play around with the idea of turning his research into something fictional. "It started more as an outlet for distraction, frustration, and nostalgia for studying literature," he says.
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The book took three years to complete but became an overnight sensation in the vein of "The DaVinci Code," hitting the best-seller list in over 40 countries, and Pearl himself has become in high-demand as an op-ed writer for publications like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Slate.com. And though he lives full-time in Cambridge, in order to have access to all of the great libraries, he explains, he keeps close ties to South Florida. He even got married last year at his parents' house in Davie, in a neighborhood called Sunshine Ranches that Pearl describes as, "one of the last rural-styled communites."
Because of his local ties and the enormous popularity of his books, Pearl should fill the tiny Books & Books space very quickly, so we advice getting there early.