The Ten Best Florida Novels: Freaks, Pioneers, Retirees, Hurricanes

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Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

South Florida is only one part of Florida. And venturing north of Palm Beach county can often feel like entering a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. Not just any post-apocalyptic science fiction novel -- specifically Alas, Babylon. Yes, mediocre Hemingway is probably a bit better than Pat Frank at his best, as he is here, but To Have and Have Not blunders through a fantasy version of Key West whereas Alas, Babylon nukes central Florida in order to uncover the true peculiarities hidden beneath the postcard gloss of our state.

The Barefoot Mailman by Theodore Pratt

No one is seriously going to weigh Theodore Pratt on the same scale as Ernest Hemingway. But Pratt's long-out-of-print story of the mail route connecting Palm Beach and Miami gives life to a forgotten bit of wild Florida history and the settlement of the state that made Hemingway's Key West at all possible. Plus, you get a glimpse of Lemon City back when Sweat Records were still just something chubby guys broke in the summer and Arcade Fire wasn't jetting down to play shows. Look, Hemingway is awesome, but he only set one book in Florida and it's kind of a mess. Read his other books first and read other Florida books before it, too. Here's one that works.

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B. Caplan