Small in geography and population, Sanibel Island packs a powerful punch in modern literature.
From heavyweights like Randy Wayne White to first-time novelists, a remarkable number of fictional books are based in or involve situations surrounding Sanibel, including Mr. White’s first novel, “Sanibel Flats.”
He will release his newest novel, “Cuba Straits,” in late March. Randy White, who lives in Sanibel, is regularly on best-seller lists.
But others with Sanibel as a fictional foundation have had impact as well.
Island writer Charles Sobczak has written nonfiction on wildlife, but has fictional works with characters in Sanibel. That the island is 70 percent undeveloped and that its beaches and back bays have primitive attractions are part of the attraction to writers, said Sobczak, who also writes a column, Living Sanibel, for the Islander/Island Reporter newspaper.
Upon arrival in 1982, Sobczak was “absolutely blown away by the lack of high-rises, the restrictions on building heights, the (Ding) Darling Refuge,” he said. “It is inspiring.”
Linda Abbott never dreamed of writing a novel. But that all changed one year when she arrived in Sanibel for a vacation alone.
Though she’d worked in journalism and public relations, the idea of writing fiction was daunting. But it was in Sanibel that she found the muse and wrote the opening chapter of her debut novel “Ten Days in Paradise.”
Abbott’s love for Sanibel shines throughout “Ten Days In Paradise,” a novel that explores the inner landscapes of marriage and family relationships. She vacations in Sanibel every year, recently held an island book signing.
“Sanibel is my favorite place in the world,” Abbott said. “Whether I’m walking on the beach or riding my bike through the lush greenery, Sanibel never fails to renew my spirits and belief in all that is possible. And this novel is proof of that.”
Ever wonder what could be hiding in the thick vegetation of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge? In W.C. Highfield’s third published fiction, “The Secret Bank of Sanibel,” what lurks in the backwoods of the “Ding” isn’t an animal, but instead something with more razor sharp teeth and more ruthless than any hungry alligator.
Set in Sanibel, Highfield’s story centers around a bank, but this isn’t like your normal family bank. No, this is an international bank set on world capital domination under the hidden confines of the “Ding.”
“There are some practices that banks do which are bad and this bank hidden in the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge does all those bad things, it’s a bad bank on steroids,” Highfield said during a Jan. 21 presentation at the Captiva Library. “This is a bank bad in all ways and it eliminates everyone who gets in the way.”
Highfield’s descriptions of Sanibel are detailed, which brings the taste of home cooking to the book. It’s a nice blend of the reality of Sanibel’s settings, hitting the fictional world of Highfield’s storytelling.
Highfield has published two other novels based in Florida, including “Streets” which takes place in Key West and “In Sun Down Under” which is about an 11-day story on Fort Myers Beach.
* Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford novels feature marine biologist and quirky pal, Tomlinson, who have enjoyed a growing cult following since the first book “Sanibel Flats” appeared in 1990. Randy White was a light-tackle fishing guide in Sanibel, did more than 3,000 charters, and draws heavily on those experiences for his novels about Dr. Marion Ford and friends at Dinkin’s Bay.
* Christine Lemmon is the author of a series of superbly written novels with the theme of women struggle to realize their true potential.
“Sanibel Scribbles” is the story of Vicki Brightman, her best friend Rebecca, a six-month journey to another country, a roster of colorful characters, and the unexpected demands that compel equally unexpected changes in one’s life.
“Portion Of The Sea” is the complex story of 15-year-old Lydia Isleworth, who meets Marlena DiPluma, an aspiring Hollywood actress who give Lydia her journal and admonishes that Lydia is capable of accomplishing anything that she wants to achieve.
“Sand In My Eyes is the story of Anna Hott, who leaves her high-pressure life, failing marriage, and demanding children behind when she moves from New York City to Sanibel, where life is lived at a very different pace and enables her.
Lemmon was born in Chicago. She lives in Sanibel with her husband and three children. Ideas for her novels come to her while bike riding, hiking through preserves, and watching sunsets with her family, she said.
* Ron Base’s five books based in Sanibel and Captiva feature unlikely private detective Tree Callister that have become local bestsellers.
“Readers seem to really like the books,” said Base, in explaining the success of the Sanibel Sunset Detective series. “They respond to the Sanibel-Captiva setting, but they also like Tree and the fact that he is not this super-hero tough guy. He’s a vulnerable, imperfect 60-ish man attempting to make sense of an increasingly confused world and trying to figure out his place in it-at the same time getting himself into the kind of hot water that leads to all sorts of mystery and mayhem.” Base is working on a sixth title in the series, “The Four Wives of the Sanibel Sunset Detective.”
* Linda Abbott’s “Ten Days in Paradise” is about vacationing on beautiful Sanibel Island. Ellen Bennett has never felt so guilty-or more alive. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to turn out. The 45-year-old successful career woman, wife and mother traveled to the island paradise for solitude and a much-needed break from her family. But a chance encounter with a fellow traveler sparks a powerful attraction, forcing Ellen to make a decision that could change her life forever.
Abbott wrote the contemporary women’s romance vacationing in Sanibel.
“Something about the ocean,” Abbott said. “It renews my belief that all things are possible.”
* Kristen Hartman writes fictional romance novels that take place in authentic beach locales. She currently has four novels set in Sanibel.
* Kyle Miller is the author of “Dillo: A Baby Armadillo’s Adventures on Sanibel Island,” for which she was nominated for an Angel of the Arts Award in 2007. Other popular titles include “Mysterious Creature,” “Snowy Pea and the Ghost Crab” and “Trouper: The True Adventures of a Blind Raccoon.” Kyle, Miss Dot and Trouper the Raccoon are frequently around the island, helping to teach children and adults the importance of showing respect to our island creatures.
* Charles Sobczak’s “Six Mornings on Sanibel” is a reader favorite. Recently, his guide books, “Living Sanibel” and “Living Gulf Coast” have become staples for locals and visitors alike. “Six Mornings on Sanibel” is a moving story for readers of all ages. Two unlikely men meet one morning at the fishing pier on Sanibel Island in Florida. Over the course of the next six mornings, they share more than just snook runs and cold Cokes.
* Jane Kirschner’s children’s book “Annabelle from Sanibel” is a perennial favorite. When her peaceful, island lifestyle is suddenly turned upside down by Hurricane Charley, granny Annabelle finds comfort and solace in her favorite treat, key lime pie. Her secret recipe is included.