Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West

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True tales of writers and pirates, painters and potheads, guitar pickers and drug merchants in America’s southernmost city
 
For Hemingway and Fitzgerald, there was Paris in the twenties. For others, later, there was Greenwich Village, Big Sur, and Woodstock. But for an even later generation—one defined by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Tom McGuane, and Hunter S. Thompson—there was another moveable feast: ...
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Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West

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Overview

True tales of writers and pirates, painters and potheads, guitar pickers and drug merchants in America’s southernmost city
 
For Hemingway and Fitzgerald, there was Paris in the twenties. For others, later, there was Greenwich Village, Big Sur, and Woodstock. But for an even later generation—one defined by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Tom McGuane, and Hunter S. Thompson—there was another moveable feast: KeyWest, Florida.

The small town on the two-by-four-mile island has long been an artistic haven, a wild refuge for people of all persuasions, and the inspirational home for a league of great American writers. Some of the artists went there to be literary he-men. Some went to re-create themselves. Others just went to disappear—and succeeded. No matter what inspired the trip, Key West in the seventies was the right place at the right time, where and when an astonishing collection of artists wove a web of creative inspiration.

Mile Marker Zero tells the story of how these 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.

Unlike the “Lost Generation” of Paris in the twenties, we have a generation that invented, reinvented, and found itself at the unending cocktail party at the end—and the beginning—of America’s highway.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Geographically isolated Key West, Fla., gained a reputation for vice and lawlessness while also developing a unique spirit and culture both Latin and Anglo, writes McKeen (biographer of Hunter S. Thompson). The spirit of Hemingway, who wrote or worked on nearly all of his major works there between 1928 and 1939, hovers over the island; and Tennessee Williams moved there in the'40s and was still hanging out into the '70s when the streets were thick with younger writers, artists, and musicians like Tom McGuane, Jim Harrison, Hunter Thompson, and Jimmy Buffett. Although McKeen's portrait of Key West as a onetime bohemian utopia and hotspot is atmospheric, and many of his anecdotes are absorbing, others are marred by patches of flabby and testosterone-fueled prose and never quite gel into a cohesive narrative. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Hunter S. Thompson, Jimmy Buffett, Tom McGuane, and Tom Corcoran walk into a bar—so begins this rollicking look at the 1970s artistic culture of Key West, FL. (The book does not explore Key West's subsequent gay culture, intellectual or otherwise.) At the urging of Corcoran, a Floridian author of mystery novels (e.g., Hawk Channel Chase), McKeen (journalism, Boston Univ.; Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson) has scrupulously documented the drug, drinking, and hippie life of these men who flocked to the Keys to emulate Ernest Hemingway with the hope of becoming as famous as Papa. The book is authenticated with endnotes citing McKeen's conversations with the main players of the time. Thompson was the ladies' man of the group, McGuane had a wandering eye, Buffett strummed his guitar (later he authored several best-selling books), and Corcoran sold tacos from a bicycle. McKeen provides background on the history of Key West and shows how the island has morphed into a contemporary "alcoholic theme park" (e.g., Buffett's Margaritaville empire) where cruise ship passengers stop for drinks and shopping, rather than to explore the local history. VERDICT A necessary read for fans of Florida fiction or any of the figures included here, as well as for those traveling to Key West.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL
From the Publisher
“A tall but telescopic-sight-true tale of Hunter Thompson, Jimmy Buffet, Tom McGuane, and a large cavorting cast running around with sand in their shoes at ‘ground zero for lust and greed and most of the other deadly sins:’ Key West.”—Tom Wolfe

"Mile Marker Zero is a wonderful zinger of a book. Never before have the literary traditions of the Conch Republic been mined for such gold nugget anecdotes. McKeen has once again proven why he is perhaps the most lucid and imaginative professor of journalism history in modern-day America. Every page sings a story worth a 
Jimmy Buffett song." —Douglas Brinkley

"Not just another paean to sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, William McKeen's gritty, no-holds-barred oeuvre, Mile Marker Zero, carefully and thoroughly establishes the groundwork for understanding and appreciating the achievement of literary mavericks and artists of Key West in the Seventies. This treatment of the personal lives and works of Tom McGuane, Jim Harrison, Russell Chatham, Jimmy Buffet, Hunter S. Thompson…offers an arresting and instructive rendering of this colorful cadre of characters, in the shadow of Key West's most famous resident, Ernest Hemingway, drawn together in this tropical Greenwich Village to establish a new enclave on the fringe." —Beef Torrey, Co-Editor of Jim Harrison:  A Comprehensive Bibliography, Conversations with Hunter S. Thompson, and Conversations with Thomas McGuane

"An engrossing tell-all in which Key West's most notable residents struggle to find sanity, sobriety and a place to call home." —Kirkus Reviews

“McKeen's portrait of Key West as a onetime bohemian utopia and hotspot is atmospheric, and…his anecdotes are absorbing.”—Publishers Weekly

“A romp….a rollicking chronicle of the musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers who created a vibrant if nihilistic scene in the 1970s. Deft storytelling…a good story about good times (and bad)” —Wall Street Journal

“Make McKeen's tale your next trip to the island.” —Sun Sentinel

"You may not believe that these writers were able to take their eyes off the famous Key West sunset to focus on their work, but every feast needs a backdrop."—Cape Cod Times

“[E]nthralling…Mr. McKeen is perfectly placed to relay the antics of this decadent decade, not merely because of his academic credentials, but more importantly because of his fine use of the English language. His words would most certainly draw a nod of approval from all those he writes about and clearly admires…Well-crafted observations….are indicative of just how in tune with the era the author is.
 
There is a saying that if you remember the sixties, then you weren’t there; in the same vein, this book should be read by not only anyone with even a passing interest in this fascinating period of literary creativity, but also by anyone who actually was in Key West during the seventies—they could probably use a few reminders of just what was buzzing on the island at the time anyway."—New York Journal of Books

“[O]nly enhances the appeal of the Conch Republic….a tale of the island's famous personalities that flows as easily as an ocean breeze."—Orlando Sentinel 

 

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307592002
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM McKEEN teaches at Boston University, where he chairs the department of journalism. He is the author or editor of nine books, including the acclaimed Hunter S. Thompson biography Outlaw Journalist. He is married and the father of seven children and lives on the rocky coast of Cohasset, Massachusetts.
 
williammckeen.com

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2011

    If you love the Keys, You will love this book.

    Very interesting history of the Keys. Great stories about celebs and the local "Conchs" alike. The intersecting of lives and how it happens is really quite unbelievable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Ezcellent if you enjoy Florida history. Very good for all others

    I really enjoyed the early history ( 60's & 70's ) of Key west and the charaters that shaped it. They played hard and worked hard--good combination

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2012

    On par with Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.

    A grand presentation of the literary history of Key West. Using Tom Corcoran as a focal point makes the story real, current and relevant. Caused me to reread Tom McQuane's 92 in the Shade and order The Sporting Club and The Bushwacked Piano. Corcoran and McQuane - great combo with strong ties to the Keys. Well researched and annotated. You will love this book if you love literature and the Florida Keys.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 11, 2011

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    Posted September 2, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

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