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Redneck Riviera: Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of an American Dream

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"Dennis Covington's father made only one investment in his life, and it was an unfortunate one - two and a half acres of an inland Florida real-estate scam. The entire area, swamp, prairie and palmetto thicket, lay raw and unsurveyed until it was illegally claimed and fenced in by The Hunt Club, a group of gun-toting, talk-radio-listening, anti-government zombies. His father's acres were not only worthless, they were barred by armed guards. This sorry patch of land was Covington's only inheritance." Deed in hand, he leaves his wife and daughters
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Overview

"Dennis Covington's father made only one investment in his life, and it was an unfortunate one - two and a half acres of an inland Florida real-estate scam. The entire area, swamp, prairie and palmetto thicket, lay raw and unsurveyed until it was illegally claimed and fenced in by The Hunt Club, a group of gun-toting, talk-radio-listening, anti-government zombies. His father's acres were not only worthless, they were barred by armed guards. This sorry patch of land was Covington's only inheritance." Deed in hand, he leaves his wife and daughters in Birmingham, Alabama and journeys into the Wild West of the Florida interior to claim his land. But the more determined he becomes to redeem his inheritance and share his father's dream with his own children, the more it seems that his true legacy is bad judgement in real estate. The parcel in question is so small and worthless that the timeless and soulful question, "Who will inherit the land?" turns to a rueful self-mockery. In a tale filled with characters drawn from a bizarre Florida more like Flannery O'Connor's Georgia, Covington finds himself embroiled in a shadow culture of myth, ritual and bloody denouements. His life is threatened, his truck torched, and his small cabin shot up and vandalized, but he clings to his inheritance with heartbreaking tenacity.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rednecks, armadillos and outlaws all play only ancillary roles in National Book Award nominee (for Salvation on Sand Mountain) Covington's touching, meandering tribute to his father. And although the title is somewhat misleading, the American dream is front and center as two generations of the Covingtons tenaciously pursue it. In 1965, the elder Covington bought a two-and-half-acre plot in River Ranch Acres, a Florida real estate scam. The land was worthless, never surveyed, miles from the nearest road, and when his father died in 1988, the younger Covington inherited it. Unfortunately, a band of locals, hunters and ne'er-do-wells calling themselves The Hunt Club had since fenced off the entire area and, with guns, restricted access to outsiders. Undeterred, deed in hand, the author sets out to understand, then realize, his father's dream. He chases "the crazy idea that any inheritance might be worth claiming, no matter how small, no matter the cost." Though this is a bracingly original American adventure story, there's too much padding in this short, generously spaced book. Covington is an able observer and skilled writer, but his detours-especially to Idaho toward the end of the book-prevent cohesiveness. (Jan.) Forecast: A regional author tour will take Covington to Birmingham, Miami and Atlanta, although the book is less about local culture in Florida and Alabama than about the author's relationship with his father, both before and after his father's death. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this intriguingly titled memoir and tribute to the American dream, Covington (creative writing, Texas Tech Univ.)-the author of National Book Award finalist Salvation on Sand Mountain-takes readers on a madcap tour of rural Florida, Texas, Alabama, and Idaho. While he explores the shifting culture and economy of the South, he also addresses his complicated relationship with his father, now deceased. Victimized by a land swindle on the Florida Panhandle (the "Redneck Riviera") and downsized by the new economic order, the senior Covington fades into superannuation. After his death, Covington fils seizes upon his legacy, a virtually worthless tract of land in Florida, and vows to avenge his father's failures-or to fulfill his dreams. Much of the book chronicles skirmishes in the war to attain justice and vindication for the fallen father. The remainder of the book relates Covington's quest for a paradise of his own. That his life both mimics and transcends his father's is no surprise. But Covington's ironic sense of humor and masterful prose will entice readers with an interest in sociology, family dynamics, and the art of writing. Recommended for academic and public library collections.-Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Land schemes, political corruption, bad-old-boy networks, barbarous yahoos, and a man on a mission to secure his patrimony and his father's dreams: they're all fine grist for the storyteller's mill, and Covington (Cleaving, 1999, etc.) makes the most of it. In a moment of temporary insanity, the author's father responded in 1965 to an invitation for "a few select men of outstanding character," offering "exciting news about a 44,800-acre development in Florida called River Ranch Acres." It was perhaps the archetypal land scam, and Covington senior plunked down his dwindling dollars on two and a half acres, sight unseen, for "raw land, traditionally the private reserve of the gentry," a gesture at independence and the future. Years later, when Covington the younger tries to stake claim to his inheritance, he learns the whole of River Ranch Acres has been illegally taken over by a hunt club. Not some tony bunch, either, but a collection of vicious no-goods and squatters who protect their ill-gotten reserve by means of threat, force, and the compliance of the sheriff's office. Dennis is a bit of a ne'er-do-well himself, so the dark, inexorable dance between him and the club has a grim quality from which it is hard to pry your eyes as he recklessly, righteously pursues his father's folly. He belatedly decides that the quest for a patch of one's own might be less mortally realized out in Idaho and slips into his father's metaphorical clothes by obtaining some remote acreage. Bankruptcy renders these properties worthless in the eyes of the court and the bank, but in both instances Covington has realized a tenuous hold to the earth that gives him compass. Boy, did he ever need it. As the authoradmits, it was "a crazy idea that any inheritance might be worth claiming, no matter how small, no matter the cost." Thanks should be given that he stayed alive to tell this strange, headstrong tale. Agent: Frances Kuffel/Maria Carvainis Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582432953
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 12/23/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.64 (h) x 0.71 (d)

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