Praise for Les Standiford:
“Hubris and gilded dreams are good subjects for Standiford, who has previously written about Henry Frick and Andrew Carnegie, among others; he artfully captures small moments while maintaining the historian’s broader view . . . Like Mulholland’s aqueduct, the book covers a lot of ground while moving along in episodic but dramatic fashion.”New York Times Book Review, on Water to the Angels
“[An] incredibly timely book . . . A powerfuland beautifully toldstory of hubris, ingenuity, and, ultimately, deepest tragedy.”Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake, on Water to the Angels
“A refreshingly engaging tale.”Los Angeles Review of Books, on Water to the Angels
“Oozes with tales of back-room corruption and opportunism . . . Unearths some new archival nuggets along the way.”Miami Herald, on Water to the Angels
“Masterful . . . Standiford has a way of making the 1890s resonate with a twenty-first-century audience.”USA Today, on Meet You in Hell
“Standiford tells the story with the skills of a novelist . . . A colloquial style that is mindful of William Manchester’s great The Glory and the Dream.”Pittsburgh Tribune, on Meet You in Hell
“A dramatic story . . . Les Standiford has a good deal of fun with it all.”Washington Post Book World, on Last Train to Paradise
“A definitive account of the engineering feat that became known as ‘Flagler’s Folly’. . . A rousing adventure.”Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on Last Train to Paradise
“This is a wonderfully told tale, a strange and compelling story about a strange and compelling part of the world. With sharp, evocative reporting, the book captures an era, the Florida landscape, and the very human dream of doing the impossible.”Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book, on Last Train to Paradise
A history of the famed resort town and a residence that has "assumed a stature in the collective consciousness far larger than its physical bounds."
Standiford (Center of Dreams: Building a World-Class Performing Arts Complex in Miami, 2018, etc.) returns to the Floridian territory of the rich and famous that he chronicled in his biography of Henry Flagler (Last Train to Paradise, 2002), but this time the author will likely attract even more readers with the newly relevant Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump and his purchase of the mansion in 1985 does not take center stage until more than 200 pages have elapsed, but after that, he and his over-the-top resort occupy the majority of the rest of the book. Before focusing on Trump, though, Standiford recounts the epic struggle of the ultrawealthy to transform what are now known as Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Key West into a previously unimaginable enclave for conspicuous consumption. Flagler dominates the narrative for a stretch of pages, as does architect Addison Mizner, who was famous for his Mediterranean revival and Spanish colonial revival styles. The other main character is heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who was most responsible for the design, construction, and legend of Mar-a-Lago. Post collected lovers and husbands, but arguably the most significant was her husband E.F. Hutton, the wealthy financier. Mar-a-Lago served as a Post-Hutton showplace, boasting 62,500 square feet and 128 rooms. For the most part, it gained renown because of its style and setting rather than its size; after all, it wasn't nearly the largest mansion in the area. Standiford likes to compare and contrast the sizes and styles of the mansions as he offers background about their owners. For readers who never tire of reading about extreme wealth, the book will hold endless fascination. Others, however, may lose interest partway through. Unsurprisingly, Standiford offers a negative portrayal of Trump, chronicling his controversial purchase and the many ugly battles that ensued.
During this era of extreme income inequality, much of the narrative is antiquated and irrelevant except for the Trump connection.