Mr. Grunwald, a terrific writer, moves along at a cracking pace. The dredges dig, the railroad advances, the politicians scheme and the dreamers paint their Technicolor fantasies. There is a feverish quality to the endless engineering assaults, the mad plans to rechannel the circulatory system of the Everglades, the blind determination to ignore the forces of nature. For example, no one quite understood that South Florida often experienced powerful hurricanes, so hundreds of poor farmers died in 1926 and 1927 when Lake Okeechobee overflowed.
The New York Times
A lively appreciation of the Everglades as an ecosystem worthy of care and protection-quite a turnaround in attitude, as Washington Post reporter Grunwald reveals. The natural Everglades encompasses an area twice the size of New Jersey, and it lacks both immediately spectacular features and elevation: One "pass" there is marked at a mere three feet above sea level. Yet huge quantities of freshwater slowly roll down the Everglades; as Grunwald writes, "a raindrop that fell in its headwaters in central Florida could have taken an entire year to dribble down to its estuaries at the tip of the peninsula." Nineteenth-century white explorers damned the "Sea of Grass" for its heat, mosquitoes, vast store of reptiles, renegade Indians and runaway slaves, but speculators and capitalists came along who recognized a couple of salient facts: Rich in organic peat, the Everglades could be an agricultural paradise, and it could sustain whole cities. All that was needed was to remake the place entirely-drain the swamps, build vast canals and railroads, divide it into cozy lots. Grunwald's account of the con games and fly-by-nights that made modern South Florida possible is a learned entertainment, though it becomes somewhat less amusing once it's known that the same actors and forces are in play today; one illustrative moment comes when Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and brother of the president, came close to selling off Florida's water rights in the Everglades for the pittance offered by a little company called Azurix, "an aggressive new player in the $400 billion global water market"-and, as it happens, a subsidiary of Enron. Happily, the deal didn't go through. More happily still, Grunwald writes thatmany wide-ranging measures to help restore the Everglades have been successful. Still, "drive through the region's strip-mall hellscapes," Grunwald concludes, and it's clear that much remains to be done to save the Everglades. This lucid history and call to arms is an essential companion to that work.
"This is a wonderfully written, provocative, and important book. It combines history and investigative journalism to explore not only the Everglades but the larger tensions of a society's relationship with the environment. It's also a riveting story, the definitive account of south Florida's incredible journey from marshland to man-made megalopolis."
-- John Barry, author of Rising Tide and The Great Influenza
"The Swamp is the best thing I've ever read about the Everglades. The story of what's happened to this haunted and magical wilderness has the epic ingredients of a great novel -- greed, betrayal, carnage, and valor -- and Michael Grunwald has beautifully captured it all for history."
-- Carl Hiaasen
Mr. Grunwald, a terrific writer, moves along at a cracking pace."
-- William Grimes, The New York Times
"A grand, violent, picaresque history...This book serves up 500 years of bloody, mostly foolish, rarely noble, but always entertaining human antics."
-- Guy Martin, The New York Times Book Review
"A brilliant work of research and reportage."
-- John G. Mitchell, The Washington Post Book World
"Magnificent...This definitive history reads as quickly as a good magazine article."
-- Michael Browning, The Palm Beach Post
"A superb narrative...Grunwald writes with verve and wit."
-- David Fleshler, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"The Swamp is a tremendous book -- impressive in scope, well researched and well written, rich in history yet urgently relevant to current events."
-- Gregg Easterbrook, The New Republic
"Grunwald blends exhaustive research and superlative prose into a book as valuable as a week in Fort Lauderdale, at one-hundredth the price."
-- Andy Solomon, The Boston Globe