|Vintage Pulp||Jan 29 2023|
It seems like Florida novels are a distinct genre of popular fiction, and most of the books, regardless of the year of their setting, lament how the state is being drawn and quartered in pursuit of easy money. But those complaints are usually just a superficial method of establishing the lead characters' local cred. Theodore Pratt, in his novel The Big Bubble, takes readers deep inside early 1920s south Florida real estate speculation in the person of a builder named Adam Paine (based on real life architect Addison Mizner), who wants to bring the aesthetic of old world Spain to Palm Beach—against the wishes of longtime residents.
Paine builds numerous properties, but his big baby is the Flamingo Club, a massive hotel complex done in Spanish and Moorish style. He even takes a trip to Spain to buy beautiful artifacts for his masterpiece. This was the most interesting part for us, riding along as he wandered Andalusia (where we live), buying treasures for his ostentatious palace. He buys paintings, tapestries, sculptures, an ornate fireplace, an entire staircase, basically anything that isn't nailed down, even stripping monasteries of their revered artifacts. His wife Eve is horrified, but Paine tells her he's doing the monks a favor because they'd otherwise go broke.
You may not know this, but Spain is pretty bad at preserving its ancient architecture. That's another reason The Big Bubble resonated for us—because Spain is very Floridian in that it's being buried under an avalanche of cheap, ugly developments. We love south Florida's Spanish revival feel. What's metastasized in Spain is a glass and concrete aesthetic that offers no beauty and weathers like it's made of styrofoam. The properties are basically glass box tax dodges. The point is, reading The Big Bubble felt familiar in terms of its critique of real estate booms, but simultaneously we saw Paine as a visionary. He made us wish Spanish builders had a tenth of his good taste.
Since the book is set during the 1920s (and its title is so descriptive) you know Florida's property bubble will burst. Paine already has problems to deal with before the crash. Pratt resolves everything in interesting fashion. He was a major novelist who wrote more than thirty books, with five adapted to film, so we went into The Big Bubble expecting good work, and that's what we got. And apparently it's part of a Palm Beach trilogy (though he set fourteen novels in Florida total). We'll keep an eye out for those other two Palm Beach books (The Flame Tree and The Barefoot Mailman). In the meantime, we recommend The Big Bubble. Originally published in 1951, this Popular Library edition is from 1952 with uncredited art.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 24 2022|
|The Naked City||Nov 8 2008|
The wheels of justice move slowly but they still have a way catching up with you. Millionaire Palm Beach real estate developer Thanos Papalexis found that out when he was accused of a murder that occurred more than eight years ago. Feds arrested Papalexis in broad daylight at a swanky West Palm Beach eatery, and now the British national is being extradited to the U.K. to face charges that he snuffed 55 year old Charalambos Christodoulides.
According to extradition papers, Christodoulides was a resident in a warehouse Papalexis planned to renovate and then flip for big money. But Papalexis couldn’t move forward with his plan as long as Christodoulides remained in residence. And Christodoulides refused to vacate. Allegedly Papalexis was losing $120,000 a week in interest on a bridging loan he’d taken out to finance the deal, so he compounded that serious error with another by hiring thugs Robert Baxhija and Ylli Xhelo to help kill Christodoulides and vanish the body.
Unfortunately for Papalexis, his hired henchmen weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and the victim’s corpse was found a mere week after the killing. He had been beaten, strangled, dumped in a mechanics’ pit at a car repair shop, and doused in lighter fluid in an attempt to thwart police dogs. The extradition papers claim Papalexis is circumstantially connected to the murder via telephone records, legal documents, and physically connected via forensic evidence—including DNA at the crime scene.
The implication is clear—authorities will try to prove Papalexis personally administered a grisly goodbye beating to Christodoulides before the troublesome tenant was slain and secreted. The violence of the event was surprising even to cops—blood spray reached the ceiling of the room where the victim was worked over.
The charges came as a surprise in swanky Palm Beach, where Papalexis spent years clawing his way up the social ladder and had become a major player, even hosting a January political fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in a 5,700 square foot mansion he rented in nearby Manalapan. But high times rubbing shoulders with the political elite are just a memory for Papalexis now—he’ll be held without bail until trial.