As promised, I’ve now released Tortoise Stew on Kindle (by P.C. Zick). It’s a real deal at .99 cents. It was originally published in paperback in 2006 under my former name (Patricia Camburn Behnke). The new e-book version has been updated and edited.
Here’s a review of the book from 2006. It still holds true today, except I now live in Pennsylvania and work full time writing my blogs and working on my fiction. I especially love this review because the writer makes a loose comparison between me and one of my heroes, Carl Hiassen.
By Peter Guinta, St. Augustine Record
Published Friday, July 07, 2006
An old reporter once said, “The smaller the town, the more vicious its politics.”
Patricia Camburn Behnke’s novel, Tortoise Stew, released in March, illustrates that point perfectly, even though it is set in the fictional town of Calloway in North Florida.
Tortoise Stew tells the story of Kelly Sands, a reporter working for a weekly newspaper in Zion County (also fictional). Sands had thoroughly irritated a powerful cabal of local public officials, outside developers, corrupt real estate agents — and their muscle-bound stooges — with her probing questions and news stories about land usage.
The group thinks she’s far, far too aggressive in telling the public about their plans to build an airstrip and movie studio. They are acquiring property in secret, using false names and coercing public officials, she learns. But how to prove it?
They’re not above bribery or threats when need be, such as leaving a bomb on her desk one day or breaking into her computer.
But, incredibly, that’s just one thread in the book’s plot tapestry, which spirals into murder, incest, rape, armadillos, death by tractor trailer and mayhem — all the things that make a small town interesting.
A reader will recognize right away the Big Gulp that has been Florida’s land grab.
Tortoises, too, are part of the story. There are also emotional peaks and valleys, rabid environmentalists, an up-close look at how newspapers work and how relationships don’t, though it’s a love story too. This isn’t a chick book. It’s a page-turning thriller set in a condensed place, which just makes the pot boil quicker.
Behnke is a St. Augustine resident and an experienced and award-winning journalist who worked for the High Springs Herald in 2002. The following year, she and her ex-husband started and published a 5,000-circulation newspaper in another small town.
She served as its editor and chief writer, covering politics and writing columns, editorials and news articles. Her husband was art director. They sold the paper in 2005.
So Behnke knows the biz.
Now she is editor-in-chief for Tower Publications in Gainesville and is working on a non-fiction book, Two Moons In Africa, about a Florida man taken hostage in Angola in 1990.
Behnke is an active public speaker and recently spoke to St. Augustine’s chapter of the Florida Writers Association. (The FWA meets 10 a.m. to noon at the main library on July 15.)
I suspect Kelly Sands is Behnke’s alter-ego. Sands is a thorough reporter who learns to be feisty. At one point, after a triumph over the forces of darkness, she says, “That’ll teach them to leave a bomb on my desk!”
Tortoise Stew can be shelved with your Carl Hiassen’s books, because both authors hate the development and corruption that is making all of Florida look like Miami, and because both are great reads.