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In Last Train to Paradise novelist Les Standiford has written a lively, felicitous account of the building of the
Florida East Coast Railway, which, for a little over two decades, connected mainland Florida with Key West. Henry
Morrison Flagler, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil partner and, in many eyes, the true genius behind that company,
embarked on the project in 1905 when he was 74 years old. The railroad, which crossed more than 150 miles of open sea,
was an engineering feat nearly equal in scale and difficulty to the digging of the Panama Canal. Standiford's narrative
skillfully blends tales of construction perils (not the least of which were escadrilles of mosquitoes) with brief,
illuminating travelogues and natural histories, pocket descriptions of life in early 20th-century Florida, and a truly
gripping description of an epic standoff between Mother Nature, in the form of a monstrous hurricane, and a stalled,
160-ton steam locomotive. With nary a single missed note, this fascinating tale is popular history at its best. --H.