LABELLE, FL. -- Local newspaper editor Patty Brant recently published her first book, Bitter Secrets, a story of a small town gal reporter Molly Martindale of the Oxbox Independent, and her encounters with the locals.
One may wonder how much of the fictional tale is based on reality. Who could be town drunk Dennis Blankenship, for example? And James St. Clair, successful businessman and restaurateur, and son Anderson? Anderson, the mayor of Oxbow, and brother Elwood who eventually became a lawyer are part of the mystery.
And then there's Ruby Mae's Cafe near the Independent office, where Hoppin' John was served, a "concoction of hamburger, chopped tomatoes, and onions over rice." The restaurant was started by two sisters and named after their mother. And what happened the night a truck with it's lights out, pulls up with four men?
And the "Quarters" where blacks shunned the neighborhood's common name, preferring "Oak Park" where in the 1920s, the city fathers were petitioned by the city's first black leaders to set aside a section for a "Negro town." Sweet Chariot EME Church, the black community's largest church and near the old wooden frame Booker School, was celebrating it's 50th anniversary.
And what about Miss Jolene "caught up in memories from a lifetime ago" who couldn't "stop them from tumbling out."
Noting there are other townsfolk "who had a serious and unhealthy fondness for the bottle - and these days, other things too," Milton Parker was introduced. No one talked about Milton or his family. Nothing could be found in the town's open-one-day-a week Oxbow Museum about the Parker family. An investigation leads to a dead end.
An intriguing tale making me wonder does Patty bite her nails like Molly?
"I see faces," says Molly. Molly is not an investigative reporter, she admits, but she's wading through a long dead teenage girl's diary. What are the bitter secrets?
Patty Brant is a native of Canton, Ohio, and has lived in Florida since 1969. She has lived in Hendry County since 1981 and worked for the Caloosa Belle, newspaper in LaBelle since 1985, serving as editor since 1991. She and her husband have two daughters and three grandchildren. Bitter Secrets is her first book.
The Barron Library has selected Bitter Secrets as a selection of their Book Club for October. It's available on Amazon.com or Google Play in book form or as a download eBook.