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The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid (Florida History and Culture) Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Series: Florida History and Culture
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; First Edition edition (April 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813039746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813039749
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Some people will do anything for beauty or fame

“FANTASTIC. If I did not know most of the main players I would have thought the author had a vivid and twisted imagination..”—Paul Martin Brown, author of Wild Orchids of Florida

“A fascinating true story of obsession, greed, and lust for the unobtainable. Reminds me a great deal of The Maltese Falcon. This rare flower is definitely the stuff that dreams are made of.”—Ace Atkins, author of Devil's Garden and Infamous

“Pittman has captured the extreme competition, unique characters, and general insanity that often typify the orchid world. The Scent of Scandal exemplifies how passion and profit can overrule common sense and the law.”—Scott Steward, former associate editor, North American Native Orchid Journal

After its Peruvian discovery in 2002, Phragmipedium kovachii became the rarest and most sought-after orchid in the world. Prices soared to $10,000 on the black market. Then one showed up at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where every year more than 100,000 people visit. They come for the lush landscape on Sarasota Bay and for Selby’s vast orchid collection, one of the most magnificent in the world.
     The collision between Selby’s scientists and the smugglers of Phrag. kovachii, a rare ladyslipper orchid hailed as the most significant and beautiful new species discovered in a century, led to search warrants, a grand jury investigation, and criminal charges. It made headlines around the country, cost the gardens hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, and led to tremendous internal turmoil.
     Investigative journalist Craig Pittman unravels this tangled web to shine a spotlight on flaws in the international treaties governing trade in endangered wildlife—which may protect individual plants and animals in shipping but do little to halt the destruction of whole colonies in the wild.
     The Scent of Scandal unspools like a riveting mystery novel, stranger than anything in Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief or the film Adaptation. Pittman shows how some people can become so obsessed—with beauty, with profit, with fame—that they will ignore everything, even the law.

From the Inside Flap

Every year more than 100,000 people visit Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, in large part to see its vast orchid collection, one of the most magnificent in the world. But the most famous orchid in Selby’s history—the one hailed as the most significant find in a century—isn't on display. It's the one that led to search warrants, a grand jury investigation, and headlines around the country.
          Discovered in Peru in 2002, the Phragmipedium kovachii quickly became the most sought-after orchid in the world. Prices soared to $10,000 on the black market and otherwise rational people bent rules and broke laws in their obsessive quest to possess it.
          Award-winning journalist Craig Pittman covered this fascinating story, as it happened, for the St. Petersburg Times, Florida’s largest newspaper. In this enthralling account, he unravels the tangled web of smugglers, scientists, and federal investigators to reveal who the real criminals were in this sordid affair. He also shines a spotlight on flaws in the international treaties governing trade in endangered wildlife—treaties that often protect individual plants and animals in shipping but do little to halt the destruction of whole colonies in the wild.
          With candid interviews from nearly everyone involved in the case, The Scent of Scandal unspools like a riveting mystery novel, stranger than anything in Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief or the film Adaptation. Pittman shows how some people can become so obsessed—with beauty, with profit, with fame, with the desire to own a rare flower—that even the possibility of going to prison will not deter their risking everything.

Craig Pittman writes about environmental issues for the St. Petersburg Times. He is the coauthor of Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss and author of Manatee Insanity: Inside the War over Florida’s Most Famous Endangered Species.


More About the Author

Craig Pittman, author of the twisted and amazing new non-fiction book "The Scent of Scandal," is a native Floridian. Born in Pensacola, he graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for Florida's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times), where his coverage has won both state and national awards. A series he co-wrote with Matthew Waite became their book, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," published in 2009. Since then Pittman has written "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species" (2010), which the Florida Humanities Council declared an "essential read" for all Floridians, and "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchids," which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution declared "irresistible."

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Congratulations on a very well written book.
Carol
This non-fiction book reads like a novel and kept me completely entranced.
Heather Anne
Craig Pittman's exposure of the world of orchids is truly amazing.
Richard Selleg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Barnett on April 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Investigative journalist Craig Pittman had covered plenty of crazy people by the time he stepped onto the tranquil grounds of Sarasota's Marie Selby Botanical Gardens to report on a case of orchid smuggling in 2003.

There was the triple killer he interviewed on Death Row who took to writing him letters with smiley faces dotting the i's. There was the woman so in love with manatees she left a date to wade into the water with them fully clothed, then tackled a major political campaign on their behalf. Pittman's second book even had crazy in the name: "Manatee Insanity."

But none of that came close to the maniacal obsession to possess and name a new orchid discovered growing on a hillside in northern Peru. The petals of Phragmipedium kovachii stretch up like hot-pink fairy wings poised to soar away with the swollen pouch that makes it a "slipper orchid." The story of how it got to Selby, and how reputable scientists lost their minds in the race to be first to describe it, makes for incredible reading in "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid."

If it were fiction, "The Scent of Scandal" might be skewered for improbability: A Ph.D. taxonomist named Guido who punches out a cop. Not one but two collectors trying to pitch the idea of a wild-orchid-hunter reality show -- starring themselves as the macho leading man.

Pittman is on staff at the Tampa Bay Times, where he has established himself as one of the nation's top environmental reporters. He came to the beat more than 20 years ago on staff at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Local readers will appreciate his insights into the city's unique history and society scene.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By G. E Farr on June 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Back in 1960 when I turned sixteen a couple of friends and I headed out to explore Big Cypress. Part of our purpose was to experiment with cigarettes and bourbon. For me, at least, son of a hunting guide and nephew of the first biologist ever hired by the old Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, the appeal was even more (really!)the opportunity to explore and investigate the wild places and wildlife. I craved encounters with anything that ran, flew, or -- best of all -- slithered. But one of our number was intersted in the plants, in particular orchids. And they were profuse. The little Butterfly Orchids grew in such profusion that when they bloomed they perfumed the air downwind of the cypress domes they favored. Cigar Orchids and Ghost Orchids were also common, and even more captivating. I was smitten. I still am. We were all smitten. So we stole them. Stole them shamelessly and enthusiastically for parents, teachers, and girls. And on nearby Chevalier Loop (which the locals all called "Chevrolet") a retired Navy Chief had established his own orchid jungle, with boardwalks running out over the swamp waters. He was friendly and informative with us, but he hated "garden club ladies" with a bitter passion, expressed with the force and vocabulary honed in a former life at sea, on warships, in combat. The ladies arrived, according to him, in chauferred limosines and -- stole orchids. And so I learned, first hand and young, that orchids, as James II of England said of falconry, are "a great stirrer up of passions." "A Scent of Scandal" is a recounting of one more story of these most beautiful and erotic of flowers, and of the passionate, irrational, and often illegal actions they inspire.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JeffKnowsStuff on February 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Though orchids are a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, the true money lies with individuals who take advantage of new species for both hybridization and collectors value.

This book explains the grey area encompassing the legal ownership and naming rights of orchids, and the rush to be the first to market...

The importance of this flower lies in the large size and new color, never before seen in the Phragmipedium genus. This makes collectors and hybridizers salivate.

This being said, I am the owner of a legally obtained Phrag kovachii seedling, which by the way are down to about $100 for a two inch seedling from several hundred a few years ago.

Even the growers, whom I speak with personally, many mentioned in this book, speculate that thieves took several thousand of these plants from the wild to supply their illegal ventures and wealthy collectors.

A wonderful well written account!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Carol on April 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best orchid book written yet - much better than the others. It is very fast paced - I could not put it down - and I'm buying it for my friends. The author does a great job of describing the events and how they fit together - I had heard bits and pieces but never the entire story. Congratulations on a very well written book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jim McClellan on June 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
You really can't make this stuff up. And if you did, nobody would believe you anyway. Can orchids really make people nuts? The answer, as Craig explains, is a very definite yes! Craig leads you down a path of international intrigue and deception, only to occasionally yank you back into the reality that all of it is over flowers -- not drugs or jewels or espionage.

Byzantine regulations, corrupt officials, arrogant collectors and (over)zealous prosecutors all play a role in creating the bizarre universe in which this insanity is possible. By the time you're done reading, you wonder if anyone, including the US government personnel, cares about anything other than their own narrow interests.

In writing such a carefully researched piece, Craig himself may have done more for the future of rare orchids than any of his subjects.
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