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Sins of South Beach The True Story of Corruption, Violence, Murder and the Making of Miami Beach Hardcover – Deluxe Edition, October 20, 2007
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Kirkus Review: A young mayor is pivotal in the revival of boomtown Miami Beach in the 1980s, all the while indulging his large appetites for money, power and sex. In this compelling, well-written tell-all novel detailing his own political rise and fall, three-time Mayor of Miami Beach Daoud delivers a steamy story that reads like a cross between Hollywood Babylon and All the King’s Men.
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For readers who do not live on our seven mile tropical paradise, Sins of South Beach is a well told parable of how an idealistic politician got seduced by the low-hanging fruits of the money tree and ended up sacrificing his career - and his freedom - while still managing to transform a city from a state of terminal decline to one of stunning rebirth. However, for those of us who do live here, Mayor Daoud's book should be a pause for reflection on just how different a city we might be living in today had the battles of the 1980's not taken place. For instance, had the South Beach Redevelopment Plan come to pass as the developers intended, we would not be living in a world famous Art Deco icon with a diverse population and a human scale that is unique in South Florida.
Mayor Daoud's cautionary tale should be required reading for all those who cross the causeway, let alone for those who enter the chambers where the money tree still reigns.
The biggest sin of all is that the book has not come out as a movie - yet!
As someone who spent 18 months in a federal prison for bribes taken while mayor of Miami Beach, Douad is uniquely positioned to describe his own sins and those who he came in contact with, including some of the area's most powerful politicians, real estate developers and bankers. Given the power of some of these individuals, it is something of a miracle that the book was ever published. It is also all the more remarkable given that it is likely the very first book ever written by a politician who has fallen from grace. In light of the state of American governance, this honest, insightful, courageous and beautifully written memoir is worth all the self-serving memoirs of public officials put together, including that of George W. Bush.
But "Sins of South Beach" is more than this. It is also a spell-binding tale that is written with a experienced novelist's touch, one in which the reader can't wait to get to the next chapter to find out what happens to the tarnished hero Alex Daoud. Indeed, this is the kind of book that would have made me miss a subway stop in my hometown New York City. But here in South Beach, where I am vacationing, the same thing happened. I took the book down to the beach with me with the intention of spending two hours under the sun while getting the low-down on what was happening here in the roaring 80s. But I became so riveted by the action that I lost track of the time and got myself a good sunburn! Oh well, that's a small price to pay for getting immersed in such a gripping tale.
As someone with a background in politics and law, Alex Daoud is a remarkably gifted writer. "Sins of South Beach" has a cinematic quality, evoking "The Godfather" in some ways as well as classic tales of an honest man seduced into doing wrong, like "Double Indemnity" or "Body Heat". In Alex Daoud's case, the seducer was not a beautiful woman but a wealthy establishment in Miami Beach that bought and sold politicians like they were condominiums. Although the author is unsparing with himself, one cannot but note that the bribes he took harmed nobody except the rich men who were buying favors, and for whom such monies were almost pocket change. By comparison, Jack Abramoff hurt Indian tribes and non-unionized sweatshop workers in his quest to achieve wealth and power.
It should be understood, however, that Alex Daoud does not try to whitewash his career here. Despite being mayor at a time when Miami Beach was making great strides forward as an art deco cultural center and a fabulous place to spend a vacation, the book is focused almost totally on his sins. They say that Catholics are great both at sinning and at confessing. When a Catholic (a Lebanese Catholic in Daoud's case) has a talent with the pen, such as St. Augustine's Confessions, the result can be a classic of literature. While it would be a bit much to compare Alex Daoud to St. Augustine, I can say with conviction that this is the finest memoir by a public official that I have ever read and a book that I will recommend to friends and associates for the rest of my life.