I am a retired history professor. For nearly forty years I taught at Flagler College, which opened in 1968 in the former Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine, Florida. In its day the Hotel was a wonder of art and architecture, and, for a while, the end of the railroad line for winter visitors to Florida.
My first book "The Awakening of St. Augustine" is a brief history of St. Augustine, America's oldest European-settled city, from the mid-1800s to the 1920s. I tell this story from the perspective of the Anderson family, natives to the town. My more recent book "Mr. Flagler's St. Augustine" tells the same story from the viewpoint of Henry M. Flagler, who came to Florida in the 1880s and built a railroad and hotel empire that stretched from Jacksonville to Key West. This book, however, is more than just a St. Augustine story. It also is a personal biography of Henry Flagler, and it carries his career as a developer from St. Augustine to Palm Beach to Miami and finally to Key West. Along the way the lives of many individuals, from the black hotel workers to the millionaires who stayed in the hotels help enrich the narrative. In 2014 the Florida Historical Society recognized "Mr. Flagler's St. Augustine" as the best history book of the year.
While researching the Flagler biography, I ran into newspaper stories of silent film companies making films in St. Augustine. To my surprise, I learned that more than 120 movies were shot in town between 1906 and 1926. That became another book. Lots of fun. Vamps to Valentino in the Oldest City.
When I was a boy, I built plastic model kits, as most boys did in those days. Sometime in the 1980s I realized that no one had told the story of the men (and one woman) who founded and ran the companies that produced the models--and I realized that these people were rapidly passing from the scene. So I found as many of them as I could; those who worked for the three major companies: Revell, Aurora, and Monogram--and I interviewed them. I also tried to document every single model kit that these companies produced from the 1950s through the 1970s. All this went into the books. I also found many of the illustrators who painted the box covers for the kits--this led to the book "Box Top Air Power," which includes interviews with the artists. Finally, Aurora led the hobby world in HO scale slot cars; so a book on Aurora slots also became a necessity.
It's been a great ride. I've enjoyed every minute (almost) of the research and writing--and I enjoy sharing it with others.