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Hemingway Adventure

Key West, Florida (first day)

Key West, Florida, USA 
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Seven Mile Bridge carries the Overseas Highway through the coral islands of the Florida Keys, course of the old railroad to the left of the highway.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureOnce he’d got used to the heat, Hemingway became wildly enthusiastic about Key West. He sent out a flurry of letters to tempt his friends to visit him in what he called ‘the St Tropez of the poor’. He told his editor, Max Perkins, that he had salvaged fourteen bottles of Château Margaux from a wreck on the reef, that the shooting and fishing were fantastic and he had some pre-war absinthe he wanted him to try. He told Dos Passos he was absolutely broke but in one evening had seen 100 tarpon (a large gamefish), and was already planning to take him out fishing to the Tortugas.

Hemingway was good at persuading people that they wanted to do things he wanted to do, and a crowd of his buddies soon descended on the sleepy city. They came and went on the railroad that was built in 1912 and remained the only land route through the Keys until it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.

Hemingway was greatly affected by the hurricane, one of the worst in living memory, with winds of 250 miles an hour. He was furious that the weather service had down-played it so much that a camp of war veterans working on the new highway was not evacuated and hundreds were drowned. In a letter to Max Perkins, he was especially incensed about a writer who had come to the Keys because he needed a hur- ricane for the book he was writing:

Max, you can’t imagine it, two women, naked, tossed up into trees by the water, swollen and stinking, their breasts as big as balloons, flies between their legs. Then, by figuring, you locate where it is and recognise them as the two very nice girls who ran a sandwich place and filling station three miles from the ferry ... I would like to have had that little literary bastard who wanted his hurricane along to rub his nose in some of it.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Key West, Florida (first day)
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Miami, Florida
  • Book page no: 136

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