It is true that this book may seem more interesting if you’re from the state of Florida and/or like historical fiction. However, the characters, their respective goals, and the ties which bind their lives together are combined into a complex pleasure that author John Henry Fleming delivers with ease, making the story enjoyable for any fan of good literature.

Earl Shank is the postmaster of post-Civil War Figulus, a tiny Florida town.  His dreams of fame and publicity have always come crashing down, but he sees new opportunity in Josef Steinmetz, an immigrant new to the town by way of Brooklyn.  While Steinmetz has high hopes of being included in a new breed of pioneers, circumstances caused by the bitter, ex-Confederate mail-carrier bring him into the service of Shank and the U.S. Postal Service.  But after facing both natural and manmade hardships, Steinmetz disappears into the creative writings of a New York journalist and the ambitions of Earl Shank, who perpetuates the legend of Steinmetz by drawing Yankee tourists into his humble town.

This take on the earliest form of Florida tourism and industry is a subtle, humorous, and fevered glimpse into the intertwining of lives, the lives of people who all have different ways of finding their places within the American Dream.  The novel is a delight and ideal for summer reading.

There, of course, is history behind this historical novel.  I myself pursued this novel, because Fleming is a former professor of mine, and I was curious about his writing.  It was not the easiest book to find, as the publisher’s American office closed down and the project dropped before it could be printed in paperback.  Now, you may or may not come across it in your local public library.  There are also 18 copies available at, easily findable in a search.

Also, the fiction of the novel was inspired by the real story of the barefoot mailmen.  You can read about the history, as well as other fictional works based on the Barefoot Mailman, here: 

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