cover image REDNECK RIVIERA: Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of the American Dream

REDNECK RIVIERA: Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of the American Dream

Dennis Covington, . . Counterpoint, $25 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-58243-295-3

Rednecks, armadillos and outlaws all play only ancillary roles in National Book Award nominee (for Salvation on Sand Mountain ) Covington's touching, meandering tribute to his father. And although the title is somewhat misleading, the American dream is front and center as two generations of the Covingtons tenaciously pursue it. In 1965, the elder Covington bought a two-and-half–acre plot in River Ranch Acres, a Florida real estate scam. The land was worthless, never surveyed, miles from the nearest road, and when his father died in 1988, the younger Covington inherited it. Unfortunately, a band of locals, hunters and ne'er-do-wells calling themselves The Hunt Club had since fenced off the entire area and, with guns, restricted access to outsiders. Undeterred, deed in hand, the author sets out to understand, then realize, his father's dream. He chases "the crazy idea that any inheritance might be worth claiming, no matter how small, no matter the cost." Though this is a bracingly original American adventure story, there's too much padding in this short, generously spaced book. Covington is an able observer and skilled writer, but his detours—especially to Idaho toward the end of the book—prevent cohesiveness. (Jan.)

Forecast: A regional author tour will take Covington to Birmingham, Miami and Atlanta, although the book is less about local culture in Florida and Alabama than about the author's relationship with his father, both before and after his father's death.