Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The History You Won't Read About in Textbooks

The Dark Side of Sunshine by Paul Guzzo

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Summary: Historians seem to love painting a picture of Tampa’s past as one of immigrants happily working side-by-side to create a utopian society that became the cigar capital of the world and later a destination hailed as one of “the nation’s next best cities.” While this is true to some extent, Tampa also has a dark side and it is this element that is explored in the book, “The Dark Side of Sunshine.”

This book is a collection of stories that explore Tampa’s three eras of infamy – the early years of danger, where the greatest fear was the nightmarish individuals who were allowed to roam the nights in a city without a proper law enforcement organization in place; the mid-1900s when one of the most power criminal syndicates in the nation made its home in Tampa and when a another nation’s revolutionary war affected the city’s residents; and the late 1900s to early 2000s when Tampa became a sexual playground.

Review: A collection of stories showcasing the seedy underbelly of Tampa's history with plenty of colorful characters.

There's a saying that history is written by the victors. This may be true, but it certainly doesn't erase the fact that there is so much history out there that many people don't know about. This is certainly true with Tampa, which The Dark Side of Sunshine so strongly reveals. I know almost nothing about Tampa's history (I'm a New Jersey native and have never lived in Florida), and while I knew that immigrants aren't going to happily work together side by side, I was still surprised about the gangs, drugs, and sex in Tampa.

As a New Jersey native, I'm used to hearing about crime, violence, and gangs, but nothing to the level that occurred in Tampa. It's ironic how people could become self made millionaires thanks to illicit methods. They didn't seem to have much choice though. I enjoyed the histories that Guzzo tells although I did find myself getting a little bored at the end. I think my favorite tales were the ones involving freedom of speech and the ability to have totally naked strippers.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy non-mainstream history and/or have any interest in Florida.

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