Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Finds: “The Big Bubble”

Another in our growing line of vintage book covers we love.

The Big Bubble, by Theodore Pratt (Popular Library, 1958).
Illustration by Robert Maguire.

Theodore Pratt (1901-1969) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but after a stint in journalism that took him all the way to the Mediterranean island of Majorca, Spain, he became most famous for writing about Florida, to which he and his wife, Jackie, moved in 1934. In addition to short stories and non-fiction books, Pratt penned more than 30 novels. He published four of those novels--all works of crime fiction featuring wealthy amateur criminologist Anthony Adams--under the pseudonym Timothy Brace. Most of his books, however, appeared under his own moniker, including Mercy Island (1941), Mr. Limpet (1942), The Barefoot Mailman (1943, made into a movie in 1951), and Tropical Disturbance (1961).

The Big Bubble was first released in 1951 by U.S publisher Duell, Sloan and Pearce. It’s a historical novel set during the 1920s, “the years of the mounting boom and final debacle, when dream castles came tumbling down,” wrote Kirkus Reviews. The story revolves around Adam Paine, a big-vision, big-commission architect said to have been based on Addison Mizner, “whose Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style interpretations left an indelible stamp on South Florida, where it continues to inspire architects and land developers,” Wikipedia reports. In The Big Bubble, says Kirkus, Paine is “well mated” to a woman named Eve,
whose control of his outsize personality tempers his physical and emotional violence, and his determination to transplant Spanish and Moorish influences to Florida’s sunny shores. His architectural passions are underwritten by breakfast king [Michael] Sumner and the building of the Flamingo Club is brutally criticized by old inhabitants and visitors, but with its opening it is a mad success and Adam the only architect for all ambitious socialites. As his commissions grow, so do his enterprises, with Eve, never one to play the social game, aloof in her own interests. But a cold-blooded, hard-hearted divorcée [Mona Oakes] breaks up the marriage, runs out on Adam when the 1925 skies fall and it is Eve who holds out a promise for the future. A fitting survey of an age of unreason and blind optimism.
Popular Library’s 1953 edition of The Big Bubble summed it up nicely as “a sultry novel of emotional storm in boom-town Florida …” The book sounds worth reading, if I can ever find a reasonably priced copy of the 1958 edition fronted by Maguire’s outstanding art.

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