A Trek Across Florida, Braving Deadly Swamps and Bounty Hunters

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By Smith Henderson

By John Brandon

There is a moment in the middle of John Brandon’s fetching new novel, “Ivory Shoals,” that might be the best depiction of a grand theft horse gone wrong in all of literature. The earnest and plucky 12-year-old Gussie has survived deadly swamps and bounty hunters on his way to find his father, when he happens upon a wounded and wary Morgan. Gussie is a good kid. He intends to just borrow the horse until the next hamlet in this post-Civil War Florida landscape of insane heat and sundry dangers. But in four pages of gorgeous prose, Brandon delves into Gussie’s tactics, slowly building tension as the boy walks the animal down a trail and works up the courage to mount. For anyone who has attempted to climb onto a moving horse, the result will be disastrously familiar.

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