When Mary Dodge moved to St. Lucie County in 1980 to report for the Palm Beach Times, "freaky Florida" was going strong. She shortly moved to the Port St. Lucie/Stuart News and wrote thousands of stories, features and award-winning columns about the area. The events of that long, hot summer stuck in her mind and inspired her to write her first novel, The Reel Hot Summer.

A proposal to turn an old feed store into a porno theater added heat to 1980’s already record-breaking summer in St. Lucie County, Florida. Two of the Winthrop brothers turned the project over to carpenter Jed Hart, who took over the job and eventually the blacksmithing girlfriend of the drug-smuggling third Winthrop brother.

The theater was kitty-corner on U.S. 1 from where the Church of Promise had booked two revival meetings featuring the “Pint-sized Preacher, the World’s Shortest Evangelist.”  Before the summer was over, the county commission, the sheriff, churches and a possible mob connection had gotten involved. Good met evil and it’s not obvious which survived.


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