Sunday, October 6, 2019

NYT Book Review of “Savage Appetites”. Writer Rachel Monroe is savagely entertaining and “delightfully untoward”.


Does the name Rachel Monroe sound familiar?

Three years ago Monroe was the talk of the town here in the City of Lake Worth and all of South Florida as well. And no doubt being a writer and journalist Monroe will be quite amused and delighted to learn this little six square mile City changed its name to Lake Worth Beach last March.

Possibly our local bookstore, The Book Cellar in the downtown will be included in the upcoming book tour promoting Monroe’s new book which just recently received an outstanding review in The New York Times!

Many of you here in Lake Worth Beach will recall Monroe’s gripping nonfiction account of the radical enviro monkeywrenching by EarthFirst! back in 2016, a famously popular piece titled Monkeywrench published in the Oxford American.

Later in this blog post today we’ll revisit the piece called Monkeywrench, when this little municipality became ground zero in the world of radicalism and Anarchy fused with entertainment and small town politics too. And Monroe was right in the center of it all. 

But first, on Monroe’s latest endeavor. Her new book is titled, “SAVAGE APPETITES: Four True Stories of Women, Crime and Obsession”; here are two excerpts from the NYT book review penned by Kaitlin Phillips:


In “Savage Appetites,” the journalist Rachel Monroe is interested in a paradox: upper-middle-class women who find that proximity to murder makes them feel more alive. This enthralling book devotes case studies to four bored or directionless women whose fixations on other people’s crimes unlock a sense of purpose and give them a vocation. For such women, someone getting killed is the best thing that ever happened to them. It’s delightfully untoward.

Monroe zeroes in on the aftermath of murder, on the morbid curiosity that draws eager civilians toward the crime scene and catapults them into starring roles. She avoids the formulaic professional tropes of true crime, choosing for her case studies a “detective” who never solved any crimes; a murder victim’s family whose members are apparently victimized by self-appointed victim advocates; a “defender” who is really a litigious jail wife; and, finally, a “killer” who doesn’t pull the trigger. (She gets only as far as picking the perfect outfit for a planned shopping-mall massacre.)

and. . .


The rest of the book delivers more visceral pleasures, focusing on contemporary women who court something other than just impropriety and imaginative philanthropy. “They were immoderate and occasionally unwise” in pursuit of their obsessions. They made phone calls, they wrote letters, they chatted online. They tangled themselves in people’s lives. Then they crossed a line — you might as well call it the Rubicon — that you and I would not.


Now let’s take a stroll back to 2016, when the City of Lake Worth was ground zero for radicalism and Anarchy. . .


Flyers were sent to radical communities all over the country inviting attendees to attend a ‘musical’ in “Lake Worth, Florida” and they began to arrive en masse by bus, train-hopping and beat-up old vans.


“Yes! It is Happening!”

A ‘musical’ is code for direct action. Rachel Monroe was right in the center of the action and chronicled what happened.


“[S]eating based on willingness to risk arrest. Hurrah!”



“There’s an Earth First! tradition of naming the toilet in honor of the enemy of the moment, and so at the final performance in late February [2016], the musical’s audience was invited to use the Wes Blackman Memorial Shitter.”

Excerpt from Monkeywrench published in the Oxford American, August 2016.



Rachel Monroe was all the buzz when Monkeywrench was first published (see more excerpts and link below). That all this was happening just prior to the municipal elections just added more fuel to the fire. Then everything came to a screeching halt on March 15th, 2016. All the incumbents on the ballot, Mayor Pam Triolo and commissioners Andy Amoroso and Scott Maxwell were all reelected in landslide victories. The radical balloon had burst and the show was over.

Without further ado, now that the stage is set, here are two excerpts from Monkeywrench written by the superbly talented Rachel Monroe:


The first day I showed up for the Earth First! rehearsal in Lake Worth, Florida, a small coastal town thirty-five miles north of Fort Lauderdale, I walked in late to find a dozen tattooed people pretending to be a machine. Tentatively at first and then with increasing enthusiasm, they pantomimed the pulling of levers and the pushing of buttons and other nonsensical but orderly tasks.

“Now the machine speeds up,” instructed Maren, the rosy-cheeked Minnesotan who was codirecting the musical. The imaginary-lever pulling became a little more frantic. “Now it’s breaking down!” Everyone’s movements became strained; a guy in a black hoodie bounced like a deranged spring.

and. . .


Most people in the room were not Floridians; instead, they lived in fringe towns—Ithaca, Bloomington, Oakland—where the rent was cheap enough that radical politics could flourish. They wore black boots and rode bikes; they all seemed to know each other from protests and actions and summers spent picking blueberries in Maine.

They were here because, in October 2015, just as the winter chill had started to creep into people’s bones, a flyer began circulating among activists, inviting anyone willing and able to travel to sunny Lake Worth for the month of February “to help devise, build, perform and otherwise scheme on” a musical that celebrated the history and philosophy of the radical environmental group Earth First! (In 2010, Earth First! had moved its publishing operation from Tucson to Lake Worth, making the town the de facto headquarters of the diffuse, controversial organization.) “The show will involve audiences writing to political prisoners, cast members repelling [sic] down cardboard redwoods, and seating based on willingness to risk arrest,” the flyer promised. “Hurrah!”


For all new and recently new residents of Lake Worth Beach would highly encourage reading the entire piece by Monroe published in the Oxford American. It is quite lengthy and very entertaining. Kick back and relax and then click on this link.

The book “Savage Appetites” is now available on Amazon for both Kindle, audio CD and in hardcover as well.

Another option would be to proceed downtown and visit The Book Cellar bookstore in downtown Lake Worth Beach located at 801 Lake Ave. with plenty of FREE parking nearby. If the book is not available at the moment it can be ordered for you to pick up later on.

Buy LOCAL! Support your LOCAL bookstore!