by Tim Gilmore, 2/24/2015
Against stupid odds, in an antique shop in Riverside, I found my bound dissertation in a corner beside endless Book Club editions of the medical thrillers of Frank Slaughter, once a physician at Riverside Hospital, where my mother’s mother died and where a Publix Grocery and a Starbucks Coffee stand now, who lived at Riverside Avenue and Copeland Street for several mid-20th century decades.
When my oldest daughter Emily was a year old, I’d written a newspaper article on Riverside bed-and-breakfast inns, and Betty Dickert, proprietor of the Cleary-Dickert House at 1804 Copeland, between St. Johns Avenue and the St. Johns River, invited me and my first wife to come stay in the honeymoon-suite carriage house with our daughter.
Frank G. Slaughter had lived next door, she said, all these years ago, writing 56 books, from the early 1940s through the late 1980s, selling 60 million copies, including That None Should Die, The Crown and the Cross: The Life of Christ, Devil’s Gamble: A Novel of Demonology, Doctors’ Wives, and Women in White.
“Can you believe somebody’d write all that,” Betty asked me, “and all those people would read all his books, and then, so soon, nobody would remember who he was?” She knew me from writing one newspaper article. I’ll never forget her question.
Emily, one year old, slept against my side and somehow fell out of bed, unhurt, in the middle of the night.
A hurried traveling salesman and his wife seemed embarrassed to have breakfast with us in the morning.
Betty apologized for Joe Cleary, her British “friend,” who shared with her the responsibilities of the inn, because she said he said things in a funny way. A perfect example was the “aluminum plants” he grew in the garden, which he pronounced “aluminium.”