Michael Lindley recreates 1920s Grayton Beach in ‘Grayton Winds
“I started out by picking an interesting place with a rich history,” said Michael Lindley of his third book.
His first two books are also historic fiction, but are set in his native Northern Michigan. For the third, Lindley couldn’t escape the draw of 1920s Prohibition in Grayton Beach.
The book opens with Matthew Coulter sitting in his beach house looking back on his life before celebrating his 85th birthday with his family. A surprise visitor from Coulter’s past draws him back as if by a hook, into a remembrance of his young adulthood, and what led him to the excitement of the Gulf Coast in the 1920s.
After being ousted by his ruthless liquor baron family, Coulter flees Atlanta to stay at a friend’s cottage in Grayton. He soon finds himself caught up in the lives of the colorful folks around him, like the nefarious Willy Palumbo, based on the infamous gangster Al Capone.
“There in my research I found that Al Capone was down here for a time,” said Lindley.
It is rumored that Capone would bring in Prohibition “goods” through the bays and bayous along the Gulf Coast. Unconfirmed legend has it Capone even owned a golf course in Valparaiso, a town to the west.
The historic Grayton Hotel figures heavily into the story, as the site of intrigue surrounding the woman who runs it. The hotel also serves as the local speakeasy, a historically accurate role, according to Lindley.
“Even the hotel owner in little Grayton Beach … they served alcohol openly, and when the sheriff came in, they made sure he got a few drinks as well,” said Lindley.
In “Grayton Winds,” Lindley is sure to include the historic storm of 1926.
“It hit this area full force,” he said, and “literally flattened Grayton Beach.”
In the book it causes more than damage to infrastructure and the coastline, but also deals a personal blow to Coulter.
Lindley’s four-year journey writing the story paid off, as he managed to weave the poignancy of his story with the history and feeling of the area.
Though today’s Grayton Beach is far more developed than in the 1920s, the ambiance, Lindley maintains “hasn’t changed much at all.”
The constants are what make the area special — the beauty of the water, the beauty of the wildlife, according to Lindley.
Lindley and his family became enamored with the area in the 1980s, when a friend in Seaside invited them down from Michigan.
“We fell in love with the place and started renting a house every spring,” said Lindley.
They later invested in Seacrest Beach, and though they still primarily live in East Lansing, Mich., they manage to come down to paradise four or five times a year.
“Grayton Winds” is available online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and at Sundog Books in Seaside and The Hidden Lantern in Rosemary Beach.