The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid (The Florida History and Culture Series) Hardcover – 15 Mar 2012
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About the Author
Craig Pittman is an award-winning journalist who writes about environmental issues for Florida s largest newspaper, the "St. Petersburg Times." He is the coauthor of "Paving Paradise "and author of "Manatee Insanity.""
Top Customer Reviews
The book tells the story of a scandal which hit the orchid world. At the heart of this scandal was the Selby Gardens in America. What THE SCENT OF SCANDAL offers is a very detailed account of what happened and who the different characters at the heart of the scandal were and what role they played in it. Personally, I found it quite tedious at times but I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps it is down to the author's writing style - there were quite a few times when I felt that he was stretching out the story to make it last, or that he was going back over previously discussed events, interrupting the flow of the book. Or, perhaps it was because THE SCENT OF SCANDAL feels more like an 'academic' study of the scandal. By this, I do not mean that he writes in incomprehensible academic language, rather that there is so much detail into the characters and what happened that it makes you feel weighed down by facts.
Personally, I would only recommend this book to those who truly love orchids and who love to have all the facts before them. Although I have kept THE ORCHID THIEF and ORCHID FEVER, I won't be returning to this one.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There was the triple killer he interviewed on Death Row who took to writing him letters with smiley faces dotting the i's. There was the woman so in love with manatees she left a date to wade into the water with them fully clothed, then tackled a major political campaign on their behalf. Pittman's second book even had crazy in the name: "Manatee Insanity."
But none of that came close to the maniacal obsession to possess and name a new orchid discovered growing on a hillside in northern Peru. The petals of Phragmipedium kovachii stretch up like hot-pink fairy wings poised to soar away with the swollen pouch that makes it a "slipper orchid." The story of how it got to Selby, and how reputable scientists lost their minds in the race to be first to describe it, makes for incredible reading in "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid."
If it were fiction, "The Scent of Scandal" might be skewered for improbability: A Ph.D. taxonomist named Guido who punches out a cop. Not one but two collectors trying to pitch the idea of a wild-orchid-hunter reality show -- starring themselves as the macho leading man.
Pittman is on staff at the Tampa Bay Times, where he has established himself as one of the nation's top environmental reporters. He came to the beat more than 20 years ago on staff at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Local readers will appreciate his insights into the city's unique history and society scene. He recounts Selby's dazzling Orchid Ball, where in spring 2002, "real estate moguls and mortgage-rate gamblers rubbed shoulders with theater angels and gallery geeks." The revelers could not have imagined the resentments blooming among Selby's "orchid boys" who felt the institution had strayed too far from their showy obsession under then-director Meg Lowman.
Lowman, a renowned rainforest biologist, was out of town when collector Michael Kovach rushed to Selby from Miami International Airport with the prize that would soon be named for him. Those who were on duty at Selby's Orchid Identification Center on the day they now curse could seem to think only of fame. The Selby orchid illustrator's first thoughts: "... great publicity if handled correctly, which would stir the sleeping board members and demonstrate that we actually existed."
The one thing that didn't come to mind: Making absolutely sure that Kovach had legally brought the orchid home from the Peruvian wilds.
Pittman's two previous books are also about vanishing, vulnerable icons of nature -- first wetlands, then manatees -- and our failure to protect them. His incisive reporting leaves the reader astounded by the crass treatment of ecological resources, and taking little comfort in the ability of government to protect them. "The Scent of Scandal" is his best book yet, fusing investigative reporting and true-crime writing to create the pace and tension of a great detective novel.
The reader wishes only for more -- that Pittman would have completed Lowman's story (she landed as director of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh), or that he would have traveled to Peru to write more on orchid history and ecology. "The Scent of Scandal" is not that sort of book because Pittman is a devoted daily newspaper reporter. Florida is lucky to have him as an environmental watchdog. One can only imagine the crazy tale he'll sniff up next.
This book explains the grey area encompassing the legal ownership and naming rights of orchids, and the rush to be the first to market...
The importance of this flower lies in the large size and new color, never before seen in the Phragmipedium genus. This makes collectors and hybridizers salivate.
This being said, I am the owner of a legally obtained Phrag kovachii seedling, which by the way are down to about $100 for a two inch seedling from several hundred a few years ago.
Even the growers, whom I speak with personally, many mentioned in this book, speculate that thieves took several thousand of these plants from the wild to supply their illegal ventures and wealthy collectors.
A wonderful well written account!
Byzantine regulations, corrupt officials, arrogant collectors and (over)zealous prosecutors all play a role in creating the bizarre universe in which this insanity is possible. By the time you're done reading, you wonder if anyone, including the US government personnel, cares about anything other than their own narrow interests.
In writing such a carefully researched piece, Craig himself may have done more for the future of rare orchids than any of his subjects.