‘Next Exit Magic Kingdom: Florida Accidentally’

Time was that travel books were all about remote and exotic journeys. Travel writers embarked on valiant quests full of derring-do, paddling to the source of the Limpopo in search of wonders. Then the world shrunk. Day-trippers trampled the wilderness, pausing to picnic in Newby’s Hindu Kush. Bruce Chatwin’s isolated Patagonia is now a holiday home for George Soros and the Benettons. According to the Financial Times, 20% of ‘wilderness’ holidaymakers check their e-mail during a week away.

Today the challenge for the modern travel writer is to find wonders in a discovered world. So I followed the two million Britons who every year visit the UK’s most popular long-haul destination, Florida. And what did I discover? That the greatest wonders are not to be found at Disney World or MGM Studios, but in the remarkable stories of ordinary men and women – both in the crazy and commonplace.

Join me in the Everglades, bayous and back streets, to swim with mermaids, meet a real-life saint and commune with the hereafter. We’ll discover the site of the Garden of Eden and share Marshmallow Bunnies with a community of monks. We’ll even learn how to avoid gratuitous sex in Miami Beach. This is a journey to find the soul of the sunshine state – a place at once kooky and dangerous, superficial and sincere, sensationalist and dumb – which will warm even Mickey’s plastic heart.

‘Next Exit Magic Kingdom’ was chosen as a Book of the Year by Wanderlust magazine, shortlisted for the 2001 WHSmith Books Awards and read on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’. In 2008 it is republished with a new preface by Alexander Frater.

‘Zippy and fun; it has heart and energy and a restless haphazard charm. MacLean has wrestled the Sunshine State like an alligator and stuffed and mounted it for our readerly pleasure’ – Louis Theroux

‘A marvellously entertaining and intelligent glimpse of the “real” Florida’ – James Jauncey, The Scotsman

‘Punchy, irreverent and funny’ – Independent on Sunday

‘Probably quite unlike any Florida you or I have seen’ – Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times

‘Next Exit Magic Kingdom’ is republished by Tauris Parke. It was first published by HarperCollins in 2001.