The authors will appear during Sanford’s “Alive After Five” street celebration, themed this month to “Cinco de Mayo.”
Hitt has just won the “Patrick D. Smith Award” from the Florida Historic Society for “Best Fiction” for the second time for his historic novel sequel “Beyond the River of the Sun.” Hitt’s wife, wildlife artist Linda Silsby Hitt, illustrated the cover and inside chapter pages, as she did with the first novel “Wekiva Winter.”
Belleville is kicking off the launch of his newest nonfiction, “Rediscovering Rawlings,” a first-person chronicle of the making of the PBS documentary “In Marjorie’s Wake” on the St. Johns River.
The book, which examines the way Pulitzer-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, was inspired by nature and culture in Florida. It includes 32 black-and-white photos of the documentary experience, as well as rare archival photos of Rawlings, who once lived in Cross Creek.
Authors Hitt and Belleville address topics rooted respectively in the past and in the present in Florida. “The details of their books are regional — but the themes are far more universal,” said Yvette Comeau, owner of Maya Books. “Both men are exceptional storytellers.”
Hitt, a retired Seminole County judge and trial lawyer who lives on the St. Johns River near the mouth of the Wekiva, has painstakingly researched the history and culture of the Timucua and other Native Americans who lived in Florida at the time of European contact.
A central character “Marehootie” appears in both the original “Wekiva Winter” and in the sequel “Beyond the River of the Sun.” The pre-Columbian Timucua called the St. Johns the “river of the sun," and with other Native Americans, they created large midden mounds of shell and bone along the river.
There are more shell middens on the St. Johns than any other river in North America, and the only large totems outside the Pacific Northwest have been found here.
Judge Hitt graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Florida, and later obtained a law degree from the University of Miami. After more than 30 years as a lawyer and trial judge he has returned to his first love, writing. Hitt’s articles on rivers, their history and ecology have appeared in such magazines as Going Places, the AAA Magazine, Finest Fishing and other regional and national periodicals.
He lectures widely on the early Native American history of Florida.
Belleville has written five books and more than 1,000 magazine articles with bylines in Oxford American, Newsweek, New York Times, Sierra, Audubon, Outside, Islands and more. His other nonfiction titles include the first modern book on the St. Johns, “River of Lakes,” and “Losing it All to Sprawl,” named one of the best books in the country for 2006 by the Library Journal.
Belleville has been honored for his writing by the 1000 Friends of Florida, Florida Audubon, Florida Wildlife Federation, and won an Emmy for an earlier film “Wekiva: Legacy or Loss?.”
He has traveled widely for the Discovery Channel, including assignments in the Galapagos, up and downstream the Amazon River, the White Sea of Russia, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Cuba, and Central America. He has also worked with Philippe Cousteau to produce a report on Blue Spring for National Public Radio’s “Living on Earth” and has lectured throughout Florida on behalf of the Florida Humanities Council. A short essay he wrote in the Council’s current Forum magazine celebrates downtown Sanford for its distinct “sense of place.”
Belleville’s other books include “Deep Cuba” and “Sunken Cities, Sacred Cenotes and Golden Sharks.” His work has been anthologized in more than 10 national collections. He is also the co-producer and writer of the PBS film “In Marjorie’s Wake”, which includes footage from the St. Johns near and around Sanford, and from the historic downtown. Televised widely in Florida this spring, the film will be released nationally soon.
For more info about the authors, check out Marehootie.com and BillBelleville.com.