This dad took helping his son with homework way past the norm. He ended up writing a book on the assigned topic.
By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
Published December 18, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Joe Reich started out helping his son do a school project about St. Petersburg history.
"I took more of an interest in it than he did," said Reich, 52, who said he became enthralled with the region's rich past.
While mining the public library, the James Michener fan and career Air Force officer thought: "I could take this down and write it."
A half-dozen years later, Reich, now retired and living in Louisiana, has written a book called The Treasure of Tampa Bay.
Reich will be here 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to chat and sign books at MicklerSmith Florida BookTraders, 718 Second St. N.
From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Reich will sign at the Base Exchange at MacDill Air Force Base, where he was stationed in 1997-1998.
A 210-page book, the Treasure of Tampa Bay is geared toward readers of high school age, Reich said.
"It's to grab their interest about what happened," he said.
He has since started a book about Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain and has plans to do a series about the Gulf of Mexico coast, all geared toward young adults.
The Treasure of Tampa Bay begins with the story of Juan Ortiz, a member of Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez's 16th-century expedition to Florida.
As the legend goes, Ortiz was captured by Indians but saved from death by the chief's daughter, a tale often said to be the basis for the later John Smith-Pocahontas stories.
Reich tells his story through fictional descendants of Ortiz, who appear in episodes about Caribbean pirates, the Civil War, the Tampa cigar factories, the settlement of Pinellas, early commercial aviation, World War II and the Cuban missile crisis.
The book closes with the era of space exploration; a female astronaut named Elizabeth Ortiz is introduced.
Throughout the book, the fictional Ortiz family interacts with genuine historic figures.