The Orchid Thief (eBook)
In Susan Orlean's mesmerizing true story of beauty and obsession is John Laroche, a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of the world's most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native Amer-ican activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a tale that is strange, compelling, and hilarious.
New Yorker writer Susan Orlean followed Laroche through swamps and into the eccentric world of Florida's orchid collectors, a subculture of aristocrats, fanatics, and smugglers whose obsession with plants is all-consuming. Along the way, Orlean learned the history of orchid collecting, discovered an odd pattern of plant crimes in Florida, and spent time with Laroche's partners, a tribe of Seminole Indians who are still at war with the United States.
There is something fascinating or funny or truly bizarre on every page of The Orchid Thief: the story of how the head of a famous Seminole chief came to be displayed in the front window of a local pharmacy; or how seven hundred iguanas were smuggled into Florida; or the case of the only known extraterrestrial plant crime. Ultimately, however, Susan Orlean's book is about passion itself, and the amazing lengths to which people will go to gratify it. That passion is captured with singular vision in The Orchid Thief, a once-in-a-lifetime story by one of our most original journalists.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. Her articles have also appeared in Outside, Rolling Stone, Vogue, and Esquire. She is the author of Saturday Night, a New York Times Notable Book of 1990, which, in the words of Entertainment Weekly, "calls to mind Damon Runyon, Evelyn Waugh, and screwball comedy." She lives in New York City.
Praise for The Orchid Thief…
"Like the orchid, a small thing of grandeur, a passion with a pedigree . . . The Orchid Thief shows [Orlean's] gifts in full bloom."
--The New York Times Book Review
"A LESSON IN THE DARK, DANGEROUS, SOMETIMES HILARIOUS NATURE OF OBSESSION . . . YOU SOMETIMES DON'T WANT TO READ ON, BUT FIND YOU CAN'T HELP IT."
"IRRESISTIBLE . . . A brilliantly reported account of an illicit scheme to housebreak Florida's wild and endangered ghost orchid. Its central figure is John Laroche, the 'oddball ultimate' of a subculture whose members are so enthralled by orchids they 'pursue them like lovers.' "
--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"FASCINATING . . . TALES OF THEFT, HATRED, GREED, JEALOUSY, MADNESS, AND BACK-STABBING . . . AN ENGROSSING JOURNEY."
--Los Angeles Times
"ARTFUL . . . In Ms. Orlean's skillful handling, her orchid story turns out to be distinctly 'something more.' . . . Orchids, Seminole history, the ecology of the Fakahatchee Strand, the fascination of Florida to con men. . . . All that she writes here fits together because it is grounded in her personal experience. . . . [Her] portrait of her sometimes sad-making orchid thief allows the reader to discover acres of opportunity where intriguing things can be found."
The New York Times
"DELICIOUSLY WEIRD . . . COMPELLING."
--Detroit Free Press
"ZESTFUL . . . A swashbuckling piece of reporting that celebrates some virtues that made America great. Here are visionary passions and fierce obsessions; heroic feats accomplished in exotic settings; outsize characters, entrepreneurs at the edge of the frontier, adventurers. . . . Orlean, an intrepid sociologist among the orchid fanatics, is also a poetic observer."
--The Wall Street Journal