Russell Banks’ new novel tackles taboo topics of sex offenders, Internet porn addiction and the ephemeral line between reality and fantasy
From the window of his Miami Beach condo, acclaimed author Russell Banks looks out onto Biscayne Bay, where a tunnel causeway stretches from mainland Florida to the barrier island on which he lives. At first a seemingly ordinary bridge spanning a stunning view, the causeway began to capture his imagination several years ago when it attracted the attention of the media: living beneath the bridge was a modern-day leper colony of convicted sex offenders.
Due to a 2005 city of Miami ordinance that banned convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, bus stops—or anyplace where children congregate—the Julia Tuttle Causeway was the only place in the city proper that these men could call home. So what began with a few tents quickly expanded into a shanty town complete with makeshift toilets, kitchenettes and gasoline-powered generators to charge residents’ cell phones along with the GPS tracking devices many of them were required to wear around their ankles.