The Real Life Duma Key

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Stephen King fans, read on: Here's how you can experience his latest novel, 'Duma Key,' in real life on Florida's Gulf Coast.

“There’s a charm-bracelet of keys lying off the west coast of Florida. If you had your seven-league boots on, you could step from Longboat to Lido, from Lido to Siesta, from Siesta to Casey. The next step takes you to Duma Key, nine miles long and half a mile wide at its widest, between Casey Key and Don Pedro Island. Most of it’s uninhabited, a tangle of banyans, palms and Australian pines with an uneven, dune-rumpled beach running along the Gulf edge. The beach is guarded by a waist-high band of sea oats… I knew nothing about the history of Duma Key. I only knew one reached it by crossing a WPA-era drawbridge from Casey Key.”

This is not how the narrator, Edgar Freemantle, begins Stephen King’s latest novel, “Duma Key.” Instead, these observations about the small spits of land lying directly west of Sarasota arrive a good 30 pages into the book. The reader has already had time to contemplate how frozen an existence that contractor Freemantle had led in his former life of Minnesota, where he had a life-changing accident on one of his construction sites. The seduction—for both Freemantle and reader—thus begins.

Duma Key is not real; King, a part-time Sarasota County  resident who has owned a house in the region for the past several years, fictionalized the island to suit the story’s purposes. But many of the colorful, tropical sites and settings he mentions in the book are actual shops, restaurants and galleries located in Sarasota and on the nearby keys.
And for Stephen King fans who have recently devoured the book, there’s nothing more thrilling than spending a day tracking down some of these sites and checking them out for yourself.

Your self-guided tour will take you from reading on the beach to reading in the Selby Library, where Freemantle gives a lecture in the story. Nearby, stylish Palm Avenue beckons with its high-end art galleries—though the Scoto Gallery where Freemantle shows his work is a King invention—and Main Street’s boutiques and restaurants.

If you’re especially interested in gourmet rations, you can follow Freemantle’s path as he forks his way through Ophelia’s on the Bay on Siesta Key and Vernona, the beautiful dining room at the Ritz-Carlton (though he masks the latter with a different name). And if you’re incredibly thorough, you can cover even the most mundane mentions, such as Dan’s Fan City.

But readers of all stripes enjoy two sites for sure: the John and Mable Ringling Museum, and the out-of-the-way establishment that King mentions by way of clothing and construction: Casey Key Fish House, where the conch fritters are crunchy and the vibe ultra-casual. After supping on almond-crusted snapper, like King’s protagonist you can don a tank top emblazoned with the eatery’s logo before you challenge the one-lane drawbridge.

Reading a novel is one thing. Being able to make it come to life is something else. King fans—and anyone looking for an island getaway (and who isn’t?)—will certainly enjoy following in the protagonist’s footsteps.

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