Consider this book a handy time machine set to take you to a sun-soaked place in a hedonistic era. Bring your Speedo and Ray-Bans and let go of your hang-ups. Both a cultural history and an architectural meditation, Fire Island Modernist captures the look, feel, and sensation of gay society in the 1960s and '70s that flourished on the sandy shores and shifting dunes of the 31-mile-long barrier island of its title. Separated from the Hamptons by Great South Bay, Fire Island developed a free-spirited, car-free culture radically different from its more upscale neighbor to the northeast.
The book is also an ode to a mostly forgotten architect who designed 78 modern beach houses—mostly on Fire Island, but a few in the Hamptons—starting in 1961 and ending in the 1980s. Like so many of his clients, Horace Gifford fell victim to the AIDS epidemic, dying at age 60 in 1992.