CRESTVIEW — Philip Duda's latest novel, "Wandering Prospector," is an explorer's guide to global treasure hunting.
The book— available on Amazon.com and Kindle — is fictional, but if you examine the clues, "you may find gemstones, treasures, and fossils, among other things," a press release states.
The Laurel Hill man says he's created a puzzle for readers: He'll drop clues and mention locations, but readers must fill in the blanks.
That, the author said, is similar to his personal experiences.
PEARLS IN THE RIVER
Duda's love of treasure hunting began when he was 11 years old.
"That was up in Connecticut when I found pearls in the Connecticut River," he said.
In his travels, he consulted with geologists, professors, elders, shamans and others around the world, he said. Some of them shared folklore and legends that fueled journeys to places like Arkansas and the Central and South Americas.
His sense of adventure took him up roads and valleys and over mountains and hills, he said.
Duda, an Okaloosa County School Systembus driver, said he's explored other people's property, with permission, in his quest for hidden treasure.
"There's been several (big finds)," he said. Among them? Golden beryl crystal — "I couldn't even put my arms around it, it was so heavy," he said — along with gold, emeralds, diamonds and other precious stones. Sometimes he'd break rocks, examine their colors and lick them to correctly identify them.
But "finders keepers" doesn't always apply, he said.
"If they (property owners) ask you to leave it ... you always leave it," he said.
Duda, a published poet and songwriter, also makes jewelry. Some of the pieces come from his treasure finds; some from insect wings.
He still searches for treasures, but at 65 years old, it's not quite the same as his youthful days.
"Yeah, you know, you can try," he said, "but as old as I am I can't climb cliffs anymore.
"I can go into some caves, but not a lot of caves."