- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing
Carl Hiaasen Author/Book Review
Carl Hiaasen: Author And Satirist Reviewed
Carl Hiaasen, writer and journalist, Florida born and bred, has a sense of the absurd and a nose for corruption that feed into some of the funniest books you can find. He's a fine novelist with a great ability to pen a farce and a knack of creating memorable characters.
Hiaasen doesn't do understated. His villains are bloated ex-Mafia property developers or millionaire TV evangelists who drink and fornicate, The heavies are rabid and drug-crazed, but the heroes are everyday people rising to great heights. Good always triumphs in the battle, but there is the undercurrent that the tide of corruption so prevalent in Floridan politics and business has already won the war.
Carl Hiaasen: The Background
Florida corruption exposed
It sounds a bit grandiose to say that the theme common to Carl Hiaasen's novels is man's inate corruption and willingness to despoil his own environment but that's what drives the author: and he bases his theme on a long career documenting the corruption of Floridan politicians and officials, together with the people who bribe them.
As a reporter for the MIami News for decades, now a special correspondent, Hiaasen has witnessed the loss of swamps, beaches and wildlife. He's seen the carpetbaggers grow rich, he's seen state officials suck up the largesse as they fail their fellow man - and there's a pain and frustration that drives him to continue the exposés in newsprint and in novels.
Carl Hiaasen: The Books And The Characters
From what I've said above you might think that these novels will be heavy and preachy: don't worry, they're anything but. Hiaasen uses his journalist's eye for detail and description to augment his novelist's ability to write fast-paced hilarious farces. He picks you up at the start of a book and keeps slugging until you stop struggling - you're on for the ride and glad of it. There are scenes where you'll laugh out loud, scenes where you'll giggle - always good on the morning rush hour bus - and scenes where you'll shout in indignation.
The characters: the goodies are good but simple people - Everyman against the machine. One recurring character is ex-Governor Tyree, the last honest holder of that post - now a semi-crazed near-hermit taking potshots (literally sometimes) at the spoilers of his world. Aided by a very large black State Trooper and sundry characters caught up in the madness, he metes out a brand of justice that would please a psychotic Greenpeace supporter.
The baddies: these range from the movers and shakers at the top of the money tree to some gloriously over the top villains - like the thug who wanders around with the decaying head of a bulldog attached to his arm (don't ask, it'll seem logical when you read the book).
One other thing, and it's rare in novels of this sort - Hiaasen writes good female characters - indeed they are often the driving moral force - there's a whiff of the Old West pioneer women here.
"There is precious little innocence in Carl Hiaasen's moral universe, only gradients of venality."
Would I Like Him?
Based on sex and violence: sex scenes are few and far between and handled simply and often jokingly - it's more the conversation before and after that Hiaasen includes. The violence is real but often cartoonish - you may squirm a bit but you're more likely to be booing the baddies or cheering the righteous. Swearing - some, not excessive.
I'd let my mother read Carl Hiaasen, I'd let my older teenagers (if i had any) read him also - far healthier and more mind-expanding than the telly or computer games.
Carl Hiaasen: Double Whammy
Double Whammy reviewed
That pic on the right is a largemouth bass - it's an ugly brute unless you catch enough of them in competition and then you'll love them because you'll be a millionaire. And with huge prizes on offer you know there'll be cheats and assorted other crooks moving in. The Reverend Weeb is one of them: a huge development of houses for "Christian-minded folks" is being advertised on the reputation of a champion bass fisherman, With hundreds of millions at stake from redneck purchasers the Rev will happily go far beyond mere cheating and so the murders begin.
Private Investigator RJ Decker is hired to look into the cheating: he soon finds out that there's more involved as a very large and homicidal thug kidnaps his ex after RJ gets in his way. Fortunately RJ has found an ally in the ex-Governor Tyree, now known as Skink and growing ever weirder in his swamp lair. Skink hates most people - with good reason, sadly. A bribe-spreading, property-developing fake minister is grist to his mill and a target for his wrath.
The action bounces along at a fine pace: some great set scenes and a hilarious climax at a bass tournament. There's a touch of pathos as well: Hiaasen is too good an author to rely on farce alone, expert though he is at pacing such material.
An excellent way to begin reading Hiaasen: highly recommended.
A longer version of this review can be seen on my blog Double Whammy Review
Best Hiaasen To Begin With
Double Whammy has all the ingredients that make Carl Hiaasen's writing so enjoyable: fast-paced farce at its finest.
Carl Hiaasen: Native Tongue
Native Tongue reviewed
That cute little creature in the pic is a vole - and Native Tongue starts with a vole, tongue painted blue, being kidnapped, thrown from one moving vehicle into another and being shot dead by a state trooper. All perfectly logical as you start another of Carl Hiaasen's farces, this time looking at the shady world of Floridan amusement parks (no, not Team Rodent) and the crooks they attract.
The owner of the aforementioned amusement park, an ex-mafiosi turned informer, wanted a cute rare animal to rival a Disney attraction. Nothing suitably cheap appealed so he invented one - with the aid of some blue paint. A group of ecologically minded retirees wanted some leverage on him so they hired a couple of small time crooks to kidnap the supposedly rare animals.
Nosing around is a burned-our ex-journalist and a cute actress - when she can get out of her airless Rocky Raccoon outfit. Ranged against them are various villains, most notably the park's head of security, a crooked suspended policeman with a steroid addiction and a rapidly developing case of rabies. Fortunately the good guys are augmented by the outrageous ex-Governor Tyree (see previous review) and battle commences. The Governor is quite Old Testament in his vengeance - hanging someone by his own fishing line from the Card Sound Bridge is deemed an appropriate punishment for attempted murder.
There are mafia hitmen to come, a collapsing water fluke and sundry other mishaps as the plot runs ahead merrily - as with Double Whammy there are giggles and laugh out loud passages - another cracker from Hiaasen.
A longer version of this review can be seen on my blog Native Tongue Review
Murder in Disney-Lite
Carl Hiaasen: Lucky You
Lucky You reviewed
An unsavoury pair of racists, a two-man militia, win $14 million on a lottery ticket - a half share of the jackpot. Being very stupid and very greedy, they aren't pleased and go in search of the other winner. JoLayne Lucks is their target, doubly unpleasing to them as she's female and black-skinned. They beat her up, steal the ticket and her credit cards and go off to hide, having decided to wait a while before claiming the cash. The one sensible thing they do is persuade a store clerk, JoLayne's only witness to her ticket purchase, to claim she didn't buy the ticket.
JoLayne, being mentally stronger and more resourceful than the two reckoned with, teams up with a newspaperman and they set off on the hunt. As Bode and Chub aren't the sharpest bayonets in the armoury they do leave a bit of a trail - such as using one of the credit cards several nights running in a Hooters - just so they can perve over the lovely Amber - setting the scene for the world's worst kidnapping.
Journalist and JoLayne, plus a friendly Fed, have a bit of fun messing with the minds of the villains - not too difficult as they're the sort who think NATO is massing on the Mexican border to invade the USA.
Pause and ask why there's a strange pic at the top of this review. It's Jesus Christ on a nacho - JoLayne's hometown of Grange was bankrupt until it started finding religious phenomena to attract the tourists - a weeping virgin, a roadside Jesus, (an oil stain of course), and a rather nasty self-inflicted stigmata sufferer. Don't mock - this is a multi-million industry, for real! Hiaasen is oddly gentle in his handling of the inhabitants of Grange.
Throw in a bunch of sacred turtles, a lawyer trying to wash Mafia money, a cuckolded judge trying to kill the journalist and an ex-wife and you have a rich mix of conflicting characters, skilfully handled as ever by Hiaasen. He escalates the action perfectly, with a particularly weird and bloodthirsty finale for the villains and a nice happy ending for the good guys. And the sacred turtles.
A longer version of this review can be seen on my blog Lucky You Review
Carl Hiaasen: Skinny Dip
One minute Joey Perrone is on a cruise ship with husband Chaz, the next she's in the Atlantic - half drunk on champagne and wearing an evening gown. Yet again Joey has picked the wrong man for it was Chaz who dumped her over the rail. Fortunately for Joey it's a balmy night, the water's calm and she floats into a bale of marijuana dumped by smugglers. There she's found by Mick, a semi-recluse from the world. With no proof that Chaz tried to kill her she lies low and plots revenge.
Chaz, meanwhile, is trying to play the grieving husband - which upsets his girlfriend and fails to convince a homicide detective. Being self-centred to the point of sociopathy he regards this as most unfair: little does he know what Joey and the dubious Mick have in store for him. There follows a series of vignettes where something subtle but nasty happens to Chaz, leaving us giggling and him falling apart.
Why the murder attempt? Chaz is the world's worst marine biologist - he hates water, mud, things that swim, things that don't swim for that matter. He's responsible for testing of an area bordering an industrial scale fsrm - on his first day on the job he sold himself to the owner - some cash and a big car in return for allowing runoff of the worst chemicals into supposedly protected swamplands. He left some papers lying around: Joey saw them - enough in Chaz's eyes to get rid of her.
Chaz's unravelling puts the multi-millionaire farmer at risk - he assigns a heavy to look after him, putting muscle on track for a collision with Joey and co. The heavy's habit of stealing Fentamyl patches from the sick in retirement homes doesn't interfere with his guarding duties though.
More low key, more personal than most of Hiaasen's novels, Skinny Dip is a funny and slightly poignant book. It's still an enjoyable and amusing ride through the nasty things that man does to man and to planet - good but not great.
A longer version of this review can be seen at Skinny Dip Review
Pushed into the ocean on her honeymoon
Carl Hiaasen: Strip Tease
Strip Tease is a tale of political corruption, bribes and misdirected subsidies to sugar producers. That, and the tale of a Congressman whose inability to keep his trousers on is matched only by his stupidity and his venality.
Hiaasen, as is his wont, tells the story by shoiwing how small players and large interact in the bigger outside system, how small events can shape large, and he does it all with grim humour and sympathy for the underdog. That underdog in Strip Tease is Erin, forced into erotic dancing to raise the money to take her ex to court for custody of her daughter. Ex Darrell gor a couple of cope to lie in court and so won custody - now he makes a living stealing wheelchairs from hospitals and selling them to private nursing homes.Well, it pays for his pill-popping.
Erin has an admirer, the aforesaid Congressman. He even tries to defend her honour in the strip club by beating a man unconscious with a champagne bottle, so setting in train a wonderful chain of events - political fixers, three Jamaican hit men, homicide detective on holiday. Throw in a giant bouncer trying to scam the courts with scorpions in yoghurts, a few other deftly limned grotesques, and it's the usual wild ride from Hiaasen. Very funny, very well written, an excellent book indeed.
Buy The Books
Single mother fights the system
Change Of Pace By Carl Hiaasen
Hiaasen has constant themes of political and business corruption. Even where libel laws stop him going in certain directions he ca dig up enough dirt on Disney to make a fascinating read.
Look beyond the fluffy animals and the saccharine stories - Disney is BIg Business and employs the lawyers to keep it that way.
Psychotic environmentalist and a kidnapped Labrador