You may know Carl Hiaasen more for his children’s books, Hoot, Scat, and Flush. The Hoot movie was wonderful and that got me started reading his books. Scat was my second favorite of the children’s books, about the endangered Florida panther. I didn’t realize he wrote adult books as well until listening to Nature Girl on audio book. Nature Girl has really wonderful quirky characters. All the pieces are set up like a puzzle in short vignettes and you wonder how all these disparate people are ever going to come together — but they do, on an island, Dismal Key. I liked the hyper mom named Honey with a keen sense of justice. She does crazy things when she feels wronged. I identified with her idea of setting up a kayaking company to take people on trips around the Keys. I also loved the Seminole guy who loves playing his guitar and ends up with a ditsy sorority girl on his end of the island. Then there is the older blonde mistress, the crazy hardware store owner who is obsessed with Honey, the telemarketer from Texas, and on and on.
Subsequently, I read another three of Hiassen’s books. The Downhill Lie is a year’s journal of returning to golfing after a 32 year hiatus. It is fairly short and pretty funny, even for a “duffer” like me. Which iron do you use to kill rats? What do you do when you sink your golf cart in a snake infested lake?
Native Tongue was my least favorite novel of Hiassen’s so far. The initial premise is that two bumbling burglars have stolen the last two Blue Tongued Mango Voles from an amusement park that is a Disney wannabe in Florida. I found it slow to get into, but maybe I was just too tired from work. I would get through a few pages, fall asleep, and not remember which character was which the next time I picked it up. It has some wicked animals — a bad-tempered Orca who consumes a wildlife biologist and a oversexed dolphin who assaults a newswoman who hops into the tank to do a live television news spot. I loved the white-haired old lady environmentalist who kidnaps the burglars, shoots several people intentionally (just to get their attention), and turns one of the burglars into an animal lover.
I just finished Strip Tease which is my favorite adult book by Hiassen to date. It is a real pager turner, lots of weird violence and sex. We enter the world of competition between two rival strip clubs, The Flesh Farm and the Eager Beaver. The main female character dances at the Eager Beaver to pay her lawyer bills. She is trying to get custody of her young daughter, but her felonious, wheel chair stealing, doper husband keeps getting custody instead. Add in his sister who raises hybrid wolves in a trailer park, a Jewish lawyer still dreaming and scheming of the big case that will allow him to retire, his cousin whose wedding is disrupted when her groom is hit on the head with a Korbel bottle by a congressman at his bachelor party at the Eager Beaver — well, you get a bit of the picture. There is a rich sugar cane family, the Rojos, and their giant yacht, the corrupt congressman who can’t keep it zipped, his dapper “fixer,” and a host of wacky dancers: Urbana Sprawl, Monique I and II, and the huge bald bouncer Shad. I learned more than my share about the business end of strip clubs and read more than I might have wished about wrestling in cream corn. Strip Tease was a New York Times Bestseller, described by Donald E. Westlake in the New York Times Book Review as “hilarious…your sides hurt after a while, just from reading. This novel could be dangerous to your ribs.” I give it two thumbs up as a perfect summer read.