Summer Reading: Tourist Season

previously reviewed

It utterly shocks me every time I make a reference to plastic alligators, Macy’s bags with poisonous snakes in them, a guy named Skink or my favorite Bass Lure …. the Double Whammy …. and people look back at me with blank stares. Like, don’t you get it? “To be or not to be” jokes or allusions to Sherlock Holmes are always understood. Or at least, people pretend to get them. But does no one read contemporary literature?
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It is impossible, actually, to explain Carl Hiaasen’s novels to anyone without sounding like a fool. All such attempts, made by anybody, start out with an honest attempt to give an overview of Hiaasen’s typical subject matter, the typical form of his novel, why they are interesting, and so on…. and end with something like “Oh, fuck, I can’t really explain this. Just read it. Here, take my copy of Tourist Season and let me know how you like it..”

…. and invariably, the recipient reads Tourist Season, then Double Whammy, then the next book and the next book and the next …. and so on.

(I will mention with chagrin that one of Hiaasen’s books was made into a pretty crappy movie, but that is not Hiaasen’s fault.)

OK, so what are his books about? Well, for the most part for the first several novels, they typically have a main good guy character who is an ex- or washed up something or another (reporter, cop, etc … and not always washed up, actually) who ends up trying to solve some sort of mystery, and a bad guy who is over the top evil (and as Hiaasen’s books came out, the evilness of the bad guy, or the good-evil dichotomy, becomes less ambiguous and more clear).

The bad guy often has over the top minions. Like the guy who was so intent on being a bad guy that he spent a large part of one of these novels waking around with the corpse of an attack dog dangling from his arm….

And there is typically a love interest of some sort but It seems to not always develop or work out.

Then there is this cast of characters that I don’t really want to describe to you because it would ruin everything that tend to show up in many of the books, but not all. So you’ll just have to read them to find out.

The setting is always Florida.

The bad guys are usually linked to or part of major corporate entities such as The State, The Mob, or just a corporation. Developers are often lampooned. Government officials are often shown as corrupt. Carl is, in fact, not kind to very many categories of people. And in all cases, they deserve what they get. In sick puppy, there is a Russian Mafioso guy who collects Barby Dolls. But they are real women whom he hires to have plastic surgery to look more and more like Barby. In Strip Tease, the bad guys are with Big Sugar (as in growers of sugar cane). One of his bad guys steals wheel chairs and sells them back to the hospitals he pilfers them from.

I know this all sounds kinda strange, like you would not want to read this, but it is really well done. Well written. You will ROFLYAO.

You should read the first several of his novels in order. Never mind books like the “Carl Hiaasen Collection” which includes a strange mix of three, but not in proper order, of his novels. Start with Tourist Season, move on to Double Whammy, then Skin Tight then Native Tongue. After that, honestly, I don’t think the order will matter too much.

Just read them. Trust me. Here, here’s a list of the books I’m talking about:

Tourist Season
Double Whammy
Skin Tight
Native Tongue
Strip Tease

This should get you through the summer.

Comments

  1. #1 Henry Harpending
    June 27, 2009

    Are you also a fan of Serge A. Storm?

    Henry

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    June 27, 2009

    Not yet, but I’ll look into it. I’ve heard of Tom Dorsey.

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    June 27, 2009

    The beautiful thing about these novels is that Hiaasen didn’t really invent a single character or scenario. Just read his column in the Miami Herald for a few weeks and you’ll quickly realize that everything in his novels is straight from the headlines. Great stuff! He’s my favorite writer.

  4. #4 Caravelle
    June 28, 2009

    He also achieves the remarkable feat of making Florida look like the awesomest place on Earth while simultaneously making you not want to go there.

  5. #5 Matt Penfold
    June 28, 2009

    Greg, Have you come across Tom Sharpe ?

  6. #6 Hiaasen Fan
    June 29, 2009

    You might also try Ben Rehder’s books.

    http://www.benrehder.com

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