Tag Archives: Carl Hiaasen

Skink No Surrender

‘Don’t fart on my Steinbeck.’ Who could not love a book with a sentence like that in it? It is genius in its simplicity. The phrase, not the book. Well, that too is genius, but not simple. Carl Hiaasen’s book might appear simple, but is really very complex, and in that respect Skink No Surrender is no different from his other fantastic novels.

I was looking forward to reading it from the moment it arrived, in all its anonymous glory. Would you believe, they didn’t put his name on the book? At first I was outraged by the description of the plot and the characters, because it was a total Carl Hiaasen rip-off. And then I twigged that it was Carl, and his finest creation, Skink himself.

Carl Hiaasen, Skink No Surrender

This is about the danger of strangers, and in particular going off in a car with a man you don’t know. Richard’s cousin Malley has done exactly that. She seems fine at first, but soon it becomes apparent that things have turned bad. And to help Malley, Richard goes off in a car with a man he’s just met. So, parents might not approve of this scenario, and they’d be right not to. In a way.

Skink would agree with them, and he’s the one who drives off with Richard to find Malley. Hiaasen aficionados will know Richard is perfectly safe with Skink. And Richard feels safe, despite his new friend’s lunatic behaviour. But he can’t actually know that!

Skink No Surrender is yet another mix of crazy, kindness and saving the environment. It’s an odd mix, but it works so well. Skink can’t tolerate people who steal turtle eggs or shoot at herons. Or throw drinks cans from their cars. So don’t. Just don’t, if there is any possibility of Skink being in the vicinity.

The adventure of finding Malley, and saving a little bit of Florida, is as fun as you’d expect, and you sit there laughing helplessly, or seething over human folly. And you know Richard will be fine, and that Malley will be found, safe and sound.

With a bit of luck, Skink will survive the tale too, with most of his body parts almost intact and not too much missing.

Who loves Sara Paretsky?

I was about to say it’s the good people of Cheadle Hulme.

Let me tell you why. Back when the Bookwitch clan actually bought each other Christmas presents, and we’d settled on only buying from charity shops, I soon learned what you could expect to find in different shops in different parts of town.

It was during my I-must-collect-all-Sara-Paretsky’s-novels days, and you don’t find them just anywhere, you know. But Oxfam in Cheadle Hulme seemed to be a reliable supplier of V I Warshawski’s adventures. During one visit I found some books there, and then discovered that if I went back again later, I’d be reasonably likely to find another one. Or two. (Because, obviously, I forgot all about buying for other people when I saw them. I just bought for me. Me, me, me.)

So I reasoned that the people nearby must be Paretsky fans. (But if they are, why on earth were they giving the books away?) Maybe, the fans are actually to be found in my neighbourhood, say, because our local charity shops never have any Warshawski.

They do have a lot of Carl Hiaasen novels, however. I used to think that I was surrounded by lovers of Carl’s books, but now I’m thinking that this is also incorrect. If they love him, surely they would keep him? And not let me buy almost a complete collection.

Well, no one is going to get my Sara Paretsky books! Especially not the family, seeing as how we’ve turned so Scrooge-like that we have said there’ll be no presents at all in 2013.

We just haven’t quite worked out how to fill that time-gap on Christmas Eve. Eat some more, perhaps?

Chomp

Getting real. That’s the idea behind the ‘reality’ television programme in this new book by Carl Hiaasen. For those of you who still believe (in ‘reality’ on the screen), this will surely kill any lingering feelings for those scammers.

Carl Hiaasen, Chomp

Sticking to the wilds of Florida and the creatures therein, Carl hasn’t only written another amusing caper about an assorted bunch of weirdos, but is taking a good long swipe at idiots on television, the money which rules their behaviour and perhaps also the credulous viewers who gobble it all up.

Described as his first YA novel, it is a little on the short side for me. The cast is smaller than I’ve come to expect, and consequently so are the interwoven bits of the action. What is there is great fun. I would simply have preferred more. Lots more. Carl’s previous children’s book – Scat – gained by being closer in length to his adult novels, whereas Chomp is much shorter.

This time the crazy and wild – but knowledgeable – man in the swamp is actually the father of the main character, Wahoo (not named after the fish), and he’s been hit on the head by a frozen iguana. Obviously. This makes it hard for him to do his job, which seems to consist of hiring himself and his wild animals out to film crews and whatever else comes up. But bills have to be paid. Wahoo’s mother goes off to China, leaving her two men to take on a well paid job for a wildlife reality show.

Although Wahoo’s dad has many suitable and almost tame animals, the over-confident star of the show decides to go ‘real.’ This turns out not to be such a good idea. So among the snakes and alligators and all other creepy and scaly and poisonous (or not) creatures, so well loved by Wahoo’s dad, we have a film crew on the loose, plus the added complication of a battered teenage girl whose vicious, gun-toting father is out looking for her.

That’s all, though. And fun though it is, it’s over far too quickly, with not nearly enough complications. Not even the idiot television star is 100% bad. That role has been left to the irate father of Wahoo’s friend.

And with all those ex-pet iguanas and pythons roaming free in Florida, I don’t feel disposed to go anywhere near. But it’s good that someone loves them. Even though they try to chew off body parts from those who do. Or squeeze them to death.

(I imagine the friendly alligator on the cover of the book must be the lovely and ‘tame’ Alice.)

Bookwitch bites #26

Noah Barleywater Runs Away

John Boyne’s Noah Barleywater Runs Away is out next week. Although it’s been ‘out’ for some time, seeing as Random handed out proofs to all in the audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival. It’s a nice idea, and one I think would be good to try more often. What the proofs didn’t have were the pictures you get in the real deal. Oliver Jeffers has illustrated John’s story as beautifully as you expect from Oliver. (I like Oliver’s pictures, in case you haven’t worked it out.) But I’m puzzling over one thing. I’m fairly sure someone told me that the story had a particular meaning to Oliver’s own life. And I don’t know what it is!

Carl Hiaasen’s Scat is out in paperback. It’s worth noting, because I really liked it, and if you haven’t already got it, now is a good opportunity. It’s the one I feel is on a level with Carl’s adult novels, minus most of the sex.

You can download a sample of The Cat Kin by Nick Green here. Not that you should have any doubts about it, but freebies are always nice, so download and enjoy and then go get the book.

And finally, yesterday brought some news in the Bookseller about The View From Here magazine. Personally I suspect someone’s made a dreadful mistake, but I don’t want to complain.

Dotty?

I’ll let the article from The New Yorker by Nora Ephron kick off this dottiness. I know that The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut did the rounds on blogs and on facebook last week, but it’s a good one. I think someone said it contains spoilers if you have yet to read Stieg Larsson, but I’d expect those five people not to mind.

I could really do with some input from non-umlaut speakers here. To me it looks so very empty with an a where my soul is crying out for å or ä. But I don’t honestly want aa or ae in their place, which seems to be what newspapers still offer. How – in this day and age of computers – they can have a problem with dotting their letters, I will never understand.

But, if I encounter an ĕ, I have absolutely no idea what it does, so I’d be happy to ignore it. Just as you lot ignore my ö. It’s fine. It really is. And I’d much rather hesitate over that o, than stare at the oe.

Though that is a matter of taste. Someone was wanting a book title for their next novel containing a name with an ö in it, but wasn’t sure it would work for English speakers. I had no problem with it, naturally, but I know how I break into a sweat over Carl Hiaasen. And I’m panicking all the more because I don’t know how his Scandinavian name has been altered while in America. It’s one thing to know how to say it, and another to know how – or if – to mistreat it the correct way.

Take your average piece of IKEA furniture. Outside Sweden I have more trouble than most with the stupid names, because I have absolutely no idea of which way to ruin them. I once wanted a new kitchen table and didn’t know how to talk about it, and I’d never have guessed what the English sales staff called it. Bought Son a duvet a few years ago, and had to ask for it in the store. I waved my hand at the shelf and inquired if they had any more. The duvet was called Mysa Måne, and I’m still quivering with admiration for its new identity ‘en anglais’. (Bet I got that wrong.)

And how can he be Sven-Goeran? I ask you. He is not. Sven-Göran or Svennis are fine.

I mentioned the Danish or Norwegian aa, which has been modernised to å. However if it’s a name, you may prefer to still be Haakon and not Håkon. Or not. And any Håkon with an old typewriter will have to be Haakon anyway, since that’s all you get.

Then we have the new Swedish shop Clas Ohlson, which is not making matters any easier with their almost amusing advertisements. ‘A really useful shöp’. Honestly. And the Resident IT Consultant is still very fond of the bad thermometer he found in this shöp.

Ï’d bëttėr léãvê whìlē thè gøing ĩs gőōd.

SOS Adventure

Ice Quake

Contrary to what you might think, this is my first children’s book by Colin Bateman. Still haven’t got to the charity shop purchase and I never did read the Titanic book, despite it doing well in awards shortlists. But I’m past the stage where I walk up to Colin and utter the ‘hello, I’ve never read anything by you, but I’m pleased to meet you’ kind of thing.

I’m rambling. SOS Adventure is Colin’s new series for children, the first of which is called Ice Quake. It’s an Alistair MacLean for children, competently written and exciting. SOS appears to be yet another organisation of the kind that does important and adventurous stuff and which recruits young people to help out.

So, not realistic, unless I’m mistaken in what goes on in real life, but it’s the kind of thing we dream of when young. To be chosen to be part of something bigger than a school outing. To make a difference. Michael sets fire to his school and then does a heroic act, after which he is catapulted into another world. There he meets Katya, another young recruit, and they really don’t like each other.

After that kind of a start it goes without saying that they get marooned together somewhere and have to be brave and clever, and they succeed where the adults failed.

I’d expect readers the right age to love this, and I can see that they’d want to go on to the next adventure, whereas I feel so tired and exhausted that I’d prefer a rest. I’m old. That’s why.

But you can all sense a big but of the one-t variety, can’t you? Colin is a marvellous writer. Having read his Mystery Man adult crime novels that are both intelligent and hysterically funny, what I’d like most of all is a miniature version of those. Just like I found Carl Hiaasen’s latest young novel far better than the first two, for the very reason that it was like his adult books with the sex and the swearing removed, I feel Colin could (should) do the same.

Intelligently written, humorous books for children in whatever genre is something we can never have too many of. Just as Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant really is The Thin Man for young readers, there’d be room for a ‘mini Mystery Man’ of sorts.

There’s scope here for telling me that the ones I haven’t read (yet) are precisely what I’m suggesting, in which case I’ll just go and lie down in a dark room for a while.

Scat

Carl Hiassen has finally arrived, writing a children’s novel that is totally on the same level as his adult ones, albeit shorter and without the sex. His first two, Hoot and Flush, were very enjoyable, but this third one, Scat, surpasses them. I loved it from page one, and didn’t lose my enthusiasm at any point, finishing it in a day.

When you think about it, it’s really strange that it’s possible to combine humour and environmental issues in a crime/thriller educational novel. In a way, all Carl’s plots are very similar to each other, which is because he cares so much about Florida and the threats to wildlife and to the environment.

I particularly like his quirky characters, and the way the most unlikely people get together and do important things. You have the losers in society, who are allowed to grow and make something of themselves, due to circumstance and the belief someone else has in them.

This one has a real battleaxe of a teacher (‘a witch that knows how to teach is better than a fruitcake from Mars’), a rather strong granny and a trilingual macaw; ‘Help! Au secours! Hilfe!’ And one man finds he is employed by a total moron. We all know that feeling.

There is illegal oil drilling going on, there is a panther on the loose, and Nick’s and Marta’s biology teacher is seriously scary, as well as somewhat missing.

The police aren’t as stupid as we sometimes think they are, and being rich can be really useful, and Carl also gets in a comment about the Iraq war for good measure.

Carl’s stories are always very American in flavour, but the Florida environmental setting also make them unusual compared to many other American novels. If this is the way he’s going with his children’s books, I can’t wait for the next one. I trust it too will have a half naked and extremely capable man living in the ‘wilds’, being friendly with crocodiles and wild cats of all kinds.