Tag Archives: Carl Hiaasen

Newbies no more

I was thinking when compiling my best of 2014 list the other day, how fast authors ‘grow up.’ In February 2007 when I started this Bookwitchery business around half of the people on that list were not published authors.

Michelle Magorian has been at it for a long time now, although she is not the little old lady she was expected to be even back in the 1980s. Carl Hiaasen has written for a while, too. Eoin Colfer, sort of. And as I said, many had not been published.

It’s rather nice how fast you can grow fond of someone’s writing, and how quickly you find you have read half a dozen books by some ‘newbie.’ Yeah, it’d be easier if they were published more slowly, both for me and for them.

Being approached by a facebook friend/acquaintance who is about to see their first novel being born is worrying stuff. Impossible to say no, and I wouldn’t want to. But what to say if it turns out they are no good?

As this year’s list proves, there isn’t too much cause for concern. Lack of time is bad, but I rarely come across anyone who has written a dreadful book.

Thinking ahead, I wonder who I will be admiring in 2021? Someone with their first book coming next year, maybe, who I have yet to hear about.

Best of 2014

I was about to say that whereas I had told myself I’d go for fewer books on my best list of the year (best books, not best list) this time, it has proved too hard to do. But then I discovered I managed to slim the list last year, so I have a bit of credit and I can let the list swell. Because I must.

Can’t even offer you a photogenic pile of best books, with most of them still hiding in boxes. Besides, one of the best comes on Kindle, and the Resident IT Consultant’s e-reader isn’t the prettiest of things to take a picture of.

2014 was a good year for series of books coming to an end, be it the two-pack type or the trilogy or the ten-pack. I decided not to put those on The List, but I am happy to mention them.

They are Timothée de Fombelle with Vango 2, Caroline Lawrence with the fourth book about Detective Pinkerton, Derek Landy at the end of his ten book Skulduggery Pleasant marathon, Lucy Hawking and the fourth book about George in space, Gennifer Choldenko and the last Al Capone story, Deborah Ellis about Parvana again, Teri Terry’s dystopia had as satisfying an end as you could hope for, Gillian Philip finally finished her faeries in Icefall, and Che Golden sorted her fairies out too.

Helen Grant and Eoin Colfer did beautifully with their second books from Belgium and time travel London, so there is more to look forward to there.

Two authors are standing shoulder to shoulder on my awards stand this year; Michelle Magorian and Nick Green. Michelle for Impossible! and Nick with his Firebird ebook trilogy.

The runners-up are – in no particular order – Ali Sparkes and Destination Earth, Sally Nicholls and Shadow Girl, Cliff McNish and Going Home, Tanya Landman and Buffalo Soldier, Ellen Renner and Tribute, Simon Mason and Running Girl, Carl Hiaasen and Skink No Surrender, Robin Talley and Lies We tell Ourselves.

Thank you everyone, for hours and hours of good company, and please keep up the good work!

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.