Tag Archives: Carl Hiaasen

Double Whammy

When I remembered I had a few unread novels by Carl Hiaasen, I knew I had to pick one of them to come with me on my recent travels. I knew it’d be good, and unlike children’s books that can be too short, Double Whammy is just over 400 pages so I could be sure it would last a while.

I might have chosen Double Whammy anyway, for being the first of the Hiaasens on my shelf, but having looked through all the books, I couldn’t help noticing this one had Skink in it, and that rather clinched the deal. I like Skink. Well, within reason, and it is easier to like him in a book than it might be in real life. If he was real.

Carl Hiaasen, Double Whammy

Double Whammy turned out to be the first Skink novel, so that was an added bonus. (If you don’t know Skink, you can read about him here.) He used to be that totally unlikely creature; a Florida Governor who was honest and decent and couldn’t be bribed. So that’s obviously fiction.

Double Whammy is about the fishy stuff that goes on in the world of bass fishing in Florida. If you think it’s weird that men sit for hours in silence, fishing, it’s even weirder that people will watch these men fishing on television, but there you have it. And if you read Double Whammy you are reading about people watching people fishing…

Some fishermen are cheating, because there is much money at stake in bass fishing competitions. And then they start dying, and someone needs to find out about both the cheating and the murders. Private Eye R J Decker gets the job, and he soon teams up with Skink, despite being slightly scared of this wild man who lives off roadkill.

It’s funny. It’s quite disgusting at times. But it’s also reassuring to read about people who want to do the right thing, both for the environment and against cheating. And say what you want about Carl Hiaasen’s usually very attractive and often scantily clad women characters, but they are feisty and brave.

And all this without any mobile phones or decent clothes, since this was 1987. It’s amazing how far we haven’t come in some respects.

(It’s probably for the best if you are not a dog lover.)

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What’s a novel?

What counts as a novel? I asked the Resident IT Consultant this over dinner, when I’d read an astounding – to me – headline in the Bookseller’s emailed newsletter.

It seems Quercus has bought the rights to Eoin Colfer’s first adult novel. I thought, ‘hang on, what first adult novel?’ I looked in my bookcase and found two, Screwed and Plugged. Signed, even, so one can assume Eoin has taken responsibility for them.

We discussed how you might remove the novel-ness from a crime, erm, novel. I didn’t think it was possible. I know some people look down on crime, as they do children’s books, but if it’s full length written fiction, it seems to me we are talking about a novel. And surely Quercus who have published so much excellent crime, would not sneer at it.

Eoin Colfer

But no, it appears we are talking about Eoin’s first adult fantasy novel. I was able to click on the article to read it (I have only limited access) and found that they might have lost the fantasy word in the newsletter.

From the description it could be a Carl Hiaasen type adventure, and I can think of no better author to do this than Eoin. ‘Highfire is described as the “violent, gripping tale of Vern who’s been hiding out in the Louisiana bayou, until Squib Moreau explodes into his life, hotly pursued by a corrupt policeman, and his peaceful existence disappears in a hail of high-velocity projectiles.” ‘

Promising, yeah? ‘Publisher Jo Fletcher said: ”I was doubly hooked the moment I met Vern, the vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon whose isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana is about to be interrupted by Squib Moreau, a swamp-wild, street-smart, dark-eyed, Cajun-blood tearaway looking to save his momma from the romantic attentions of a crooked constable.”’

So I forgive them their missing fantasy word. I might quite like this book – I mean novel – when it is published. January next year, so some patience will have to be found somewhere.

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.)