Thursday 16 December 2010

Carl Hiaasen: Native Tongue

snow white at disney world Set in Florida around a poor man's version of Disney World, you know this could get nasty, given Carl Hiaasen's views on Walt and "Team Rodent". You also know, when a policeman shoots dead a vole in chapter one, when a grandmother shoots the foot (twice) of a baddie she hired to kidnap the vole, that Hiaasen's eye for the absurd is functioning as well as ever.

Author's Page: Carl Hiaasen

The Amazing Kingdom of Thrills is owned by Francis X Kingsbury. He was born with a rather more Italian name and went into the Family business. Eventually he ratted out his colleagues and was relocated by the Witness Protection Programme. "Miami was the prime relocation site for scores of scuzzy federal snitches (on the theory that South Florida was a place where just about any dirtbag would blend in smoothly with the existing riffraff"). There he followed the natural progression for an ex-gangster - real estate dealer, property developer, amusement park owner. Certain people in New York haven't forgotten Frankie ...

In the red corner we have Joe Winder, ex-newsman with a temper, now PR flack at the Kingdom, plus Carrie Lanier, aspiring actress but usually hidden by an airless seven foot Rockie Raccoon costume. In the blue corner are Kingsbury (also in the process of a major golf course development) and Pedro Luz, chief of security, suspended drug-dealing policeman -- he has a steroid habit and is developing rabies.

Also along for the ride are a geriatric conservation group (hence the gun-happy granny) and Governor Tyree - Hiaasen's glorious creation -- the last honest pol in Florida and now roaming the wilds to visit wrath on the evildoers.

The voles in question were in a rare animals exhibition at the Amazing Kingdom. Cutting corners, they weren't the rare species claimed, just ordinary animals with their tongues painted blue. After the theft the scientist in charge gets antsy and so gets killed. Winder's journalist nose twitches so Luz sends a couple of disgraced ex-police security guards to beat him up. The Governor intervenes and, being a wee bit mad, hangs one of them from the Card Sound Bridge.

As ever, Hiaasen paces the escalation of comic violence perfectly -- we're not at all surprised that we've got here and we've sniggered at the journey. And we're only a tenth of the way into the book. As Winder tries to find the truth, despite the sidetracks of Dickie the randy dolphin and Nina (phone sexing girlfriend) leaving him, he ploughs on with the eventual aid of a very motley crew.

Another excellent farce from Carl Hiaasen: weird people, weird crimes, even weird animals, Floridan corruption and criminality. The book is paced perfectly and tightly plotted, full of the details that make his writing so enjoyable. Buy it, you will love it.

What I Wanted For Christmas: The New Kindle


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