• U.S.

BOOKS: LITTLE RASCALS: SATIRIST CARL HIAASEN

2 minute read
John Skow

Apocalyptic grumblers in the north of the U.S. are sometimes heard to say that what the nation needs for its spiritual and environmental health is another Ice Age, a mile-thick, continent-wide ice sheet, heading south. In Florida they do not say this. Florida has hurricanes, and when satirist Carl Hiaasen dedicates his new thriller, Stormy Weather (Knopf; 336 pages; $24), to “Donna, Camille, Hugo and Andrew,” he is not referring to cute little nieces and nephews.

Hiaasen, a columnist for the Miami Herald, is a funny fellow who regards human Floridians as a notch below palmetto bugs in matters of ethics and compassion. His new crime novel about South Florida, the sixth in a very good run, is caustic and comic. The author’s method hasn’t varied since the first, Tourist Season: turn over a rock and watch in glee and honest admiration as those little rascals squirm in the light.

A big hurricane starts the scavengers crawling. Edie Marsh, sexy in her shoplifted wardrobe, has spent several months trolling for Kennedys, hoping to extract a little ladylike blackmail. But the Kennedy season is just about over; most of the clan has moved on to Hyannis. When the big storm blows substandard roofs off half of Dade County’s ranchettes, Edie and her business partner branch out into insurance fraud. Soon the lizards are frisking: sleazy developers, mendacious salesmen, crooked building inspectors, clueless and boorish tourists. These sorry folk are what is called the fabric of society. Hiaasen’s good guys are far out on the fabric’s fringe: a decent chap who collects human skulls, and a huge, one-eyed wild man who lives in the swamps and eats roadkill. That this gent is a former Governor of Florida, an honest politician driven to distraction by greedsters, says all that is necessary about the author’s view of government. Hiaasen’s shabby secret, however (so the reader guesses), is that he loves his state’s stupefying cheesiness, and wouldn’t move to Vermont if you gave him the Trapp Family Lodge and a brand new snowboard.

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